Oakland’s “Bold and Transformational” Plan to End the Digital Divide, That Might Just Work

I was pleasantly surprised to be wrong.  As a vocal critic of Oakland’s Digital divide plan, Oakland Undivided, it would be an interesting podcast to have its backers as guests and to push them on whether the plan would really work.  And work for the most underserved families who really need it.

Talking with our Superintendent, Directors Hinton-Hodge and Harris, Councilmember Loren Taylor, and The Mayor’s Director of Education, David Silver, I felt surprisingly assured.  I’m serious.  There is a long way to go, but for the first time in a while, I actually heard a “bold and transformative” plan as councilmember Taylor put it.  One that “leveraged existing resources and our Wisdom and knowledge,” as director Hinton Hodge stated.  And it will be FREE, for families that need it.

You can see the whole show here

We have heard a lot of promises over time, but they also showed me a plan.  It sounds pretty good.

We will put network cables down alongside the high-speed transit line that basically runs through the main broadband deserts, they are opening up access at school sites, government buildings, partner sites, and even light posts.  This is the start, but it’s a promising start.

Oakland Undivided Planning- Early Phase

This does a reasonably good job of hitting our most underserved areas, and its smart, it uses the resources we have and is targeted.  Below is the Broadband access map with the darker the grey the higher the percentage without broadband, roughly 40% of all families have no access to broadband

Both the Mayor’s Office and the Superintendent actually checked all of our Internet for All boxes in their vision for Oakland Undivided.  Internet For All means three things leading to one outcome.  That is (1) FREE- no strings attached broadband, (2) an appropriate device for every child, and (3) culturally competent support, so that all families can fully access the digital school house. 

The Superintendent ticked those boxes off and also showed some of the nuanced thinking we need around devices—one Chromebook does not fit all.  David Silver, re-iterated the “free” nature of Oakland Undivided, and that it was really FREE.  Everyone talked equity and the need to address long existing, but less emergent disparities. 

Director Harris stood up for the OUSD Board’s commitment as well, noting that they will be pushing their own distance learning policy to guarantee access.  He ended with a warning, that we should heed, though.  That we should not “go to sleep on this.”  That difficult budget times will be coming and that we need to actually get proactive, harness our partnerships and lead. 

This like many other great plans in Oakland, could easily fall victim to circumstances and become just another rib in the overstuffed boneyard of Oakland’s broken dreams. 

Community Oversight

We will not go to sleep, and we will be organizing around how we make sure that folks (1) are accountable on how money is spent and that we implement Internet For All and measure success (2) that the voices and needs of the most vulnerable communities are prioritized (3) that we share effective practices and challenges and (4) work for and measure inclusion both in those we serve as well as the workforce serving them.

Look for more to come from Digital Inclusion Oakland, where we will be working to make sure that the plans for Internet for all become a reality.  Or be talking all kinds of shit if it isn’t.

And here is a little more on the actual plan and phases of Oakland Undivided.  More to come, we cant go to sleep.

You can see the interview here

What do you think?

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