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Community Highlights

Net Inclusion Conference Showcases Charlotte Programs

Munirih Jester, San Antonio Housing Authority, moderates a panel discussion on financing broadband during the 2019 Net Inclusion Conference. Community Development experts from the Federal Reserve regional Reserve banks include panelists Jeanne Milliken Bonds, Richmond; Jordana Barton, Dallas; and Jeremy Hegle, Kansas.

A myriad of local, state and federal policies impact digital inclusion and as many sources of financial and programmatic support are available. To keep abreast of the policy developments and innovative advances, practitioners, policy-makers, academics, educators and government officials meet annually at the national Net Inclusion conference. Hosted by the National Digital Inclusion Alliance, the multi-day program draws several hundred people to learn, discuss and share digital inclusion best practices from across the country.

Photo Credit: Laura Fortunato

More than 300 people attended the 2019 Net Inclusion Conference hosted by the National Digital Inclusion Alliance.

Charlotte, North Carolina played host for more than 300 people who attended the 2019 Net Inclusion Conference, with pre-conference workshops April 1 at the Richmond Fed’s Charlotte Branch and Digital Inclusion Site Tours around the City in the afternoon. Plenaries and break-out sessions followed on April 2 and 3 and were held at the Central Piedmont Community College’s Harris Conference Center near the Charlotte International Airport.

“There are many federal programs that address infrastructure and technology, however, there are none that focus on the adoption, and we must have both, explained Angela Siefer, Executive Director, National Digital Inclusion Alliance. “We are the unified voice for digital inclusion, including the adoption of new technologies, and our conference is the opportunity to provide an exchange of ideas about the infrastructure, the financing, and importantly, the adoption.”

Digital inclusion is broader than just digital divide or digital literacy, and addresses the issues of opportunity, access, knowledge and skill level and the practical, policy-driven approaches to address the needs of communities. In the community development field, digital inclusion refers to a framework for assessing and considering how ready communities are to provide access to a range of opportunities in the digital age. Digital inclusion has three components: Access, or the availability and affordability; Adoption, or digital literacy; and, Applications like workforce development, education, health care, civic engagement, and business development.

Photo Credit: Laura Fortunato

More than a dozen community leaders attended a Community Reinvestment Act workshop held at the Richmond Fed’s Charlotte Branch on April 1.

Richmond Fed Community Development Manager Jeanne Milliken Bonds presented a three-hour “how to” workshop for community leaders interested in partnering with banks to create digital equity through broadband expansion and digital applications. This approach leverages the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) criteria for banks in qualifying financial support for low- and moderate-income communities. “It’s important to, not only explain CRA basics to community organizations — the regulatory framework, where to find information, and the requirements for financial institutions — but also provide best practices for relationship-building with financial institutions,” Bonds explained.

Bonds and Community Development colleagues, Jordana Barton of the Dallas Fed, and Jeremy Hegle of the Kansas City Fed, were part of an April 3 panel discussion, Financial Institution Support for Digital Inclusion Programs Panel, moderated by Munirih Jester, San Antonio Housing Authority. The discussion focused on strategies for engaging financial institutions in digital inclusion programs, best practices and possible innovations.

Photo Credit: Laura Fortunato

Plenaries and break-out sessions for the 2019 Net Inclusion Conference were held April 2 and 3 at the Central Piedmont Community College’s Harris Conference Center near the Charlotte International Airport.

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