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Find out what's happening in the blog. Below is a list of blog items.

Jan 10

“San José tackles challenge of digital equity”

Posted to Civic Innovation and Digital Strategy by Astra Kredel

The Paradox Digital Equity in Silicon Valley

As the Capital of Silicon Valley, San José is the “center of the universe” for innovation and disruptive technologies powered by the Internet economy.

The San José metro area is the most connected region in the United States according to the 2015 American Communities Survey. That same year, Bloomberg cited San José as America’s richest city, based on its high median income.

San José, however, is very much a tale of two cities with significant inequality for income and connectedness.

San José’s income inequality gap is one of the largest in the nation, ranking 22nd out of 19,500 cities in 2015. This gap continues to widen according to a December 2016 report issued by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Despite San José being the Capital of Silicon Valley, more than 12% of our households have no household internet access; in the richest city in the United States, more than 40% of our residents with incomes under $20,000 have no household internet access. This represents 100,000 people, a significant digital divide that cannot be overlooked, and one the City of San José is actively taking steps to reduce.

The key driver that influences the digital divide is affordability. Given San José’s income inequality, not only have people become lost in the statistics -- they have lost practical opportunities to participate in this intensely connected world for learning, jobs, public and commercial services, and civic engagement.

Since President Clinton identified the issue in 1998, the nation has made significant progress to address the digital divide on a national level to reduce long-term implications for social equity and stability. More recently, President Obama pursued many policy initiatives towards the vision of achieving greater digital equity that provides better access and opportunity to digital tools, resources, services, and skills.

This progress could reverse, however, both as the income gap widens and as more educational, workforce, health care, and civic engagement opportunities move online. For example, the “homework gap” in San José reveals too many students attempting to do their homework assignments on smart phones while clustering around school buildings after hours looking for signal.

And not just students are affected. Seniors, small businesses, entrepreneurs, recent immigrants, the unemployed, the homeless, and other underserved community segments also struggle to for inclusion in today’s digital world, whether they are applying for jobs, signing up for Social Security, or emailing to their families. 
Prioritize Innovation and Inclusion

San José has long recognized the need to address the digital equity gap and increase digital inclusion. All of San José’s hub community centers now have free public Wi-Fi and several have dedicated computing facilities where volunteers from nonprofit organizations provide digital literacy training.

The San José Public Library is the largest provider of free Internet access in North America. The Library also provides comprehensive and relevant digital and information literacy training. These solutions, however, are largely ad hoc or “point” solutions, not “system” solutions. They neither reflect today’s mobile society nor address the primary barriers to greater digital inclusion – affordability and availability of broadband internet and appropriate computing devices in the household.

Last year, the San José City Council unanimously adopted a Smart City Vision with the aim of becoming the “most innovative city” in the United States by 2020 – an ambitious goal. The policy promotes the use of innovative technologies to make the community safer, more sustainable, and more digitally inclusive.

The Mayor and City Council also approved the creation of the Office of Civic Innovation & Digital Strategy to help advance the goals of the Smart City Vision through strategy formulation, technology demonstration projects, and large-scale technology solution delivery. As a first order of business, the Office of Civic Innovation created a roadmap to guide our ongoing efforts to embrace new technologies, reframe our core and legacy business applications, and promote digital inclusion.

The Smart City Vision means we will need to shift mindsets -- both in San José and nationally -- so that digital inclusion and digital infrastructure moves from an ad hoc "nice to have" concept to something that is essential to our economic and social development driven by community needs and a strategic plan.

Achieving these goals will require a robust citywide public and private sector digital infrastructure using or installing assets that can provide internet service, as well as the availability of affordable broadband Internet access. To this end, four of our twenty priority innovation projects in the roadmap will address digital inclusion: create a broadband strategy; create a digital inclusion strategy; and pursue two pilot projects targeting the barriers to digital access and affordability that once proven can be taken to scale.

A Focus on Digital Inclusion and Digital Infrastructure

Tackling digital infrastructure, broadband strategy, and digital inclusion strategy together is critical to optimize our efforts because these issues are tightly linked. The development of a broadband strategy will focus on how we might expand, enhance, and fill gaps in the City’s digital infrastructure, ideally through public-private partnerships since public resources are severely constrained. In parallel development, the City’s digital inclusion strategy will identify how we can leverage existing resources and develop new programs and improvements for underserved community segments to overcome the barriers of access, affordability, and digital literacy.

Digital inclusion is most effective when the private sector builds and operates digital infrastructure; we are not proposing that the City enter into competition with the telecom industry. However, the City can intervene strategically when the market fails to meet minimum performance expectations such as affordability, location, bandwidth, throughput, and latency.

San José’s digital inclusion strategy addresses all aspects of digital inclusion – access, affordability, and literacy -- but iterates by community segments. We will focus first on low-income families with students, as well as seniors over 65 – the two segments most digitally excluded. Since local data is not available, “street surveys” are being conducted by a non-profit research company and Stanford University to identify Internet usage and digital inclusion barriers in low-income neighborhoods. Future iterations will focus on digital inclusion for small businesses, entrepreneurs, and other underserved segments of the community.

In early 2017 we will launch “SpeedUp San José,” which will allow residents, visitors, and workers to test out their real-world internet speeds from various providers and provide feedback on pricing and satisfaction. This data will shine a light on private sector market performance at a granular level, and will inform our geographic and segment strategies for digital inclusion and infrastructure.

Partnerships for Access, Affordability, and Adoption

The City of San José is also partnering with the East Side Union High School District to pilot the deployment of free outdoor Wi-Fi for students, their families, and other members of the community. The pilot schools have sufficient devices for students and will provide additional equipment for any households unable to access the Wi-Fi. The students will become the “digital inclusion force” that will provide better access, affordability, literacy, and adoption for households on the wrong side of the digital divide.

This partnership was driven by the school district that secured $2.7 million in funding for the design and installation of infrastructure for first three attendance areas through Technology Bond Measure I approved by San José voters in 2014. We are hopeful this model partnership can be replicated by other San José school districts as well as other cities.

Also, San José is now partnering with Facebook, which is installing its "Terragraph" technology as a proof-of-concept project in our downtown testing the next generation of millimeter wave length, 60 GHz wireless networks. This could lead to an extended deployment by the company and ultimately enable the City to provide affordable or free broadband service at street level, benefiting thousands of residents, businesses, and visitors both downtown and in underserved neighborhoods.

San José, recently designated a “Digital Inclusion Trailblazer” by the National Digital Inclusion Alliance, is well positioned to successfully confront the interconnected challenges of broadband and digital inclusion so that access to top-quality high-speed networks can spur innovation and growth while ensuring these opportunities are available to everyone. 

About the Author

Dolan Beckel, San Jose City Manager’s Office of Digital Inclusion and Broadband Strategy
Dolan is a former telecom industry management consulting, entrepreneur, and University of California at Berkeley engineering graduate who is passionate about equity and social justice.
Sep 02

Using behavioral science to keep San José clean

Posted to Connecting Community by Communications Office

Science at work: learn how the City of San José is using innate human behavior and applying it to public outreach methods for ridding the city of discarded junk that invades the landscape and clutters downtown streets.

Continue Reading...

Sep 14

San José and Partners Celebrate Sustainability Success

Posted to ESD Extra by Aaron Kinney

The City of San José joined community partners and stakeholders Sept. 12 in celebrating a year of remarkable progress toward a clean and sustainable future, achievements that will serve as a foundation for even bigger things to come.

City leaders gathered with advocates, nonprofits and representatives from the high-tech industry on Wednesday for “Leading Climate Innovation: The Silicon Valley Way,” the City’s official affiliate event of the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco.

The event served as an opportunity to brainstorm and build relationships. Representatives from businesses like Microsoft, Adobe, ChargePoint and Supermicro talked about sustainable practices, while leaders of GRID Alternatives, Acterra and other nonprofits shared their thoughts on inclusivity.

“Leading Climate Innovation” also highlighted a string of San José achievements born out of vital partnerships with community leaders, nongovernmental organizations and businesses.

Launch of San Jose Clean Energy
From left: San José Community Energy Advocates chairwoman Ruth Merino, Mayor Sam Liccardo, Community Energy Deputy Director Zach Struyk, City Manager Dave Sykes and Environmental Services Director Kerrie Romanow celebrate the launch of San José Clean Energy.
On Wednesday, the City ceremonially “flipped the switch” to launch San José Clean Energy, the largest single-city community choice energy program in the country. SJCE began serving municipal accounts Sept. 1 and will provide 100 percent carbon-free electricity to San José residents in 2019.

San José Clean Energy will be essential to the success of Climate Smart San José, the City’s ambitious new sustainability initiative. Approved unanimously in February by the City Council, Climate Smart commits the City to hitting the greenhouse gas emission reduction targets of the international Paris Agreement.

The strength of Climate Smart is one of the reasons the U.S. Green Building Council recognized San José this month as the first city in California to achieve LEED for Cities Platinum certification.

Mahesh Ramanujam of the US Green Building Council awarding San Jose LEED Platinum for Cities status
U.S. Green Building Council President and CEO Mahesh Ramanujam discusses the City’s LEED for Cities Platinum certification as Mayor Sam Liccardo, Community Energy Deputy Director Zach Struyk, Community Energy Director Lori Mitchell and Environmental Services Director Kerrie Romanow look on.
“It’s cities like San José that are proof that the U.S. Green Business Council’s vision of a sustainable future for everyone and within a generation is not a far-reaching ideal,” Manesh Ramanujam, president and CEO of the USGBC, told the “Leading Climate Innovation” audience in the City Hall Rotunda.

The City’s LEED Platinum certification is just the latest recognition of its sustainability leadership. In 2018, for the second year in a row, the San José-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara area ranked No. 1 in the United States in the Sustainable Development Goals Index, a report produced by the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Solutions Network.

The City’s great strides in sustainability rely on a robust coalition of community members, nonprofits and businesses. Mayor Sam Liccardo thanked groups like Mothers Out Front South Bay, San José Community Energy Advocates and Center for Climate Protection for pushing the City to adopt San José Clean Energy.

“We’re blessed to be in the most innovative place on the planet with an incredible community,” Liccardo said Wednesday.

The City has helped build climate partnerships by connecting sustainability initiatives to improvements in the daily lives of the public. Liccardo spoke Wednesday about changing ideas regarding what it means to live “the good life.” People increasingly regard the good life as living in a walkable community, for instance, or “spending less time trapped in an automobile on an expressway.”

Jake Elder, Bloomberg Associates with Mayor Sam Liccardo
From left: Social Progress Imperative North American Regional Director Justin Edwards, Bloomberg Associates Sustainability Practice member Jake Elder and Mayor Sam Liccardo discuss the role of NGOs in sustainability initiatives.
Jake Elder, a member of the Bloomberg Associates Sustainability Practice, credited the City with emphasizing the human benefits of sustainability.

“Talking about climate change in terms of jobs, health or quality of life connects it to tangible issues that matter to people. This is key if you want to build a broader base of support,” Elder said the day after attending “Leading Climate Innovation.”

Though Wednesday was an opportunity to celebrate, the coalition that built Climate Smart San José is not going to rest on its laurels.

“Eighteen months ago, we didn’t have San José Clean Energy or (the Clean Energy Department) and we didn’t have Climate Smart San José,” said Kerrie Romanow, director of the City’s Environmental Services Department. “So, let’s think about what we can do in the next 18 months.”

Romanow announced several new goals Wednesday in collaboration with the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, a network of more than 90 of the world’s largest cities representing a quarter of the global economy. The director of ESD said the City has committed to:
  • enacting regulations and policies to ensure all new buildings operate at net zero energy by 2030 and all buildings by 2050
  • owning, occupying and developing only assets that are net zero carbon in operations by 2030
  • reducing municipal solid waste generation per capita by at least 15 percent by 2030 compared to 2015
  • reducing municipal solid waste disposed of in landfills by 50 percent by 2030 compared to 2015
  • increasing diversion from landfills and incineration to at least 70 percent by 2030
  • delivering inclusive climate action that benefits all citizens equitably

In addition, she noted that Mayor Liccardo has signed onto the Bay Area Air Quality Management District’s “Diesel Free by ‘33” initiative to eliminate diesel fuel from City fleets by 2033 and pursue incentives that will upgrade private fleets. Diesel fuel is toxic and harms the health of children and other vulnerable populations.

“Let’s work together to help our youth have the future that was eloquently articulated and hoped for today,” Romanow said. “We simply can’t change the global climate here in City Hall, but, as we’ve seen by the remarkable events of today and the last several years, together we can create immense results.”