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Closing the digital divide

The Internet is a major part of our lives.  If we need an answer, we Google it.  If we want to stay connected with friends and family, we use Facebook, Snapchat, or Twitter. Students need the Internet to create and submit homework. Families use it to find information on Lincoln’s community services via myLNK. Need to check on your Veteran or Medicaid benefits?  Need to take the GED or apply for a job?  Want to start a new or grow an existing business? All of these require a connection to the Internet.

Lincoln is becoming a gigabit community, with availability of Internet speeds we couldn’t have dreamed of even five years ago. However, not all Lincolnites are able to take advantage of this advance. This means that our community, as a whole, isn’t prospering as fast or as far as we could. This digital divide needs a strategy for digital inclusion.

The Prosper Lincoln community agenda identified technology as a critical part of building a stronger ecosystem for innovation and entrepreneurship. A viable digital inclusion strategy for Lincoln improves employability; increases educational opportunity; improves city economic competitiveness; and enhances digital quality of life and engagement. So, the Prosper Lincoln Innovation and Entrepreneurship focus area has convened a group of individuals and small businesses to meet and discuss the digital divide in our city. They will put together a digital inclusion plan with overarching recommendations for how we can all benefit from being a gigabit community. Access to the internet, training, hardware – it all matters.

The three main pillars of the plan will be:

  1. Connectivity/internet access (broadband) – among the things we’ll address is working with the City of Lincoln, internet service providers and other interested parties, on how we best communicate the offerings/tiers for service especially with regards to the most under-served areas of our city.
  2. Hardware/equipment – while handheld devices such as smart phones are popular and certainly a must have to function in this digital world, they are not the answer to everything. People need portable devices like laptops/tablets to do more. How do we get more people the tools they need at a greatly reduced cost? Or in some cases, free.
  3. Literacy/education/skills/training – access and equipment are not enough. We need to provide educational offerings for people to better understand what Lincoln being a Smart Gigabit Community means for them and how they can learn to use it all to make for a better life for themselves/family.

The group is reviewing market data specific to Lincoln and learning from Kansas City, Charlotte and Austin - cities already engaged in doing this important work. We can gain insights on what makes for success and scale it appropriately for Lincoln.

What we do know already, is that our city has in abundance public and private telecommunications infrastructure; private broadband providers; public and private financial resources and expertise; collective spirit to address the causes of the Digital Divide; and the collective determination to ensure that everyone, regardless of economic status, has access to affordable broadband services and the devices, training, knowledge, and skills to effectively utilize broadband services in their homes.

All of this will help pursue the bold vision to implement a comprehensive plan to eliminate the Digital Divide in Lincoln within 10 years or sooner.

Quotes From Our Supporters

Prosper Lincoln is one of the most exciting community engagement and community-building efforts happening in the country.  It’s a real model!

Dan Cramer, Co-founder, Grassroots Solutions, St. Paul, MN

Prosper Lincoln will not only benefit all of your kids and your community; it is also a model for similar efforts around the country, thanks to the leadership of LCF.

Richard Ober, President & CEO, New Hampshire Charitable Foundation; Founder Community Foundation Opportunity Network; Concord, NH

Communities across the US are searching for innovative initiatives to improve economic opportunity and mobility.  We can all learn from the amazing work of Prosper Lincoln!

Brian Collier, Executive Vice President, Foundation for the Carolinas

Prosper Lincoln is breaking new ground in economic revitalization without displacement.

Ellen Shepard, CEO, Allies, Chicago, IL

To see an entire community come together to ensure all Lincoln residents are successful is very inspirational.  Congratulations!

Nancy Van Milligen, President/CEO, Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque, Dubuque, IA

In my regional and national work in community development this is one of the most unique and exciting strategies for true change I have seen!

Del Gines, Senior Community Development Advisor, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City Omaha, NE

Bringing together a multi-sector group of committed Lincoln residents will support prosperity for all.  Congratulations on this excellent collaboration.

Holly C. Sampson, President, Duluth Superior Area Community Foundation, Duluth, MN

Diverse voices from across Lincoln came together so that current and future generations can thrive. This is no small feat, and it’s inspiring to see that collective vision inch closer to fruition. You can consider yourselves a model for other communities starting to embark on this work.

Megan Powers, International Program Officer, The McKnight Foundation Minneapolis, MN

There is no better example of the power of convening than Prosper Lincoln! Bringing together members of the community from all walks of life to enrich the City is inspiring.

Regine Webster, Vice President Center for Disaster Philanthropy, Washington, DC

Prosper Lincoln is creating a national model for building vibrant, equitable and resilient communities.  Systems thinking + the right resources!

Sandy Wiggins, Chair, Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE) Washington, DC

Prosper Lincoln is an important approach to solving community problems. By bringing together local businesses, nonprofits, neighborhoods, government and faith organizations, they are bridging divides, building connections, and sparking opportunities in way that shows true community engagement.

Vikki Spruill, President and CEO, Council on Foundations

This is one of the most impressive community focus efforts I have seen. You are making considerable progress!

Cynthia Hardin Milligan, Trustee and former Chair of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Battle Creek, MI

Lincoln is one of a few cities across America where citizens and leaders from across different sectors have come together to tackle their community’s most complex challenges. Your ability to already show results and persevere is inspiring.

Ben Hecht, President and CEO of Living Cities, Washington, DC

Solving tough national problems like the opportunity gap begins locally, and Prosper Lincoln is leading the way.

Robert D. Putnam, Professor of Public Policy and author, Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis Harvard University, Cambridge, MA

There is nothing more powerful in securing a community’s long-term health than evolving a shared vision through community engagement. Congratulations!

Rip Rapson, President, The Kresge Foundation, Detroit, MI