Description and Responsibilities
Travis County is making strides to close the gaps faced by its most digitally excluded residents, and intends to ensure broadband is provided as an essential utility throughout the county post-pandemic. To support this work, the Travis County Information Technology Services Department will partner with a FUSE Executive Fellow for one year to launch a comprehensive county-wide digital inclusion strategy, conducting a Digital Equity Survey and building public-private partnerships to connect residents with broadband services.
Travis County will partner with FUSE Corps to host an executive-level Executive Fellow for one year who will launch a comprehensive county-wide digital inclusion strategy. The Executive Fellow will develop and conduct a Digital Equity Survey, assess residents’ access to broadband resources and barriers to technology or WIFI access, and build public-private partnerships to connect currently digitally excluded communities with assistance programs or resources for devices and internet services. The Executive Fellow will play an essential role in delivering the internet into the hands of every Travis County resident, increasing educational and health outcomes for those low-income neighborhoods and communities of color most impacted by Covid-19.
Starting late July 2021, it is proposed the FUSE Executive Fellow will engage with key stakeholders, including staff across County Departments, the Greater Austin Area Telecommunications Network, the Capital Area Council of Governments, public school district leadership, private telecommunications and technology companies, digital inclusion content experts, and community members, to conduct an in-depth landscape analysis. The Executive Fellow will inventory existing digital inclusion programs and policies implemented throughout the county and research national best practices and models of other cities and counties that have achieved results in closing gaps on the digital divide, assessing applicability locally. The Executive Fellow will develop and conduct a Digital Equity Survey, considering residents’ access to broadband resources and barriers to technology or WIFI access.
The Executive Fellow will then spend a significant amount of time understanding the federal, local, and private financial resources available for supporting connectivity to low-income residents – paying close attention to Covid-19 relief and recovery funding programs. This will include cultivating relationships with leaders in the local telecom and technology community (Dell, Tesla, Google, Oracle, Facebook, etc.), exploring public-private partnership programs that would enable residents to access discounted broadband, bill assistance funds, or free/discounted devices.
In the next phase, the Executive Fellow will work with community members, local technology partners, as well as internal stakeholders to develop a digital inclusion strategic plan to ensure residents across the county have equitable access to the internet. The Executive Fellow will build consensus among stakeholders around a unified vision, establish priority areas, and present recommendations for new programs, policies, resources, and partnerships. The plan will outline short and long-term goals and timelines for the integration of these recommendations. The recommendations should primarily focus on connecting more residents to free, low-cost, or discounted technology and broadband services, increasing overall enrollment of eligible customers in assistance funds or programs, and recruiting new participants, and improving customer experience in these digital inclusion efforts.
The Executive Fellow will then be charged with setting up a comprehensive and holistic implementation framework for this strategy. The framework will establish clear roles for internal and external stakeholders, articulate roll-out timelines, milestones, and metrics for tracking progress. The Executive Fellow will initiate activities and policies that are most urgent and or are considered low-hanging fruit. This will include building on the momentum of projects launched during the crisis, such as supporting capacity building for schools’ systems for dispersing digital infrastructure, hotspots, and computers, for students. The Executive Fellow will also develop a sustainable funding model to deliver the digital inclusion strategy, which may involve exploring the possibility of building digital services nonprofit similar to Austin Free-Net. Overall, this comprehensive digital inclusion strategy will serve as a national model for enabling residents to gain digital access and the ability to reach critical services during and after the pandemic – services essential to improving their educational, health, and economic outcomes.
By July 2022, the Executive Fellow will have overseen the following:
Analyze and assess the landscape – Conduct a deep landscape analysis, identify current digital inclusion efforts, map gaps and lessons learned; develop and conduct a Digital Equity Survey; the survey should be inclusive of lower-income residents and those residents in cities or school districts without any digital inclusion efforts to date
Research innovative policies, programs, tools, and best practices – Extensively research national best practices and highly successful and cutting-edge models and approaches, identify solutions that could potentially be used by Travis County, assessing applicability locally; develop prospectus of varying funding streams for digital inclusion programs
Cultivate private sector relationships and surface new partnership opportunities – Build strong working relationships with leaders in the local telecom and technology community, gain a comprehensive understanding of their offerings for discounted internet, bill assistance funds, or free/discounted devices; explore new partnerships for expanding broadband services to low-income residents
Develop a comprehensive strategic plan for digital inclusion – Identify and clarify a shared vision for closing the digital divide in Travis county, outline short and long-term goals and priority areas, recommend which current policies and programs should be scaled, tweaked, or resolved; design comprehensive pilot tools, strategies, and public-private systems
Engage stakeholders and catalyze buy-in – Demonstrate cross-cultural agility and successfully engage with all relevant stakeholders, facilitate communication, information exchange, and cross-functional work; solicit feedback from major stakeholders on the strategic plan; identify barriers to implementing any recommendations; incorporate input from stakeholders to build consensus and ensure that the strategy is supported and successful
Design and support framework for short and long-term implementation – Begin pilots of prioritized initiatives, building off the momentum of COVID-19 projects; create the necessary internal and external systems to ensure that strategies are sustainable and successfully implemented, including developing a sustainable funding model and accounting for Covid-19 relief and recovery funding ending in the near term; work with stakeholders to implement and manage the plan; work with county stakeholders, school districts, and private companies to ensure the appropriate interim and long-term metrics are in place to monitor progress
At least 15 years of professional experience in a relevant field, particularly with a strong background in telecommunications strategic planning or program development
High-level knowledge of wireless communications technology options
Robust success in cultivating partnerships, relationship and coalition building, and fostering collaborative environments
Resiliency, persistent in obtaining information, and creatively resourceful in identifying solutions to complex problems
Experience working in politically charged or bureaucratic environments, prowess in managing delicate situations or stakeholders with patience
Strong facilitation skills
Cross-cultural agility, relating to a wide variety of diverse audiences with strong emotional intelligence and empathy
Excellent stakeholder engagement skills and the ability to use facilitative leadership techniques to coordinate stakeholder activities
Ability to sustain progress within potentially ambiguous environments
Superior critical thinking and analytical skills
Ability to synthesize complex information into clear and concise recommendations
A self-motivated, goal-oriented, entrepreneurial leader who can also be an independent worker
Exceptional written and verbal communication skills with ease in public presentations
Understands the need for solutions to support all people in a community regardless of race, religion, gender, immigration status, or ethnicity