Digital Literacy Is at the Heart of a Thriving Smart City

Source: GovTech on March 30, 2018 | Skip Descant

The path forward for smart cities is not without its obstacles and challenges, many of them far removed from the worlds of tech, and instead more linked to the societal, political and financial factors.

Kimberly LaGrue, chief information officer in New Orleans, recalled a community event when one resident said, “I don’t have a computer. I don’t use any of that stuff.” LaGrue shared the experience during a panel discussion at the Smart Cities Connect Conference in Kansas City, Mo., March 27.

“I asked her another question and she went to her phone,” LaGrue added.


“She didn’t even understand that her phone was a tool for digital literacy. That the Internet on her phone was the same as Internet in her house,” she went on, underscoring the growing need to educate residents about the many ways technology is serving the city.

Since then, New Orleans has launched initiatives like a program called Tech Goes Home, as well as a digital equity challenge to close the digital divide that often leaves those without technological knowledge behind.

Understanding and overcoming the digital divide is an issue officials in other cities explore as well, said Girish Ramachandran, Dallas' chief technology architect.

“If there’s public Wi-Fi out there, do people even know how to access public Wi-Fi?” Ramachandran asked. “Do they have the devices needed to access public Wi-Fi as opposed to just deploying a solution and then saying, ‘Great, now go use it’?”

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