Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf is a strong advocate for equity and inclusion. She supports Oakland CBOs that help residents in need of access to discount home broadband, digital literacy training and low-cost computers. At the start of 2018, CETF relocated from San Francisco to Oakland. We are excited to hear from The Town’s mayor and learn her plans to improve digital equity.
The Digital Divide denies affordable broadband and digital tools to underserved communities and impacts their access to educational, career and civic opportunities? What is your vision for improving digital equity in Oakland?
The challenges facing our most vulnerable populations can be overwhelming. Lack of affordable broadband impacts their ability to improve their skill sets, complete homework assignments, apply for jobs, access city services, and in general, seek and obtain information about the world in which they live. Furthermore, with the enormous influence of social media, lack of Internet access can also lead to feelings of isolation. More importantly, it mutes the voices of the diverse population that shape the communities of Oakland; it extinguishes dialogues of difference.
Many organizations provide access to resources and work to help the youth of Oakland learn STEM skills, including Black Girls Code, Hack the Hood, the Hidden Genius Project, and the Kapor Center, to name a few. We support the vision statement of SMASH, a STEM education initiative supported by Kapor Center:
“Every student, regardless of the zip code they grew up in, has the opportunity to participate in and thrive in the tech innovation economy.”
What are your plans for realizing this vision?
Our aim is to provide a no-cost broadband service via OAK Wi-Fi, a citywide initiative born out of the desire to help close the Digital Divide. The build-out is focused on the underserved, economically disadvantaged communities, especially Oakland’s underserved school-age population in the east and central parts of the city.
A key component of our buildout strategy is our MOU with AC Transit Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project. It’s important to have BRT in tandem with OAK Wi-Fi because the core paths of AC Transit buses traverse a large number of the underserved neighborhoods. The BRT project will provide fiber optic cable from Oakland City Hall down International Blvd to the City of San Leandro. Read more about the OAK Wi-Fi vision here.
Oakland must also digitally transform the various services it provides so that they may be accessible via the Internet. To this end, we have created OAK APPS – an application hub/portal of digitally transformed city services. This project is in its infancy, but we are making steady progress, continuously adding new apps.
You are successfully building a sustainable economic engine in Oakland. How is Oakland’s revitalization helping realize digital equity?
Oakland is working with many of its corporate residents in efforts to address Digital Inclusion. Programs such as the Civic Design Lab (Citibank) and Resilient Cities (Rockefeller Foundation) are examples of current projects aimed at using technology to help address homelessness, affordable housing, citizen complaints, and digital service delivery. We are also in discussions with AT&T, Verizon, Bloomberg, Comcast, and several others) around developing additional efforts to systemically address issues of Digital Inclusion.