Dalila Wilson-Scott speaking from behind a podium at the Net Inclusion 2024 conference.
Digital Equity

Recommitting to Digital Inclusion in Philadelphia and Beyond

By Dalila Wilson-Scott

The power of community-centered solutions to create a more digitally inclusive world was on full display at the Net Inclusion 2024 conference in Philadelphia last month. Hosted by the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA), this year’s event was the largest to date – bringing together more than 1,300 leaders who share our vision of helping more people gain access to the Internet, technology, and skills needed to thrive in a digital economy.

“Now more than ever, public and private partnerships are critical to equitable access and use of technology,” said Angela Siefer, Executive Director, NDIA.

We’re proud to have partnered with Comcast to be able to showcase innovative cross-sector models of digital inclusion at this year’s conference.
Angela Siefer
Executive Director, NDIA

Committed to Digital Innovation in Philadelphia

As I reflect on the conference, I can think of no better city than our hometown to host a gathering of leaders, practitioners, and policymakers who are working to make our communities better for us all through digital equity. That’s why NDIA recognized Philadelphia as a Digital Inclusion Trailblazer in 2023, an award given to municipal, county, and regional governments that are providing excellent models for digitally inclusive communities.

What stood out to me during the conference was how Philadelphia Mayor Cherelle Parker acutely captured the spirit of this work and what it can accomplish for communities.

“I made a commitment last year to make Philadelphia the safest, cleanest, greenest big city in the nation with access to economic opportunity for all,” she said. “You do that by closing the gap between the haves and the have-nots.”

You can’t put people on a path to self-sufficiency, without digital inclusion.
Cherelle Parker
Philadelphia Mayor

Investing in Our Communities through Project UP

With 92 percent of jobs available today requiring digital skills, it’s clear that digital inclusion is essential for a stronger, more equitable tomorrow.

That’s a future Comcast has long been committed to. For over a decade, we’ve been developing programs and partnerships to ensure the most marginalized groups are connected to the Internet – reaching millions of people nationally.

And we’ve accelerated our commitment through Project UP, our $1 billion digital equity and economic mobility initiative that is opening doors for the next generation of innovators, entrepreneurs, storytellers, and creators.

Spotlight on Community Partners and the Power of Aligned Action

Everyone at Net Inclusion recognized that creating more economic opportunity is not something any one company or organization can do alone. In order to advance digital equity, we must invest in partnerships with organizations that are embedded in our communities.

Our Project UP partners are able to deliver real impact because they have a unique set of superpowers: community expertise, relationships, and trust.

We were proud to share the Net Inclusion stage with five of those partners – SERJobs, Community College of Baltimore County, LGBT Tech, Raising Expectations and United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey – who deploy a full range of services to advance digital equity in their respective communities. This is done through Digital Navigators – trusted individuals trained to help get more people connected. Some of the wisdom and impact that our partners shared included:

Sheroo Mukhtiar, CEO, SERJobs

“Our digital navigation program leverages technology, training and connectivity to empower individuals and families so that they too can have equal and timely access to much-needed information, resources, and opportunities. In 2023, our ambitious goal for the program was to reach 1,600 families. With the dedication and commitment of our two incredible navigators, we served 5,230 families in the greater Houston area in 12 months.”

Ke’ra Thomas, Program Coordinator, Community College of Baltimore County

My mission is to be an ambassador for affordable broadband. We want more families, regardless of age, background, or circumstances to get connected to the Internet at home and learn the digital skills to navigate in today’s world. In less than a year, we hired 11 digital navigators and reached 4,000 students and community members.”

Arin Rook, Digital Navigator, LGBT Tech

“I want to share one important, overarching recommendation that we believe is critical to ensuring that all digital equity initiatives are fully inclusive of all communities. And that is that proactive, intentional, and meaningful inclusion of Queer and Trans experiences is key. We must include those communities in our work to ensure that programs fit the needs of the community.”

This last takeaway, the notion of tailoring solutions to specific challenges is one that was repeated throughout the three-day conference. And it’s a powerful reminder that we must work intentionally and collectively with our communities to make our shared vision of digital equity a reality.

Whether this critical work takes the form of digital navigators building trust and connecting households to the Internet, or comes from policymakers leveraging BEAD and Digital Equity Act funding to advance broadband adoption and deployment, or is propelled by our collective voices calling on Congress to reauthorize the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) – Net Inclusion offered a space for us to come together to build new bonds and to focus on aligned action.

Dalila Wilson-Scott is Executive Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer for Comcast Corporation and President of the Comcast NBCUniversal Foundation.