The North Carolina Department of Information Technology’s (NCDIT) Broadband Infrastructure Office (BIO) today released the Digital Inclusion Plan Template and Guide, a first-of-its-kind resource to help communities create digital inclusion plans to reduce the digital divide and prioritize digital equity for their residents.
“As the necessity of the internet has increased, so have the inequities for people who do not have access to or cannot afford the technologies, tools and skills needed to participate in our digital world,” Jim Weaver, North Carolina Department of Information Technology secretary and state chief information officer, said. “Closing this digital divide and achieving digital equity is critical for our residents and our state to thrive. As we work toward this as a state, our goal is that the Digital Inclusion Plan Template and Guide serves as a valuable resource to help communities to strategically prioritize digital equity and help level the playing field for their residents.”
‘Digital equity” is achieved when individuals have digital literacy skills, access to affordable and reliable high-speed internet service and a device to access and fully use the internet and the ability to fully participation in our society, democracy, and economy.
“Digital Inclusion Plan Template and Guide” aims to assist communities by simplifying the process of creating a digital inclusion plan and expediting the implementation of digital inclusion activities. It includes a template with recommended structure and categories for consideration as well as a guide with questions and tips to help community members create and customize the plan.
This resource is a first-of-its-kind, scalable tool released by a state broadband office to help communities create digital inclusion plans that reflect their community’s unique needs, assets, and goals.
The plan has been used as part of digital inclusion workshops, and thus far, 14 N.C. communities have used the template to begin building plans—nearly doubling the number of plans that exist nationwide.
In 2020, BIO partnered with the Institute for Emerging Issues (IEI) to launch the Building a New Digital Economy in NC (BAND-NC) grant program to provide funding to NC communities to support digital inclusion projects, including creating community digital inclusion plans, with a goal of being the first state in the nation where every county has a digital inclusion plan.
“We are excited for the official launch of BIO’s ‘Digital Inclusion Plan Template and Guide,’” IEI Director Leslie Boney said. “We hope that communities applying for grants in this upcoming round of the BAND-NC grants will use this resource to create digital inclusion plans to benefit their residents.”
The resource was created in collaboration with The National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s (NTIA) Broadband USA program, which promotes innovation and economic growth by supporting efforts to expand broadband access and meaningful use across America..
The plan is available for download.