Purdue Center for Regional Development leads effort for Indiana’s Digital Equity Plan

The Purdue Center for Regional Development, in partnership with the Indiana Broadband Office, the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs, and Purdue Extension, has developed a draft of the state’s first-ever Digital Equity Plan. The plan will serve as a road map to help Indiana overcome the digital divide, assisting Indiana residents, communities and businesses that are unable to participate in the digital economy due to various barriers, including poor or no broadband connection, having no digital devices, and the need to learn digital skills.

On Jan. 8, the Indiana Broadband Office published online a draft of the five-year plan, launching a 30-day public comment period for feedback before the proposed plan is implemented.

The Purdue Center for Regional Development (PCRD), which is part of the university’s Office of Engagement, led the effort by forming Indiana’s digital equity task force, conducting surveys and data analysis, drafting initial goals and objectives, conducting regional solution sessions and finalizing the draft document for public comments.

Roberto Gallardo, vice president for engagement and the center’s director, said, “Digital inequalities have far-reaching impacts on businesses, organizations, residents and workers. Failing to address these disparities can place a region at a competitive disadvantage. PCRD’s goal is to contribute to the development of a thriving economy within our state, and the Digital Equity Plan stands as a crucial component of this strategic effort.”

The plan, designed to provide greater access to reliable broadband internet, is composed of five key sections. The document outlines the plan’s purpose and creation process; describes the current state of digital equity in Indiana; identifies the plan’s core vision, goals, strategies and objectives; and lays out implementation strategies, timeline and evaluation procedures.

Gallardo, who also leads the Purdue Broadband Team, said by providing greater access to reliable broadband internet, “we aim to bridge the digital divide and empower our community for a more prosperous future.”

Stephen Cox, infrastructure and broadband administrator for the Indiana Office of Technology, said, “The 21st century is ushering in a digital transformation of our economy and society. Those unable to fully engage in this digital era are experiencing a decline in their quality of life and workforce opportunities. Navigating the intricate digital equity landscape is essential, recognizing both its barriers and assets.”

Cox said while the Digital Equity Plan has statewide implications, developing directives that offer positive and meaningful impact to each Hoosier will require tailored, hyperlocal strategies for each region.

“Building affordable and reliable infrastructure in our communities is only a portion of the plan,” Gallardo added. “We must all ensure residents have reasonable access to devices and the digital literacy and abilities to use these tools to their fullest advantage.” 

The Purdue Broadband Team is part of Purdue President Mung Chiang’s “ABCD” strategy to better serve the state through four initiatives: Airport for the Greater Lafayette region, Broadband for rural counties, (hard-tech) Corridor for central Indiana, and Purdue@DC, which brings unique capabilities to the nation’s capital.

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