Louisville, Ky. (October 18, 2018) – As International Digital Inclusion Week continues (October 15-19, 2018), we at Connected Nation are working diligently to improve lives by providing innovative solutions that expand the access, adoption, and use of high-speed internet and its related technologies to all people – we believe that everyone belongs in a Connected Nation. However, as International Digital Inclusion Week highlights, there is still much work to be done to ensure all people have this access and the tools they need to use it.
At Connected Nation, I develop location intelligence strategies using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) that impact broadband policy, economic development, and the Digital Divide. In simpler terms, I make digital maps to help people understand where broadband services are located and more importantly, where there are none. Organizations all over the world use GIS to understand our world and develop solutions to make our lives more efficient, happier, and safer.
One of the most significant things that GIS professionals do, including me, is make web maps and web mapping applications. But imagine you, or a family member, don’t have the broadband services required to access the web map, or to even read this blog.
All kinds of organizations – local and state governments, nonprofits, broadband providers, conservation programs, federal agencies, and retail companies – use GIS every day to serve citizens and consumers. Most of the solutions developed are online maps or applications that serve various purposes, including:
- Voting and election information
- Natural disaster forecasting and relief efforts
- Ride-share transportation
- Reporting potholes, street light outages
- Opioid epidemic tracking
Without broadband, those in the Digital Divide can’t access these web maps and other applications that can enrich, ease, and protect life.
A vital government service provided online that can’t be accessed by someone in the Digital Divide means they have to travel to a government building that may be counties away to get the answers or forms they need, or they have to wait days to get it mailed to them.
Think of someone who could greatly benefit from telehealth connections to their doctor via a video visit instead of needing to physically get to the doctor’s office.
What about a child that isn’t able to access homework assignments, do research for projects, or complete college admission applications?
Unfortunately, even as significant progress has been made to educate people on the life-changing uses of broadband, there are many areas across the country still lacking broadband service, leaving citizens in the Digital Divide who are unable to take advantage of the socioeconomic benefits of broadband and its related technologies.
Increasing the granularity of broadband data helps close the Digital Divide by accurately identifying the gaps in service. This means these areas can be shown as eligible for federal subsidies, grant/loan programs, and other expansion opportunities. This is why I focus so much energy on developing GIS solutions that help us better understand broadband service areas – so we can address those areas with the most need.
The goal of Digital Inclusion for all cannot be reached until the communities lacking broadband are properly mapped and solutions to get them connected are identified.
I invite you to join us in the fight and work toward including all people and making the term “Digital Divide” a thing of the past. Learn more by clicking here.
About the author: Ashley Hitt is the Director of GIS Services for Connected Nation. She oversees the day-to-day operations of the GIS team. She’s responsible for developing strategies using GIS to provide data visualization solutions that impact policy, economic development, and the digital divide.
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