Connectivity in the Work from Home Era: Denver
On Thursday, December 8, Axios hosted an Expert Voices roundtable discussion in Denver, Colorado featuring local leaders across government, tech and economic development organizations. Guests shared their perspectives on the role of connectivity in today’s work-from-home era, from expanding network connectivity infrastructure to the opportunities and challenges ahead as 5G deploys in both rural and urban areas. Axios What’s Next newsletter editor Alex Fitzpatrick and business reporter Hope King led the conversation.
On the necessity of internet connectivity in Colorado
Attendees shared insights about how they are working locally to improve access to the internet in Colorado as wifi becomes more of a necessity in today’s world.
- Delia Sanchez, Colorado Broadband Office community engagement specialist: “Internet, having wifi at home, it’s a basic need now, and that’s what I’m hearing from different communities now. They’re still not being served. They’re frustrated by that. They’re trying to apply to better jobs, try to get engaged with different communities, and they can’t do it. And I think something that the Governor’s office did when they created this position is because they realized that, and they wanted to reach out to those communities and be able to support them, and that’s something that I am doing. I’m trying to reach out to all the underserved, underheard communities to be able to help them and bring their stories to my team, to my office, so we can keep helping them.”
- Melanie Colletti, digital equity manager for the Office of the Future of Work (Colorado Department of Labor & Employment): “Our whole little section of the Office of the Future of Work is focused on digital equity, and we are charged with figuring out a way to, you know, once the infrastructure is available to everyone, to make sure that people know how to use computers, that they are able to upskill or reskill, they need to have devices and easy ways to connect at home.”
- Adam Burg, VP of government affairs for the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce: “I think we’ve now entered a phase, thanks to COVID and beyond that, the ability and necessity of accessing the internet, of communicating with family, friends, coworkers, whatever it may be, is a necessity, talked about as a basic need almost now, and I think we’ve reached that point. The more we can connect Denver, the more we can connect the metro area and beyond, the better set I think we are for the future.”
On promoting digital access and literacy in all types of work across the country
During the discussion, several participants highlighted the critical nature of remote accessibility across all types of jobs all over the country.
- Sara Sutton, FlexJobs founder & CEO: “The levels of remote accessibility at all ends of the spectrum for roles are just so critical, and I think a lot of what we’re talking about, the education components and being able to upskill from a young age and then upskilling people who are in industries and areas that have either the industries have gone away, like we work in Kentucky with coal country and retraining, for people to have jobs with different hubs of companies will help bring and connect companies with those towns and help bring the concept that this is real, because interestingly in a lot of parts of the country and a lot of different walks of life, people still don’t believe remote work is real.”
- Jennifer Artley, Verizon senior vice president of 5G Acceleration: “If you’re thinking about working from anywhere and you think about businesses who have branch offices or who have seasonal pop-up stores, who need connectivity for a period of time, construction companies is another great example, food trucks, they’re on the move. Working from home, the context is security and bandwidth. If you think about your partner also working from home, your kids studying from home or streaming, gaming, all those things and everybody on the same network, it can get congested…so having access to something that is affordable and high quality, reliable, low latency, is a really advantageous thing.”
- Ajay Bagal, Statewide Internet Portal Authority executive director: “COVID sort of created this crash into the digital literacy wall, in some ways. We all had to adapt right away regardless of who you are, and I think in the rural communities, this is interesting because we are a hybrid environment and we have 100% retention as well. I think part of what makes that effective is we put the human in the center of the decision. So again, looking at what the needs are of the people and then thinking about that more broadly, when you think about sort of inclusion, I think there’s also sort of an interesting angle on inclusion related to being able to hire people remotely across the state.”
Thank you Verizon for sponsoring this event.