At a Glance
The City of Chula Vista built on its smart city progress by addressing the digital divide through the creation of a groundbreaking Digital Equity and Inclusion Plan (DEIP). The DEIP is an actionable roadmap to expand access to Internet connectivity, devices, and digital literacy training for all community members.
Building upon the Smart City Strategic Action Plan, City champions identified an opportunity to expand technology access and stimulate community growth. Though the city’s level of digital access surpasses the state average, there is still a digital divide in Chula Vista; over 12,700 (or 4.7%) of Chula Vista’s residents do not own an Internet-enabled device and over 30,800 (or 11.4%) do not have an Internet subscription.
Through engagement with multi-sector stakeholders, Chula Vista also gained valuable insights into the specific needs of eight underserved populations, related to access to Internet connectivity, devices, and digital literacy. These eight populations include disabled persons, homeless and housing insecure, job seekers, low-income and unbanked, migrants and refugees, non-English speakers, seniors, and students. Although these populations are not the only groups experiencing the barriers of the digital divide, the City wanted to be sensitive to the specific digital needs that these groups have relating to digital access.
In light of the COVID-19 crisis, the digital divide has become an even greater priority to address. Under shelter-in-place, the digital divide has exposed cross-sectional equity issues, leaving populations vulnerable to economic and health stressors of the pandemic. Internet connectivity has been critical to access up-to-date public health advisories, government services, financial assistance, online education and work, and needed delivery services for vulnerable populations. These unique challenges have compounded the existing socioeconomic disparities related to the digital divide.
“None of us saw COVID-19 coming when we were working on this plan, but this crisis has emphasized how critically important it is for our entire community to be able to connect to services online. Many of our residents who need services, like food deliveries for seniors or unemployment information, don’t have a smartphone or high-speed internet. That really makes a difference in our ability to meet people’s needs.” - Mayor Mary Salas
To address these challenges and uncover opportunities, the City partnered with Nutter Consulting to create the Digital Equity and Inclusion Plan (DEIP). Chula Vista’s DEIP has paved an actionable roadmap to help communities in coping with the “new normal” and creates a tangible vision for a future of success that is inclusive of all.
The City of Chula Vista used/is using the Digital Equity and Inclusion Plan to address this/these challenge(s).
The Digital Equity and Inclusion Plan (DEIP) was developed through a four-step process that uncovered opportunities for cross-sector collaboration and engaged diverse stakeholders to understand community needs. In the first project phase, the Nutter Consulting team reviewed 18 City and County plans and policies to identify overlapping goals and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that informed the creation of the DEIP. This first step was key to understanding the City’s vision of connectivity, equity, economic development, education, and service provision.
The next phase focused on stakeholder engagement; with a matrix of key community stakeholders, including City and County staff, community-based organizations, private entities, healthcare agencies, and academic institutions, the City prioritized 12 key stakeholders for interviews. Through these interviews, the Nutter Consulting team gained a deeper understanding of the local digital divide - who is impacted and how. Following the stakeholder interviews, the City held the inaugural Digital Equity and Inclusion Workshop at the Chula Vista Public Library with over 50 multi-sector stakeholders. This workshop helped both to identify specific needs for eight underserved communities as well as existing digital equity resources available in Chula Vista and it also helped to uncover potential areas for collaboration among the organizational stakeholders.
Building on the three phases of discovery and engagement, the final Digital Equity and Inclusion Plan provides actionable goals and strategies to expand the community’s access to the Internet, digital devices, and digital literacy training. The Plan identifies key regional partners and a matrix of existing digital equity resources so residents can find programs in a centralized location.
As COVID-19 shelter-in-place mandates were implemented, Nutter Consulting and the City team moved project meetings and internal staff review online, using digital tools such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams to continue the review. In April 2020, we hosted a virtual event with the Chula Vista Smart City Working Group to present the DEIP and identify further opportunities to integrate digital equity into smart city work.
“Digital equity is no longer optional. The post-COVID-19 world requires us to look deeply and act swiftly on this issue. I’m happy that Chula Vista is taking the lead in San Diego County.” -Councilmember Steve Padilla
Overall, the City of Chula Vista’s DEIP provides an innovative example of how smart city programs can further equity, creating opportunities for an inclusive future of academic and economic success.
- Created a strategic plan containing 3 goals, 8 objectives, and 38 strategic actions to improve digital equity for the entire city
- Engaged a diverse stakeholder group of over 50 local organizations to create a foundation for a regional Digital Inclusion Coalition
- Hosted two public workshops with over 75 attendees
- Provided a ‘Digital Equity Resource Matrix’ to centralize 26 currently available programs for residents seeking low-cost Internet, refurbished devices, and digital literacy training
As the first plan of its kind in the County, the DEIP sets an example for local cities on how to address the digital divide in inclusive ways. The Plan includes regional initiatives that the City can lead to expand the reach of their digital equity strategies and connect to San Diego's smart region initiatives.
Who Should Consider?
Small and medium-size cities that want to identify tangible ways to bridge the digital divide and expand digital access and equity.