City hires new director to help close Detroit’s digital divide

The City of Detroit has hired a new Director of Digital Inclusion whose task will be to reduce the “digital divide” by developing strategies to expand access to computers and the Internet to more Detroiters. 

Joshua Edmonds comes to Detroit from Cleveland, Ohio, where he oversaw deployment of more than $1.5 million in digital-inclusion investments through The Cleveland Foundation, the major community foundation for that city.  Edmonds also served at the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority, where he worked on President Obama’s ConnectHome initiative, a partnership among communities, the private sector and federal government to expand high-speed broadband to more families across the country. 

The city currently has among the nation’s highest rate of residents who lack access to computers and the Internet. Studies have shown that as many as 40% of Detroit residents don’t have access to broadband internet, even as broadband has become essential to employment opportunities, education, health care, news and information, shopping and social life. 

“Not having access to the Internet is keeping too many Detroiters away from the information they need and opportunities they deserve,” said the City’s Chief Information Officer, Beth Niblock. “I am thrilled to have a person with Joshua’s experience waking up every day focused solely on getting more Detroiters connected.” 

As director of Digital Inclusion, Joshua Edmonds will work with the Department of Innovation and Technology to develop a citywide strategy to expand computer and Internet access to Detroiters who lack it.  He will develop methods to track and evaluate progress of the City’s efforts. 

In Cleveland, Edmonds’ role focused on building relationships with the private sector to fund programming aimed at bridging the digital divide in public housing. His work at the housing authority received national recognition from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. 

A Cleveland, Ohio native, Joshua holds a bachelor’s degree in English and Spanish from Notre Dame College in Ohio and a master’s degree in public policy and international affairs from Howard University in Washington, D.C. 

“My goal is to make Detroit a national model for digital inclusion,” Edmonds said. “The recipe for successful digital inclusion in every city boils down to four things: partnerships, funding, engaged residents, and political will. I believe Detroit has every one of those points in excess. I’m excited to build relationships and do something bold.” 

Edmonds’ position is in partnership with the University of Michigan with support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. He is a digital inclusion policy fellow with U-M’s Detroit Partnership on Economic Mobility. His role sits at the intersection of a joint effort by U-M’s Poverty Solutions Initiative and the City of Detroit to identify and implement concrete, evidence-based strategies that significantly improve economic opportunity and reduce poverty in Detroit. 

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