Mayor Brandon Scott said Wednesday that he is planning to hire a director of broadband and digital equity to join his administration.
The director will serve as the city government’s primary representative for coordination with internal and external stakeholders focused on ensuring equal access to internet, devices and digital skills. This leader, who will be a member of the mayor’s executive staff, will work on broadband connectivity issues and expanding public access for Baltimore residents. Scott plans to fill the position within the month.
It will put a leader in the mayor’s office that is tasked with working on connectivity issues. An Abell Foundation report from 2020 showed that 96,000 households lack wireline internet access, and one-in-three do not have a laptop or desktop computer. The push to close the digital divide has gained new urgency in the pandemic, as many key societal functions now require digital access.
“With many of our families not having the proper access to technology for remote working, virtual learning, and telehealth, we must continue to be laser-focused on the creation of resources that will help ensure that everyone has access to the 21st century technology they need to be successful,” Scott said in a statement.
The position is being created through a grant-funded partnership with the Baltimore Civic Fund. It was a position recommended in Scott’s transition report. The Abell Foundation’s report also called for city government to dedicate staff to work on closing the digital divide.
Following the director’s hire, the administration will “adopt a comprehensive approach to closing the digital divide and lay out a vision for expanding affordable, high speed broadband throughout Baltimore City,” a news release states.
That includes exploring the creation of a public municipal broadband system. For that work, the new director will likely be able to use info from the finished, but yet-to-be-publicly-released study on how city government could play a role in broadband access that was initiated two years ago under former mayor Catherine Pugh.
Donte Kirby is a 2020-2021 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation.
Cool Job Alert: Baltimore City is hiring for a deputy director of CitiStat
Maryland is putting $300M in COVID-19 relief funds toward broadband and digital inclusion
Q&A with Justin Elszasz, Baltimore City’s new chief data officer
Baltimore City and Microsoft are partnering to offer digital literacy courses
Sign-up for daily news updates from Technical.ly Baltimore