The following is a recap of presentations by Shawnna Funderburk, Liberty Chief Strategic Operations Officer, and Hailey Kellerstrass, Liberty Parks & Rec Community Services Manager given to the Kansas City Coalition for Digital Inclusion on July 7th, 2023.

Liberty and Google Fiber Partner to Improve City Connectivity

Despite being home to only about thirty thousand residents, the city of Liberty, Missouri is responsible for servicing seventy to eighty thousand through its shops, restaurants and schools. In seeking to improve digital services for those who live, work, and visit Liberty, the city has worked to encourage providers to expand and improve broadband infrastructure in the region. In particular, the city’s ambition is to eventually see not just Liberty but the entirety of Clay County served with fiber-to-the-home. While some neighborhoods of Liberty are currently served by AT&T’s fiber service, the city recently approved a right-of-way agreement with Google Fiber to bring fiber broadband to even more households in the area.

With a right-of-way agreement in place, Google Fiber has now begun working with Liberty’s Public Works department on permitting. Construction on the new infrastructure will likely begin in early 2024, with the entire build likely taking a couple of years to complete. While Google Fiber has not yet announced the locations that will be serviced, they hope to pass as many addresses as possible to make the expansion more economical. While some more rural areas won’t be covered in the initial buildout, future growth could lead to infill opportunities as communities continue to grow.

Liberty Provides Digital Inclusion Programming for Seniors

Liberty’s Parks and Rec department has recently expanded its programming to offer more opportunities for seniors to become more comfortable with digital technologies. This work began several years ago with a program called Techie Teens and Savvy Seniors, where a group of seniors were bussed to a local high school to meet with a club of high schoolers. The meetings had no agenda, but served as opportunities for the seniors to bring in their devices and have the high schoolers answer their questions, improving their confidence in using digital technologies. 

The city has also started offering digital inclusion programming at their local community center, which features a silver center that serves around a hundred seniors every day. At a recent lunch, the center had an employee from a local assisted living facility come and give a presentation on Are You As Smart As Your Smartphone. Those attending their lunch were encouraged to take their own phones out and follow along with the presentation. The engaging, hands-on nature of the content led to deep engagement, and after the lunch ended the presenter stayed for more than an hour answering questions. The community center hopes to begin offering more presentations like this at future lunches, and is in talks with the Liberty branch of the Mid-Continent Public Library to do more programming in the future. 

Further Reading

Empowering Youth Innovation: Bridging the Digital Divide through Social Change

This gap, which separates those with access to technology and digital skills from those without, not only limits opportunities but also exacerbates existing inequalities.  Startland Education, an organization dedicated to fostering entrepreneurial skills among youth, invited me to participate as a guest speaker during their Social Change Interns program’s prototype testing phase. As a Digital […]

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The Need for Refurbished Devices is Ever-present in Midtown KC

The Digital Support Services Center at the LAMP Campus on Linwood Blvd. has been a tech hub for computer skills classes, workspaces, and device lending, and there has been a recent development to this space. PCs for People will be returning to the LAMP Campus as a pop-up location on Mondays and Fridays from 10am-3pm.

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Let’s Bridge the Gap between Healthcare and the Digital Divide (Simulation)

This marks another Digital Divide Simulation event in collaboration with Vibrant Health to increase awareness for the socioeconomic setbacks faced by Kansas Citians living on the wrong side of the Digital Divide. Participants engaged in meaningful conversations around bridging the gap between being digitally disconnected and accessing healthcare and other services. The need for connecting clients expands beyond providing devices and dives deeper into how to communicate, build trust, and meet people where they are.

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