During National Women’s History Month, I am inspired to reflect on the way President Obama has empowered women by appointing them to serve at all levels in his Administration. As Deputy Administrator of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), one of the most rewarding parts of my job is seeing how NTIA’s efforts to increase broadband Internet access and adoption are transforming lives across America. Closing America’s digital divide, a priority for the Obama Administration, is vital to our global competitiveness. NTIA’s research shows that 68 percent of U.S. households subscribe to broadband, meaning that nearly one-third homes are cut off from many economic and educational opportunities. This is even greater in the Latino community, where only 57 percent of households have broadband. By comparison, other research finds that the household broadband adoption rate in South Korea tops 90 percent. For America to thrive in the 21st century economy, our people must be skilled in the tools of the information age.
Thanks to the Recovery Act, NTIA is overseeing approximately 230 projects that are building broadband infrastructure, expanding public computer centers, and training Americans in the skills needed for today’s jobs. I’ve visited many of these projects, meeting adults who are re-entering the workforce after taking computer classes, students who are benefitting from distance learning, and small business owners who are eager to use new broadband connectivity or training to reach more customers.
In San Francisco, for example, I have visited the Latino Tech-Net Initiative, supported by a grant NTIA awarded to the Mission Economic Development Agency. This initiative is providing computer centers in 11 cities with equipment, software, and training -- such as programs on e-commerce and online marketing -- to help Latino entrepreneurs and small businesses take advantage of technology to compete better in the global economy.
In Puerto Rico, I have met with business leaders from two of our grant projects that are bringing much-needed broadband infrastructure to the area. These projects expect to bring new or improved high-speed Internet service to nearly 2,000 community anchor institutions, including more than 1,500 schools, and will lay the groundwork for long-term economic growth.
Broadband also is key to addressing other pressing challenges, such as improving communications for America’s first responders. Just last month, President Obama signed legislation to create a nationwide interoperable broadband network that will help police, firefighters, and other public safety workers to stay safe and protect our communities. The law entrusts NTIA with some of the implementation responsibilities, and we are both humbled and privileged to support this important initiative.
Missions like these make public service fulfilling. As the Internet and technology grow in importance to society, so does the need for forward-looking approaches to bring these benefits to more Americans, keep our country competitive, and preserve an open, interconnected global Internet that fuels continued innovation and economic growth. NTIA, which advises the President on telecommunications and Internet policy, is at the forefront of addressing these challenges. As a Latina leader, I feel privileged to serve the American people.
Anna M. Gomez is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information and Deputy Administrator for the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).