The digital inclusion plan will make broadband existent, affordable and accessible for all people in SEI.
(Versailles, Ind.) - The Southeastern Indiana Regional Planning Commission (SIRPC) in partnership with the Purdue Center for Regional Development (PCRD) today announced the launch of Indiana’s first regional digital inclusion plan.
The SIRPC regional digital inclusion plan is designed to bridge the digital divide by making broadband existent, affordable and accessible for all people in the Southeastern Indiana (SEI) region. This initiative is a direct result of the State of Broadband Report that PCRD conducted in 2019 on behalf of SIRPC and their respective community foundations.
“SIRPC works to improve the quality of life within Southeastern Indiana,” said Mary McCarty, SIRPC executive director. “It is our goal to assist in the development of a thriving economy within our nine-county region, and the digital inclusion plan is an integral part of this strategic effort. Our organization is thrilled to have the opportunity to move forward with the very first regional digital inclusion plan of this kind!”
Along with SIRPC and PCRD, the regional digital inclusion taskforce was a key player and driving force behind the development of this plan. The taskforce was composed of local elected officials, local economic development organizations, and community foundation representatives. The taskforces worked together from January to October 2021 to develop the first draft of the plan.
The goals of the plan include:
Build/upgrade affordable, scalable, and future proof broadband throughout the community and improve adoption.
Ensure all residents have reasonable access to quality, affordable, and reliable devices as well as a trusted technical support to maintain, upgrade, and use these devices.
Provide a perpetual digital literacy ecosystem—multi-faceted across multiple technologies—offering support and equitable access to people of all ages and abilities for the region’s digital activities.
Include connectivity, devices, and digital skills into local and regional community and economic development strategies through public private partnerships, coordination, and assessments resulting in a sustainable digital equity ecosystem.
In addition to the plan outlining goals and strategies to move the region toward digital inclusion, it also provides a snapshot of the digital inclusion conditions in the region. For example, roughly 95% of housing units in Dearborn County had access to 100/20 Mbps while less than 2% had access to this same speed in Ohio and Switzerland Counties.
The SIRPC board endorsed the plan on March 9. The next steps will be to strategize with the digital inclusion county ambassadors to develop an action plan to achieve the goals within the next five years.
“Digital inequalities affect businesses, organizations, residents, and workers alike and if not addressed, may place a region at a competitive disadvantage, commented PCRD director, Roberto Gallardo. “I applaud the SIPRC region for taking the initiative to place their region at the forefront of digital inclusion.”
The Economic Development Administration (EDA) also provided additional funding to University Centers across the country thanks to the CARES Act passed in March 2020. As part of this effort, PCRD collaborated with the SIRPC to develop their regional digital inclusion plan.
The full SIRPC regional digital inclusion plan can be viewed at: Southeast Indiana Regional Planning Commission - Digital Inclusion Plan (sirpc.org).