Wilson is bridging the digital divide

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Did you know that more than 75 million people in the United States don’t have access to the internet at home? Across the United States, people and communities are being left behind in this digital world. Strategically, the Wilson Housing Authority and the city of Wilson have stepped up in a big way.

I want to congratulate the community of Wilson on its commitment to digital inclusion and digital equity. And, as a proud Wilson business and homeowner, I’m happy that my community is taking the steps to make sure that all people enjoy the social and economic benefits on the internet. Yet, data shows we all can do better, especially in solving the current digital divide, and it starts with a commitment to digital inclusion and digital equity.

Digital inclusion refers to the activities necessary to ensure that all individuals and communities, including the most disadvantaged, have access to and use of information and communication technologies. Digital equity is a condition in which all individuals and communities have the information technology capacity needed for full participation in our society, democracy and economy.

Digital equity, along with digital inclusion, are necessary for civic and cultural participation, employment, lifelong learning and access to essential services. Without both of these the digital divide, currently affecting millions of people in the United States, will continue to grow.

In the United States today, 70 percent of teachers assign homework online and 90 percent of people who have looked for a new job in the last two years used the internet to research jobs. With this divide, learning and achievement gaps are growing faster than ever. For example, a job seeker who can access the internet at home will find employment seven weeks faster than a job seeker without internet in the home. Additionally, students who have access to home computers are 6 to 8 percent more likely to graduate from high school than those who do not have access, all other factors considered.

At EveryoneOn, a national nonprofit that creates social and economic opportunity by connecting everyone to the internet, we believe that community-level commitments to digital inclusion are paramount in ending this digital divide once and for all.

Already, the community of Wilson has an impressive track record in innovative resources for her citizenry. Specifically, the launching of Greenlight shows commitment to digital inclusion as highlighted in the Aug. 22 article, “Wilson joins national public housing internet access project.” I had the good fortune of joining former U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro for his 2016 visit to Wilson and celebrated with the city at this launch of low-cost internet service to Wilson Housing Authority households.

From this commitment, EveryoneOn, where I currently serve as chief programs officer, nominated the Wilson Housing Authority as a National Digital Inclusion Alliance “Trail Blazer” city. In addition, we recently welcomed the city of Wilson and Wilson Housing Authority to the first cohort of ConnectHome Nation, an innovative initiative that will connect 350,000 people living in HUD-assisted housing in more than 100 communities by 2020.

Working from a national seat, we often hear about the great work of the city of Wilson and its leadership in broadband deployment, municipally owned broadband and now digital access. In that vein, we applauded the courage and leadership the city of Wilson displayed when extending Greenlight service to neighboring Pinetops.

As the lead for ConnectHome Nation, EveryoneOn looks forward to developing a relationship with the community of Wilson and celebrating more digital inclusion successes. We invite Wilson community members to also support these efforts with the same passion because research and experience show that digital inclusion is good for all of us. We look forward to continued success as we build upon our collective impact.

Veronica Creech, a Wilson home and business owner, is the chief programs officer of EveryoneOn, a national nonprofit that creates social and economic opportunity by connecting everyone to the internet.