The group is the Digital Inclusion Coalition and its goal is to draft a community benefits agreement (CBA) that will become part of the contract between the City of Minneapolis and the broadband wireless vendor that’s eventually chosen. (Right now, the two finalists for wireless vendor are Earthlink and US Internet.) This group is focused on digital divide issues (the gap between those with access to computers and the Internet and those who don’t have access because of low income and/or lack of training).
Current draft of the CBA is here.
Steve Newcom, Director of the Headwaters Foundation, was the featured speaker. As potential money is gathered to address digital divide issues, somebody needs to manage the money and find an equitable way to give it out to nonprofit groups. Headwaters is a possiblility as a management group that could pass out the funds as grants. They are doing some excellent work relating to social justice, native communities, and democracy initiatives. They look more at creating systems that have the power to create change rather than identifying and servicing issues.
I think they would be a good choice.
After Steve spoke, we had a general discussion about digital divide issues. Topics included:
- Need for a clear definition of “Digital Divide.”
- Difficulty in funding people to train and be computer lab monitors.
- Money should not be used to replace current city funds for libraries, schools, and parks.
- Need for network neutrality and potential for this new system to economically harm current ISPs.
- Need for a mailing list or some way to communicate between meetings.
Many of the people at the table work with low income, elderly, and immigrants and see the ‘divide’ first hand.
The next meeting is scheduled for March 28.