Guest Editorial: Dedicate significant ARPA funds to digital inclusion
We will never achieve true equity and inclusion in our community without also solving the need for digital inclusion.
In this age of COVID-19, high-speed internet access is every bit as critical for daily life as water or electricity. Imagine being unable to complete an online job application, let alone work from home. Imagine your kids doing their online learning on an old smartphone. Imagine trying to secure your vaccine appointment without using a computer.
It is simply unacceptable that tens of thousands of families in Louisville, and many more across the state, continue to be excluded from online education, job opportunities, medical care, ecommerce, social connections, and so much more.
Digital inclusion is solvable and, thanks to the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, or ARPA, we will soon be closer to achieving it. Louisville Metro will receive $388 million dollars through ARPA, with hundreds of millions more headed to the state, to address disparities in digital access. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to eliminate digital exclusion in Kentucky. It is the right thing to do.
Let’s set the expectation that our local and state leaders will allocate at least 10% of the ARPA funds they receive to digital inclusion initiatives. With the new digital tools and skills, tens of thousands of Kentuckians will gain the ability to secure a job, learn new skills, connect with each other, and enjoy healthier lives. Digital inclusion truly is an equitable use of American Reserve Plan funds.
The Digital IncLOUsion Coalition is a 2020 Bingham Fellows initiative comprised of dozens of nonprofits, community, government & business groups working to bridge the digital divide. Bill Dieruf, Mayor of the City of Jeffersontown and a participant of the Bingham Fellows Class of 2020, worked as part of the Digital Inclusion group.