In Case You Missed It: Political Leaders and Technology Experts Discuss Closing the Digital Opportunity Gap

Microsoft Event Puts Focus on How Connectivity Infrastructure and Skills Promote Digital Equity

During Microsoft’s “Reshaping America’s Digital Infrastructure for the 21st Century and Beyond” virtual event, panelists discussed how investing in digital infrastructure can help build an inclusive economic recovery and close the digital opportunity gap to ensure all Americans have access to broadband and the digital skills necessary to use high-speed internet tools.

Federal and state leaders, including New Mexico Senator Ben Ray Luján and Michigan Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist, as well as leading voices in technology and economics shared their perspectives on how connectivity and digital skills can help close the digital opportunity gap across both urban and rural communities.

Microsoft, in conjunction with the National Digital Inclusion Alliance and the National Skills Coalition, also unveiled the State Digital Equity Scorecard — a new map that provides a state-by-state look at efforts to close gaps in access to digital skills and broadband.

Here’s a snapshot of what these leaders said about closing the digital opportunity gap, the importance of digital skills and the State Digital Equity Scorecard:

Portia Wu, Managing Director of U.S. Public Policy at Microsoft 

“While our technology-fueled era has created prosperity for some, it has fallen short of reaching everyone. Millions of Americans still don’t have access to broadband, either because it’s not affordable or it’s not available.”

Amy Huffman, Policy Director at the National Digital Inclusion Alliance

“The purpose of the scorecard is to support state governments as they work to achieve digital equity in their states. First, it highlights how states are addressing digital equity. Second, it spotlights state’s best practices. And third, it provides a living tool for states to measure, review and replicate successful efforts… The scorecard is a great opportunity for states to learn from each other and gain best practices and information from each other.”

Angela Siefer, Executive Director at the National Digital Inclusion Alliance

“We’re excited about the use of the map for folks to be able to see where they are, and we’re also equally excited about the potential for those states to have some federal funding, possibly in the upcoming federal infrastructure bill, where they will be able to then use that funding to create digital equity plans.”

Senator Ben Ray Luján (D-NM)

“A robust digital infrastructure is crucial for our future, for our economy and for workers. Digital skills and digital literacy will help Americans get back to work, empower students and open the door to new opportunities.”

Garlin Gilchrist, Michigan Lieutenant Governor

“As a state government, we need to respond to different communities differently – whether we’re tackling challenges of buildout and access or tackling challenges of affordability… This unprecedented opportunity we have to invest in expansion of adoption of internet access is really critical. We must meet this moment.”

Dr. Dominique Harrison, Director of Technology Policy at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies

“African Americans’ lack of access to broadband is a problem in both metropolitan and rural areas… Broadband is essential to education, job growth, economic prosperity, healthcare services and civic engagement. And for black Americans, we need systemic policy changes to address racial disparities, digital inequality and broadband connectivity.”

Katie Spiker, Director of Government Affairs at the National Skills Coalition

“In addition to access to devices and broadband, workers need investments that equip them with foundational or baseline digital skills and investments that empower them to acquire additional digital abilities.”

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