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Utah ranked 11th for internet connection, works to expand digital inclusion

Utah ranked 11th for internet connection, works to expand digital inclusion

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SALT LAKE CITY — In this day and age, it's nearly impossible to function without some type of internet access. Everything from schoolwork to job applications require online connection and digital literacy skills.

Utah is the 11th most connected state, but some rural areas like San Juan and Daggett County lag significantly behind, and over 53,000 Utahns don't have access to any internet providers at all, according to Broadband Now.

While Provo has one of the highest rates of home internet connection in the country and 99.3 percent of Beaver County has access to broadband connection, Morgan, San Juan and Daggett County all have less than 16 percent access.

[Utah Broadband Map](http://broadbandnow.com/Utah)

Organizations around Utah are working on projects aimed to expand digital inclusion and improve the lives of their community, especially during National Digital Inclusion Week Monday through Saturday.

But internet access is only one part of digital inclusion. To be fully digitally inclusive individuals must have:

1. Affordable and reliable internet access

2. A device that connects to the internet

3. Digital literacy skills

Without all three, it’s difficult for an individual to be a productive member of society and connect to the larger world.

“When families have access to the internet, they are better able to find the resources needed to access help, connect with schools and other institutions and fully participate in democracy,” said Jamie Littlefield, a Digital Inclusion Fellow working with United Way of Utah County.

Advocates of digital inclusion from the State of Utah, Salt Lake City, nonprofits and business come together to discuss issues of digital inclusion. (Photo: Carrie Rogers-Whitehead, Digital Respons-Ability)
Advocates of digital inclusion from the State of Utah, Salt Lake City, nonprofits and business come together to discuss issues of digital inclusion. (Photo: Carrie Rogers-Whitehead, Digital Respons-Ability)

Littlefield has been coordinating several digital inclusion projects during her fellowship through the Nonprofit Technology Network, Google Fiber and United Way of Utah County, but when asked about her work, Littlefield says the initiative she’s proudest of is the Adopt-a-Computer program.

The United Way of Utah County is now providing refurbished desktop computers to low-income families with the assistance of Provo City and local tech companies. Participants of the program complete 10 hours of digital literacy training at Provo City Library to earn the computer.

"A recent graduate of Provo’s Adopt-a-Computer program spent his training time learning how to search and apply for jobs online. The same day he picked up his new computer, he also received a phone call offering him a job. We celebrated with high-fives!” Littlefield said.

Related:

About a third of American adults do not have high speed internet access at home and cobble together a system using smartphones, publicly available Wifi and other resources. These adults also often have issues applying for jobs, accessing public services and other processes with only smartphone access.

"Although smartphones help those with home broadband to access the internet, this group frequently encounters a number of constraints with data caps," a study by the Pew Research Center said.

Salt Lake City Public Library is currently working to address internet access and smartphone issues as well. Currently, The City Library circulates 20 Laptop Discovery Kits that can be checked out for up to 21 days with a library card. Each kit includes a cord, mouse, case and internet hotspot. In addition to the Discovery Kits, the City Library offers digital literacy classes through their Tech League at locations throughout Salt Lake City.

Salt Lake City Public Library's Laptop Discovery Kitc can be checked out for up to 21 days with a library card. Each kit includes a power cord, mouse and carrying case, along with a Chromebook and internet hotspot. (Photo: Andrew Shaw, Salt Lake City Public Library)
Salt Lake City Public Library's Laptop Discovery Kitc can be checked out for up to 21 days with a library card. Each kit includes a power cord, mouse and carrying case, along with a Chromebook and internet hotspot. (Photo: Andrew Shaw, Salt Lake City Public Library)

Both the Salt Lake City Public Library and United Way of Utah County are looking for volunteers on their digital inclusion projects.

“We love our volunteers, but even if you’re not able to make an ongoing commitment, you can still help your neighborhood become more digitally inclusive,” Littlefield said. “Show a senior how to keep in touch with her grandkids on Facebook, help a mom returning to the workforce by setting up a LinkedIn account."

State, city, academic and business leaders are coming together to discuss issues of digital inclusion. Anna Decker, a consulting associate at Cicero Group who recently convened a discussion on the topic, said “digital inclusion is a huge issue” and one that needs the collaboration of multiple entities.

“Twenty years ago those of us working to reduce the digital divide did so primarily through ‘community technology centers,'" said Angela Siefer, Director of the National Digital Inclusion Alliance. "Today, the work is often done through digital inclusion programs within community-based organizations and libraries that have broader missions.”

National Digital Inclusion Week is May 8-13. To find out what's happening in your area, look here.


Carrie Rogers-Whitehead

About the Author: Carrie Rogers-Whitehead

Carrie Rogers-Whitehead is the CEO and founder of Digital Respons-Ability. She is a TEDx speaker and instructor at Salt Lake Community College and regularly trains on subjects such as information science, STEM, communication and digital literacy. In addition, she is the co-creator of Wizarding Dayz.

Both the Salt Lake City Public Library and United Way of Utah County are looking for volunteers on their digital inclusion projects.

“We love our volunteers, but even if you’re not able to make an ongoing commitment, you can still help your neighborhood become more digitally inclusive,” Littlefield said. “Show a senior how to keep in touch with her grandkids on Facebook, help a mom returning to the workforce by setting up a LinkedIn account."

State, city, academic and business leaders are coming together to discuss issues of digital inclusion. Anna Decker, a consulting associate at Cicero Group who recently convened a discussion on the topic, said “digital inclusion is a huge issue” and one that needs the collaboration of multiple entities.

“Twenty years ago those of us working to reduce the digital divide did so primarily through ‘community technology centers,'" said Angela Siefer, Director of the National Digital Inclusion Alliance. "Today, the work is often done through digital inclusion programs within community-based organizations and libraries that have broader missions.”

National Digital Inclusion Week is May 8-13. To find out what's happening in your area, look here.


![Carrie Rogers-Whitehead](http://img.ksl.com/slc/2585/258536/25853698\.jpg?filter=ksl/65x65)
About the Author: Carrie Rogers-Whitehead -----------------------------------------

Carrie Rogers-Whitehead is the CEO and founder of Digital Respons-Ability. She is a TEDx speaker and instructor at Salt Lake Community College and regularly trains on subjects such as information science, STEM, communication and digital literacy. In addition, she is the co-creator of Wizarding Dayz.

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