Updated Sep 14, 2023 - Axios Events

Watch: A conversation on internet access in Dallas

On Thursday, September 14 in Dallas, Axios Dallas reporters Naheed Rajwani-Dharsi and Tasha Tsiaperas and Axios Texas bureau chief Bob Gee hosted conversations looking at how the public and private sectors can collaborate on projects aimed at reducing the digital divide. Guests included the City of Dallas' chief information officer Bill Zielinski, Dallas County Judge Clay Lewis Jenkins and Dallas Innovation Alliance executive director and co-founder Jennifer Sanders.

A View from the Top sponsored segment featured AT&T assistant vice president for corporate social responsibility Mylayna S. Albright.

Bill Zielinski explained how the impacts of the digital divide extend well beyond simply a lack of internet access and end up affecting all sorts of life opportunities.

  • On defining the digital divide: "Now that doesn't just include the internet itself, the broadband, but it also includes the devices that one needs to be able to connect. It includes having the skills to be able to connect…and what you've seen over time, and it's becoming more and more well documented, is that where you have that gap, you're beginning to see material gaps in life outcomes. So things like employment opportunities, educational opportunities, the ability to participate in e-health, amongst others."

Clay Lewis Jenkins discussed how Dallas County is working to provide internet access to more Texas residents and how internet access is becoming more and more of a necessity.

  • On the Biden administration's Affordable Connectivity Plan: "It's a thing that is available now and it'll last for a while. Families really need internet, and they need fast and reliable high speed internet. It's a lot like electrification years ago, indoor plumbing, the interstate highway system, all of these things that at one point were seen as luxuries but are now seen as necessities."

Jennifer Sanders highlighted the necessity of having the right infrastructure and operations within a 'smart city' to expand access to digital services.

  • On expanding digital infrastructure for residents: "I think when you're talking about digital infrastructure, when you're talking about broadband, there is the infrastructure and operations side of the house. You need this connectivity for a city to run better, and be able to leverage that for businesses to be able to operate. But you also need to look at how does that infrastructure get to the resident, and make sure that everyone has what they need to fully participate in today's society."

In the View from the Top segment, Mylayna S. Albright emphasized which types of strategies are working to move the needle on internet access.

  • "I would say collaboration. There's no way that any one entity could solve this issue. So we work with a number of different nonprofits and other companies who've been working in this space for a long time and who are the subject matter experts."

Thank you to AT&T for sponsoring this event.

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