Recently, I was asked, "why are city/county managers interested in digital inclusion?"
While many managers are "interested" in digital inclusion, the frank answer is that few are actually focused on it. Like others, managers tend to focus on the more immediate issues that are coming at them from all directions: filling potholes, 4-way stop sign requests, mowing the grass in the park, etc. Also consuming managers over the past few years has been balancing budgets in the face of declining resources and rising costs.
The reason issues like digital inclusion don’t get much attention is because they – like other long-term strategic issues – are out of sight and out of mind. Strategic issues are what Steven Covey refers to as important/non-urgent matters, which are easy to never get to when we let ourselves be consumed with urgent and seemingly important matters.
With regard to digital inclusion, it is essential that those of us involved with the issue provide leadership and visibility to translate the concept into the practical realities for the communities within which we work.
We are trying to do this at ICMA, partnering with libraries in the effort. To the extent that the U.S. has made progress on digital inclusion is due largely to public libraries. However, if large scale, strategic progress is to be made, libraries cannot do it alone. Libraries have to build partners across other government agencies, non-profits, and businesses. This includes proactively bringing the practical needs and impacts to the attention of appointed and elected officials. We need to help make digital inclusion part of the current conversation on priorities if communities and the people within them are to be competitive in a global society propelled by technology.
Chief Operating Officer, International City/County Management Association (ICMA) and former manager of Arlington, Virginia