Chula Vista adopts plan to close digital divide
CHULA VISTA (KUSI) – As the coronavirus pandemic drives public services online, the City of Chula Vista set out a plan to connect more of its residents to the internet.
The Chula Vista City Council voted unanimously on May 26 to adopt a Digital Equity and Inclusion Plan, which lays out a series of actions the City will take to ensure every Chula Vista resident has affordable access to high-speed internet, as well as the skills and devices needed to use it.
Chief Sustainability Officer Dennis Gakunga, with the City of Chula Vista, joined Good Morning San Diego to discuss the plan.
“None of us saw COVID-19 coming when we were working on this plan, but this crisis has emphasized how critically important it is for our entire community to be able to connect to services online,” said Mayor Mary Salas. “Many of our residents who need services, like food deliveries for seniors or unemployment information, don’t have a smartphone or high-speed internet. That really makes a difference in our ability to meet people’s needs.”
Among the groups most impacted by the digital divide are disabled residents; the homeless and housing insecure; job seekers; low-income and unbanked residents; migrants and refugees; residents who do not speak English; seniors; and students.
The plan defines digital equity as “the condition in which all individuals within our community have access to technology devices, Internet connection, and digital literacy skills, giving the freedom to fully participate in the economy, education, and other opportunities.” Digital inclusion is defined as “the actions undertaken by the City and local stakeholders to improve digital equity with intentional strategies to overcome barriers to access and use technology.”
“Digital equity is no longer optional,” said Councilmember Steve Padilla. “The post-COVID-19 world requires us to look deeply and act swiftly on this issue. I’m happy that Chula Vista is taking the lead in San Diego County.”
The plan lays out a series of goals, objectives and strategic actions the City will take to bridge the gap.
Some of the goals require the City to expand and improve the technology services it provides to residents, such as computer classes offered through the library and senior center, as well as enhancing the accessibility of the City website for people with disabilities and people who speak a language other than English.
Other actions outlined in the plan require the City to pursue grants and partnerships with outside organizations to offer new programs and services to residents, such as mobile WiFi hotspots and free or low-cost computing devices.
The Digital Equity and Inclusion Plan helps the City identify where the digital divide exists by providing key statistics. Key figures include:
• Broadband internet service is available at 98.2 percent of residences in Chula Vista
• Approximately 11.4 percent of Chula Vista residents do not have a broadband Internet subscription
• Approximately 4.7 percent of Chula Vista residents do not have a device they can use to connect to the internet.