The state of Connecticut has rolled out a draft version of its digital equity plan that is taking an ambitious swing at both expanding digital government services at the state and local levels, and also promoting digital skills and tech support programs for state residents.
The draft plan – dubbed “Connecticut: Everyone Connected” – was released by the Connecticut Department of Administrative Services’ Commission for Educational Technology in late December.
The state is seeking public comment on the draft plan through Jan. 20. Based on those comments and other feedback, the commission will revise the draft plan and issue a final plan by the end of March.
The Digital Equity Plan’s goals are three-fold: developing and promoting digital skills and technical support programs that directly serve residents; ensuring residents have options for getting online that are affordable and meet their needs; and making more digital government services available.
“Connecticut has taken significant steps to close the digital divide in our state,” said Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont. “The goals in the ‘Everyone Connected’ plan extend that work, from connections and computers to training and support that help improve the lives of all residents.”
The draft plan is the product of engagement with more than 7,000 Connecticut residents and in-depth research into the barriers to technology access. The state said the draft plan will help ensure that all Connecticut residents can benefit from life in the digital world for learning, career advancement, telehealth, and leveraging state services.
To make the Digital Equity Plan a reality, the state is tapping funding from the Biden-Harris administration’s Internet for All Initiative, which was created as part of the 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. That initiative will make the state eligible for implementation funds to expand Connecticut residents’ access to affordable, high-speed internet, devices, and training.
Gov. Lamont’s office said the draft plan is consistent with Federal guidance, and emphasizes the needs of traditionally disenfranchised groups. Those include residents at or below 150 percent of the poverty line, racial and ethnic minorities, the aging, those incarcerated in or in transition from state correctional facilities, individuals with disabilities or language barriers, those living in rural areas, and veterans.
“Across state agencies, we are moving services online, giving residents a choice in how and when they access programs,” commented Department of Administrative Services Commissioner Michelle Gilman. “This plan will help make sure everyone has the connection, device, and skills to take advantage of those services.”
“The draft plan reflects more than a year of research, outreach, and collaboration to understand what gets in the way of residents accessing and effectively using digital tools,” Mark Raymond, Connecticut’s chief information officer and chair of the Commission for Educational Technology, said.