Below, Independent Spectrum program policy manager, Molly Fohn shares her experiences from this year’s Net Inclusion conference in Portland, Oregon.
“Sometimes people don’t even know how to ask for what they need.” – Jonathan Alvarez, a panelist at the Net Inclusion 2022 conference.
The above statement was in reference to guiding previously incarcerated people back into their communities, and the struggle to provide these people with digital services and skills. But it could have been the theme for the 2022 National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA) Net Inclusion conference. This was the first time since the beginning of the pandemic that the digital inclusion community was able to gather in person, and it certainly felt like it was what we didn’t know we’d been needing.
In addition to myself (attending on behalf of Voqal), Reggie Bouzy, Jana Mathieson, and Gina Dircks were in attendance from Mobile Citizen. The conference, held at Portland State University brought together 500 people in person and another 450 virtually to talk about the state of digital inclusion across the country and all the funding opportunities coming our way through the federal government. It was also an opportunity to share stories of success and failure faced by the community as it galvanized to provide much-needed digital services throughout the pandemic. There was also a huge interest in developing programs and services that will extend much longer than the immediate future, to take digital inclusion to the next level of digital equity.
One of the highlights of the conference was a fireside chat with Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, where she emphasized the importance of centering racial equity in seeking digital equity. She also expressed her support for the NDIA community through a pre-recorded conversation with NDIA executive director Angela Siefer.
Meanwhile, Adriane Furniss presented the Benton Digital Equity Awards to Tobey Dichter, the Digital Equity Champion, and to Erica Camacho and John Torous, the Emerging Leaders. In addition, Ashbury Senior Community Center’s Wanda Davis shared her experience of filling a need at the moment it is needed.
Voqal project, Mobile Citizen was highlighted a few times throughout the conference, with Bouzy and Mathieson presenting during lightning rounds. In addition, Dircks was featured on a panel about low-cost internet where she shared the benefits of Mobile Citizen service. Overall, it was a great opportunity to finally meet the people that we’ve encountered primarily in webinars and Zoom meetings throughout the past few years in real life. When it was all said and done, we made many connections to help build the equitable world we continually strive for.
You can learn more about the conference and NDIA’s work to create a more digitally inclusive world on their website.