As New York City chief digital officer under Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Rachel Haot initiated a pilot program to repurpose public phone booths as free wifi hotspots in an effort to bridge the digital divide. That program is now in a formal RFP phase and Haot has moved on to being the chief digital officer of the state under Governor Andrew Cuomo.
She said that the state is addressing the digital divide at the root level with
high-speed broadband access. To date, Governor Cuomo has committed more than $70 million to increasing broadband access – more than any other state. More than 95 percent of New York State residents now have access, but Haot is also working on programs to increase broadband adoption.
“Access is one issue, adoption is equally – if not more – important,” Haot said. “Adoption is related to affordability. So perhaps your home is wired for that connectivity but whether it’s a…digital literacy issue or an affordability issue, you many not be taking advantage of that connection.”
Haot said some of the state’s other digital goals are using innovation to better serve constituents and using technology to drive the economy. “You can’t even apply for a job if you don’t have internet access. More than 80 percent of companies only post those job listings online,” she said. “So this is an issue that will help to spur greater academic achievement and opportunities for students across the state from K-12 all the way up to higher education levels. It’s also one that will help to prepare our workforce for the 21st century economy.”