Today, participation in society relies on the ability to access and use the Internet. Whether applying for a job, doing homework, or starting a business, all of our residents need digital skills, tools, and connectivity to fully participate and engage in modern society. These factors are increasingly becoming the choke points that prevent thousands of our citizens from engaging and accessing the benefits of a knowledge-driven, innovative economy.
To promote digital inclusion in Louisville, Louisville Metro Government and over 10 partnering agencies, including the Louisville Metro Housing Authority, KentuckianaWorks and Louisville Free Public Library, have been working diligently to increase the equity of access to the Internet and technology across the city. In May 2017, we released Louisville’s Digital Inclusion Plan, a blueprint for decreasing the digital divide in Louisville.
Our digital inclusion efforts focus on three areas of work: improving connectivity, teaching digital skills and providing hardware. We leverage programs and relationships to further our commitment to decreasing digital inequity. This will enable us to improve the quality of life for our citizens by providing them with the digital tools and skills they need for success.
Read more about the three focus areas:
- Connectivity: increasing home internet access
- Digital Skills: teaching the necessary skills to use modern technology
- Hardware: bringing computers (laptops and desktops) into homes
SpeedUpLouisville.com collects user-generated information about local broadband service speeds, rates and service quality in our community. This tool will help citizens, businesses, policymakers and others better understand where Louisville residents can access high-quality Internet service, and where there are needs. Once collected, the data will be displayed on an interactive map and available for free download, with the goal of increasing transparency about Internet service quality in Louisville and to continue the conversation around fiber in our community.
Internet Signups and Skills
The civic innovation team has been attending back-to-school events, and other community gatherings in an effort to sign up our citizens for already existing, but poorly publicized low cost Internet plans from ISP that operate in the Louisville area. To date, we have signed up 420 households for low-cost service. This initiative also utilizes cleaned & refurbished donated computers from local businesses to get these households reliable access to a computer. Additionally, we are forming partnerships with local and national technology companies to create a digital skills training program, to educate households that need assistance in utilizing these technologies.
To help bridge the hardware gap in Louisville, we started a computer donation and refurbishment program in partnership with the Louisville Metro Housing Authority (LMHA) and Jefferson County Public Schools. The program accepts used laptop and desktop computers from local corporations. Fern Creek High School Computer Science students then refurbish the computers so they can be distributed to fellow students in need, HUD-assisted housing residents, and Louisville Metro Digital Inclusion partners.
Since inception in August 2017, Fern Creek high school students have refurbished over 350 computers donated from local corporations for our community. This innovative partnership provides a hands-on learning opportunity for computer science students throughout the school year, while allowing them to serve their community by giving a citizen in need a tool that has become absolutely necessary in today’s economy.
This project is one of the original pilots for the Digital Inclusion program at Louisville Metro. In 2017, the Office of Civic Innovation (OCI), Louisville Free Public Library (LFPL), and Office of Resilience & Community Services (RCS) started this project with the aim of supporting RCS clients that needed modern digital tools. The Job Seeker programs provides a Chromebook and unlimited data hotspot, free of charge, to 15 participants in the Resilance and Community Services’ Self-Sufficiency program to help them to find a job, complete school, or reach some other set goal.
Interview with one of the participants in our Job Seeker Program
PNC Gigabit Experience Center
A public private partnership with PNC Bank that resulted in the creation an open-access community technology center in the Russell Neighborhood, wired with gigabit speed internet access, with exhibits and opportunities for citizens to gain hands-on experience with this new technology. This allows us to engage all of Louisville regarding the potential of gigabit internet speeds and the importance of understanding and embracing technology. It collaboratively supports local business and economic development to achieve optimum efficiency and effectiveness using collective community resources, and empowers individuals, business concerns and organizations with knowledge and skills. Strategically focused on economic transformation of under-served areas of West Louisville.
Grow with Google digital skills training
In partnership with Google Fiber & the Louisville Metro Housing Authority, we conduct one-on-one digital skills trainings for our residents. These trainings focus on the participants digital literacy needs. They aim to get them more comfortable using a computer and establish an online prescene on the Google Suite.
Louisville Fiber Information Technology project
LFIT is the Louisville Metro Information Technology project and is a partnership with KentuckyWired, the Commonwealth’s project to connect all 120 counties through middle mile fiber infrastructure. This project will expand our fiber network by over 400% at a third of full costs and will both directly and indirectly improve quality of life in our community. The fiber will be used to improve (and lower the cost of) internet service for residents, support government buildings and services, and reduce the digital divide.
ConnectHomeUSA (formerly ConnectHome Nation) is a movement to bridge the digital divide for HUD-assisted housing residents in the United States under the leadership of national nonprofit EveryoneOn. By helping residents in participating communities to get connected at home and providing access to digital literacy and educational content, we aim to make public housing a platform for change. ConnectHomeUSA creates a platform for community leaders, local governments, nonprofit organizations, and private industry to join together and produce locally-tailored solutions for narrowing the digital divide. Through these stakeholders’ specific commitments to provide free or low-cost broadband access, devices, and digital literacy training, ConnectHomeUSA extends affordable access to low-income families, ensuring that high-speed internet follows our children from their classrooms back to their homes.
To learn more about our digital inclusion program, read our Year 1 recap