Interview with the city of Long Beach
Interview with Lea Eriksen, Director of the Technology and Innovation Department, and Ryan Kurtzman, Smart Cities Program Manager.
The City of Long Beach was recognized in 2020 by the Center for Digital Government as a leader in using technology to improve services. The City is committed to bridging the digital divide by investing in digital inclusion.
1. Why did you decide to get engaged in CCDR? Which are the benefits for your city?
We were happy to join the Coalition because it promotes principles that are aligned with our City’s priorities such as data privacy and equity. We have developed Data Privacy Guidelines to safeguard citizens’ data and we try to ensure that everyone has access and use of digital literacy training, the Internet, technology devices, and other digital inclusion resources.
In CC4DR, cities can work together across the world and make a difference. We love sharing best practices from Long Beach and implementing initiatives from other cities that have been successful. We have found value in the CCDR webinars that include salient topics and bring cities together. We are also interested in exploring emerging topics such as AI and the Coalition is the best place to see what leading cities are doing and connect with them.
2. What motivates you to focus more on Digital Inclusion and Equity?
Digital inclusion and equity are core principles at the City of Long Beach. Following the launch of our Digital Inclusion Initiative in 2018, in October 2019, Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia and the City Council directed City staff to develop a Smart City Initiative. If we really want to be a smart city we need to start with closing the digital divide. Our city is geographically divided and there are neighbourhoods with low-income households, where people do not have access to the internet. We want to ensure that emerging technologies don’t further leave anyone behind and that all individuals can thrive in their life and having access to city services. Now with the pandemic it is even more important to overcome this.
3. How can you ensure digital inclusion and equity in your city?
In 2013, we implemented a comprehensive Language Access Policy to promote greater access to city services, programmes, and resources for people with limited English language proficiency. For example, there were city documents normally distributed only in English and which we then translated into three other languages spoken by Long Beach residents. Moreover, we offer low-cost, high-speed, and quality in-home Internet services and technical support and are in the process of building a citywide fibre network infrastructure to complement free public Wi-Fi offered at our parks and libraries. We also developed an Equity toolkit for City staff to be inclusive in all policy decisions, policies, practices, programmes, and budgets. We take an equity lens when we approach community involvement and we ensure that all people are heard, informed, and engaged. We apply an equity lens to decisions around how funding is allocated, how programmes are planned and implemented, and how we prioritize maintenance of our existing assets. Finally, we collaborate with the private sector and negotiate for digital inclusion benefits in our agreements with the private sector.
4. Are you currently working on other projects to safeguard digital rights?
One important project we would like to highlight is our Smart City Initiative and strategic focus on data privacy. A smart Long Beach is one that is inclusive, responsible, resilient, and community-centred. We think technology and data can improve the lives of all citizens and that real change can only happen if we work together and create a resilient technology ecosystem here in Long Beach. We have recently developed the Data Privacy Guidelines based on resident input and lessons learned from other cities in the Coalition.
Another successful project is our City partnership with a local digital inclusion non-profit human-I-T that provides low-income residents with technology devices, internet services, and digital literacy training. Our team also transforms E-Waste into resources for underserved communities, while promoting digital inclusion and online access. To achieve this, we work closely with corporations, government entities, non-profit organisations, and members of the Long Beach community.