Renewing Digital Inclusion in Philly and Beyond

The Net Inclusion 2024 conference held in Philadelphia last month showcased the transformative potential of community-centric solutions in building a more digitally inclusive world. Organized by the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA), this year’s event, the largest to date, convened over 1,300 leaders united in their commitment to expanding internet access, technology proficiency, and essential skills to empower individuals in the digital economy.

According to Angela Siefer, Executive Director of NDIA, the current landscape underscores the critical role of public and private partnerships in ensuring fair and widespread access to technology. Reflecting on the conference, it became evident that Philadelphia, recognized as a Digital Inclusion Trailblazer in 2023 by NDIA, was the ideal host city. This accolade is bestowed upon municipal, county, and regional governments exemplifying outstanding models for digitally inclusive communities.

Philadelphia Mayor Cherelle Parker articulated a powerful vision during the conference, emphasizing the city’s commitment to becoming the safest, cleanest, greenest major city in the nation with equal economic opportunities for all. Mayor Parker stressed the importance of closing the gap between different socioeconomic groups to achieve this goal.

The imperative of digital inclusion for a robust and equitable future was underscored by the realization that 92 percent of available jobs today require digital skills. Comcast, with a decade-long commitment to this cause, has intensified its efforts through Project UP. This $1 billion digital equity and economic mobility initiative aims to open doors for the next generation of innovators, entrepreneurs, storytellers, and creators.

Highlighting the collaborative spirit of the conference, Project UP partners shared their impactful contributions. Organizations like SERJobs, Community College of Baltimore County, LGBT Tech, Raising Expectations, and United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey were recognized for deploying a range of services to advance digital equity in their communities. Their success is attributed to community expertise, relationships, and trust, facilitated by Digital Navigators—trusted individuals trained to help people connect.

The conference also emphasized tailoring solutions to specific challenges, as seen in the digital navigation programs shared by the partners. The commitment to inclusive practices, such as recognizing the unique needs of Queer and Trans communities, emerged as a recurring theme. This underscores the importance of intentional, collective efforts with communities to realize the shared vision of digital equity.

The Net Inclusion 2024 conference provided a platform for forging new bonds and focusing on aligned action. Whether through the work of digital navigators, policymakers utilizing BEAD and Digital Equity Act funding, or collective advocacy for the reauthorization of the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), the event demonstrated the power of collaboration in driving tangible progress.

Dalila Wilson-Scott, Executive Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer for Comcast Corporation, and President of the Comcast NBCUniversal Foundation, reiterated the significance of intentional and collective efforts in making the vision of digital equity a reality.

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