Digital Inclusion Plans: What Are They and How Are They Made?
May 11, 2023// Digital Inclusion
Have you ever wondered what a digital inclusion plan is? Or what goes into creating one? Digital Inclusion Plans are fairly new and come in many shapes and sizes. PCRD has become a leader in assisting communities and regions in creating Digital Inclusion Plans. In this article, I will discuss the basic parts we include in a Digital Inclusion Plan and the general steps we take when working with a community or region on their digital inclusion plan. While this is not a comprehensive explanation of a Digital Inclusion Plan, this article will help you begin to understand what a Digital Inclusion Plan is and what goes into creating one.
Let’s start what characterizes a Digital Inclusion Plan. As I mentioned previously, a Digital Inclusion Plan comes in many shapes and sizes. Sometimes, it even goes by other names, such as a Digital Equity Plan or a Digital Divide Elimination Plan. But the purpose and features remain the same. A Digital Inclusion Plan is a set of goals and objectives that address the digital divide for a specified audience. I know that was a lot in one sentence, so let’s break it down further by starting with what is the digital divide.
The definition of the digital divide has evolved over time. The simplest definition of the digital divide is the gap between the technology “haves” and “have-nots”. However, as we learn more about the digital divide, researchers recognize that it’s not a simple yes-no dichotomy. There’s so many aspects and layers to the digital divide, from connectivity to skills, from devices to mindset. It’s not just about adopting, having and using, but also about the outcomes and benefits, as well. Therefore, we have been moving towards viewing the digital divide as a continuum with shades of gray in the middle.
The desire to improve a community’s or region’s position on the continuum is what prompts the creation of a Digital Inclusion Plan. Since the pandemic, more and more people are seeing the value of being able to fully participate in and benefit from the digital age. So when a group approaches PCRD to embark on this journey, there are three key steps we take before assembling the Digital Inclusion Plan.
Convene a Taskforce
The first step is to convene a taskforce. This taskforce will do the heavy lifting of creating the plan and championing it moving forward. So when seeking members for the taskforce, look to community members who are go-getters and passionate about digital divide issues. Ideally, these individuals will come from different groups in the community that the plan will serve so they can leverage their connections when creating and implementing the plan. The more people your taskforce can reach, the more voices the plan can include – and the more hands that can help implement the plan.
Gather & Examine Information
Next, the taskforce should focus on gathering and examining information about the current situation. There are a number of places a taskforce can look for this data. A starting point might be seeking out databases online. Data can also be collected by the taskforce through formal means such as surveys or focus groups, or informal means such as word-of-mouth. The ultimate goal is to collect a variety of data to help the taskforce understand the current conditions of the digital divide in their community.
Write the Plan
Once a passionate taskforce is convened with a data-driven understanding of the current situation, it is time to write the plan! While reflecting on the data and why they are passionate about this issue, the taskforce will answer a series of questions and compile their answers into the plan parts. For example, the taskforce may first ask “What change do we want to see?” Those answers become the goals. Answers to “How can we implement these changes?” becomes the objectives under the goals. And finally, the answers to “Why are these changes important?” may become the mission or vision of the plan.
After the bulk of the plan is done, the taskforce then adds some additional background narrative to the plan, such as how this plan was created, who was involved, etc. In my experience, each plan will look different because every community is different. What makes a good plan is its ability to help a community improve their position on the digital divide continuum so that everyone can participate.
Interested to see what’s been done with digital inclusion plans so far? Check out the work with the Accelerating Community Digital Transformation (ACT) program here, where Boone and Carroll Counties wrote Digital Inclusion Plans. Or check out the work so far on Indiana’s state-wide Digital Equity Plan here.
If your community or region is interested in writing a Digital Inclusion Plan to change your place on the digital divide continuum, don’t hesitate to reach out to us! Whether you want us to help walk you through from start to finish, or you just need help with the gathering data, PCRD has a varied expertise to assist with your digital inclusion journey.
Cheyanne Geideman is an Engagement Specialist at the Purdue Center for Regional Development. She holds a B.S. in Visual Communications Design from Purdue University and... read more