Friends, welcome to the first of what I hope are many monthly columns I’ll have the fortune of writing for the Foothills Focus. I am honored to have the opportunity to communicate and share my thoughts with you, my constituents, through yet another medium. If you’re reading this, it is most likely that you reside in Maricopa County District 3, and I am privileged to be your county supervisor.
I want to start off by sharing with you an amazing initiative I have the pleasure of spearheading with Dominic Papa at the Arizona Commerce Authority and Lev Gonick at Arizona State University. It’s called “Lighting Up the Future – The Desert Goes Digital,” and its goal is to finally solve the broadband gap, a gap I know exists for many in the unincorporated areas of District 3.
Tech adoption, smart government and broadband expansion have always been priorities of mine. During my chairmanship in 2019, we had a goal to provide as many county services through digital means as possible and to use new technology to more efficiently run county government. What I didn’t know at the time was that only a few months into 2020, our ability to go digital would be tested to the max.
Most of you reading this know that gaps exist in both the rural and urban broadband landscape, and we have tried for years to address the issue. Then COVID-19 hit and access to the internet became more essential than ever before, and those gaps became roadblocks to participating in the workforce and classroom. We saw individuals and communities get left out and left behind because they simply could not connect to reliable internet service or, once connected, lacked the digital literacy skills necessary to participate effectively in the new digital economy or remote classroom. With workplaces and classrooms increasing their virtual footprints post-COVID-19, it is more important than ever before to address the gaps in access to broadband and digital literacy training. Our economic future depends on it.
Fortunately, we have a path forward. Thanks to the leadership of Papa and Gonick, we have been able to create a coalition of community leaders, elected officials and private sector partners who want to see this problem addressed for generations to come. We have a once in a decade opportunity to apply for and win federal funding to address our broadband needs. It is uber important we do so with one voice and one plan — both rural and urban, cities and towns, state and counties.
As we trek forward, I hope to have the opportunity to share in our successes along the way. My goal is to help District 3, Maricopa County and all of Arizona successfully secure funding to finally address an issue that has persisted for far too long. I’ve called on other elected officials, community leaders and private sector partners to sign on to the vision document we’ve created. Now is the time to come together and ensure that Arizona doesn’t have a single student or worker without access to reliable broadband and that our economic future is ready for the digital age.