Bridging the Digital Divide in the COVID-19 ERA: A Virtual Fireside Chat

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Earlier this month [July 21], Marshall Stewart joined federal, state and Kansas City leaders online for a panel discussion, co-presented by the Urban League of Kansas City’s COVID-19 Collective Impact Collaborative and the Kansas City Public Library.

Panelists discussed the many ways the COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the pervasive inequities of the digital divide. They examined the economic, educational, and social gulf between those who have computers and online access and those who do not – and the impact that has particularly on Black Americans and other disadvantaged populations in Kansas City and across the country. All agreed there is urgent need for comprehensive and effective solutions to ensure our nation’s continuing competitiveness and opportunities to prosper for all.

Other participants included Federal Communications Commissioner Geoffrey Starks (a native of Kansas City), Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas, Third District Kansas City Councilwoman Melissa Robinson, Kansas City Public Schools Superintendent Mark Bedell and Kansas City Public Library Deputy Director Carrie Coogan, who is part of the steering council of the Kansas City Coalition for Digital Inclusion and a member National Digital Inclusion Alliance’s board of directors.

The blue-ribbon group assessed local and national efforts to ensure that homes and individuals across the city, state, and nation have broadband access — as much a household necessity in today’s technology-driven society as water, gas, and electricity.

Moderators were Gwendolyn Grant, CEO of the Urban League of Greater Kansas City, and Clint Odom, the National Urban League’s senior vice president for policy and advocacy and executive director of the NUL’s Washington bureau. The session also featured a message from South Carolina Rep. and U.S. House Majority Whip James Clyburn.

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