City, County Announce Pittsburgh Digital Equity Coalition

PITTSBURGH – Today, City of Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey and County Executive Rich Fitzgerald announced the Pittsburgh Digital Equity Coalition (PDEC), a working group of anchor organizations already working to promote digital equity and smaller community groups with intimate knowledge of the community need. The coalition will produce and implement a 5-year plan to close the digital divide in the region by the end of 2027. 

“Our community always does its best when we work together, collaboratively, bringing all of our resources together to solve challenges, and the digital divide is no exception,” said County Executive Rich Fitzgerald. “We are grateful to the many organizations which have answered this call and will work with us to ensure that we are able to increase broadband access, particularly in senior, Black and Brown communities.”

“Today is a great day for the City of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County; today we break down silos and commit to a partnership to end the digital divide in our region by 2027,” said Mayor Ed Gainey. “Our transformation to an EDs and Meds economy, one that drives technological advances in robotics and medical engineering, will not leave anyone behind. We will work together, united – with the City, County, our foundations, nonprofits, and the private sector – with one mission: to connect our entire city and close the digital divide.”

In 2015, the City of Pittsburgh published the Roadmap for Inclusive Innovation which was underwritten by several grants and led by the Hillman Foundation. The Roadmap resulted in opening communications and partnerships between city government, residents, and technology-oriented community groups along with sustained programs such as PGHLab, the Western Pennsylvania Regional Data Center, and participation in Bloomberg Philanthropies’ What Works Cities program. However, the local government has not engaged in sustained digital inclusion activities to directly close the digital divide for our residents. The increasing importance of online activities for residents during the pandemic now requires proactive leadership to close the digital divide across our region.

To address the gaps in digital skills, low-cost high-speed internet services, access to devices, and technical assistance, a coordinated effort led by County and City officials along with leaders from other anchor institutions will allow the Pittsburgh region to submit well-rounded applications for enough funding to make digital equity a reality in the years to come.

PDEC’s strategy to close the digital divide will focus on achieving: 1. Reliable, robust broadband internet for all residents at a price point they can afford; 2. Access to a computing device that meets the needs of the end-users; 3. Digital skills to safely and securely use the internet for resident needs; and 4. Accessible technical support when technology breaks.

The PDEC is comprised of the City of Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, Pittsburgh Public Schools, Allegheny County Housing Authority, Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh, Neighborhood Allies, Literacy Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh Regional Transit, the University of Pittsburgh, Meta Mesh Wireless Communities, the Greater Pittsburgh Digital Inclusion Alliance, Computer Reach, United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, and A+ Schools.

Organizations involved in the Pittsburgh Digital Equity Coalition will come together every few weeks to build a detailed playbook for closing the digital divide in Pittsburgh in 5 years. The playbook will: 1. describe the history of the digital divide in Pittsburgh, including our unique challenges; 2. map the great work that has already been done by our local organizations, big and small; 3. outline actions that we must all take to ensure everyone has access to affordable internet service, user-relevant computers, and the skills to safely and securely use the internet; and 4. set the stage to apply for federal digital equity grant dollars to make the plan a reality.

The PDEC expects to publish its five-year plan in the 2nd quarter of 2023.

Read the full release here.