A Broadband Economic Summit will be held at the Vicksburg Convention Center on July 7 – 8. The summit aims to provide the community with information to help them excel in the new digital economy. It also hopes to create opportunities to close the wealth gap.
Local and regional resources such as the Community Reinvestment Act are being leveraged to aid in getting new internet service providers (ISPs) deployed to service the under-served. Infrastructure improvement is the first leg of the process. The next next part lies within the communities.
“Infrastructure is only part of the equation,” said Jordana Barton-Garcia, CEO of Barton-Garcia Advisors. “You want to also include programs in digital skills training so that you can have true economic inclusion with this infrastructure and have people have service and close the digital divide.”
“The broadband economic summit coalesces around building community initiative so each and every home will actually have fiber to the home,” stated Gene Logan, Jr., CEO of R.A. Government Services, LLC.
As a part of that process, Logan invests in human capital development with Arch Group. The group founded the Arone Washington Coding Initiative to train young people in a high-level programming language called Python. The need for better connectivity became apparent after the COVID-19 pandemic began. Many students did not have the ability to participate from home.
“We couldn’t carry out our project in the fullest aspect unless we met in person,” said Logan.
Arone Washington was a member of Arch Group and was instrumental in aiding during the early planning of both the broadband feasibility study and the coding program. Washington died in November 2021 and the program was named in his honor.
Logan stated the Arch Group paid for a feasibility study to look at providing internet service to under-served areas. The study found that the initiative is financially feasible. Providing the much needed access to those under-served would help to foster an inclusive economy.
“Our goal is to get the information out and how the low-to-moderate income black and brown folks can participate in economics so they won’t be left behind,” said Jason Dixon, CEO of Strategic Alliance CDC. “It is really critical right now because the wealth gap is getting larger and larger with these communities, and this is one of the ways that we can reduce that wealth gap. If you reduce the wealth gap, you increase employment, you decrease incarceration and you increase the opportunity to have families sticking together.”
Dixon stated the summit is a chance to get the information out and bring these communities together to see what federal government opportunities are available to take advantage of.
Such programs include:
- Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program ($42.5 billion);
- Enabling Middle Mile Broadband Infrastructure Program ($1 billion); and,
- State Digital Equity Act programs ($1.5 billion).
Barton-Garcia states the initiative allows rural locations to be vibrant areas for economic opportunity for the new economy.
“The assets of the digital economy are very important for low income and persons of color and communities of color to be able to own those assets,” said Barton-Garcia. “It will allow rural areas to be vibrant areas for economic opportunity for the new economy.”
Barton-Garcia adds the initiative will help establish entrepreneurial and workforce opportunities by having access and the digital skills necessary for the new economy.
There will be other components to go along with the initiative, such as job training to build upgrade and maintain the infrastructure. New infrastructure would bring about more job opportunities which is something Logan wishes to keep local.
“We’d like to keep those jobs here within the community,” said Logan.
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