4. Collaboration and Stakeholder Engagement

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4.1 Inclusive and Participatory Planning Process

CDT, CPUC, and the CBC began the public engagement process that has informed this Digital Equity Plan while developing and implementing the Broadband for All Action Plan. This engagement included quarterly public meetings of the CBC, a series of Broadband for All Summits and webinars in 2021 and 2022, and a Broadband for All Digital Equity and BEAD Kick-Off in October 2022 – an event that more than 800 people attended following outreach to leaders of organizations serving covered populations throughout the state.

Inclusivity, accessibility, and equity were at the forefront of the planning and engagement process. In 2022, Governor Newsom’s Equity Executive Order directed “State agencies and departments to take additional actions to embed equity analysis and considerations in their mission, policies and practices.”[279] This Equity Executive Order shortly followed the appointment of California’s first State Chief Equity Officer who, “provides statewide leadership and consultation on diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility regarding State operations, procurement, information technology, and human resources.”[280] And while the State’s Broadband for All Action Plan has embodied these values of equity since its inception, this guidance empowered CDT to take the steps necessary to engage with the broadest and most diverse segments of California’s population.

CDT, CPUC, and other State agencies and departments developed and implemented a multi-component, mixed-method outreach program and engagement process for maximum participation and engagement with covered populations. The engagement was organized around five primary components, each of which is summarized in this section:

  1. Statewide Digital Equity Planning Group
  2. Outcome Area Working Groups
  3. Statewide Digital Equity Surveys
  4. Regional Planning Workshops
  5. Ongoing Stakeholder Engagement

4.2 Outreach Approach

Throughout the engagement process, CDT prioritized accessibility and inclusivity, emphasizing outreach to and engagement with residents, stakeholders, and communities that identify as, represent, or provide services to members of covered populations. These outreach efforts included:

  • Outreach was undertaken to historically underserved communities (e.g., low-income, tribal, rural, and ethnic minorities) through trusted messengers and culturally specific media such as partnering with AARP of California to engage aging individuals and distributing the online survey over WeChat. CDT worked with hundreds of outreach partners, including those with focuses on certain covered populations, outcome areas, and geographies.
  • Various engagement formats, such as virtual, in-person, individual and group listening sessions and consultations, were employed.
  • Events that were open to the public and all interested parties were held.
  • ASL interpretation and closed captioning were made available for online engagements.
  • Surveys included written and audio-enabled formats in the top 14 languages in California as identified by the US Census.
  • In-person workshops throughout California were held at community-friendly venues, with food and refreshments provided, and language interpretation and childcare services when requested.
  • Presentation decks and summaries of suggested strategies were provided to the public after each event.

These methods helped CDT reach more than 50,000 Californians, whose perspectives and experiences shaped every component of this plan.

4.3 Summary of Outreach and Engagement Methods

Digital Equity Statewide Planning Group (SPG)

Developed to advise CDT on the statewide digital equity planning process, the SPG consists of twenty-two state entities, including member organizations of the CBC and additional organizations with direct connections to covered populations and those with subject matter expertise tied to key policy outcome areas. A complete list of SPG member entities and meeting dates can be found in Appendix K.

Outcome Area Working Groups (OAWG)

CDT developed six OAWGs to convene subject matter experts and practitioners to develop strategies that align with State policy priorities through the lens of the digital equity barriers experienced by covered populations. The OAWGs focused on Education; Health; Digital Literacy and Inclusion; Workforce and Economic Development; Essential Services, Accessibility, and Civic Engagement; and Tribal Collaboration. The OAWGs assisted in developing statewide stakeholder maps and asset inventories of existing digital equity programs and resources and provided recommendations to CDT within their assigned policy areas. See Appendix L for details on OAWG convenings and Appendix M for a list of co-chairs.

Statewide Digital Equity Surveys

CDT developed multiple surveys to obtain qualitative and quantitative data to more accurately understand the digital equity barriers experienced by covered populations and the organizations that serve them.

  • Digital Equity Telephone Survey: CDT, in partnership with CETF and researchers from the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, conducted a statewide telephone survey that engaged more than 3,500 residents through random direct dialing to collect information about their experiences, needs, and aspirations regarding broadband access and digital equity. CDT consulted with Rural County Representatives of California and the California Department of Rehabilitation to ensure the voices of rural residents and those with disabilities would be heard in the survey. See Appendix N for the survey methodology.

    Three charts highlighting the methodology and distribution of respondents to the telephone survey can be found in Appendices. Appendix O is a summary of the data collection, Appendix P is the four neighbor regions and corresponding sample size, and Appendix Q is covered population distribution.
  • Digital Equity Online Public Survey: To complement the telephone survey and allow more citizen input, CDT worked with the Broadband Equity Partnership to release a mobile-friendly, online public survey that generated over 40,000 responses from residents and members of covered populations. CDT promoted the survey at all Digital Equity meetings in collaboration with various ecosystem partners including State Agencies, Broadband Consortia, Communication Workers of America, RCRC, AARP of California, San Diego Association of Governments and Southern California Association of Governments to distribute the survey as widely as possible. The survey proved to be one of the most accessible of its kind, collecting responses in 14 languages and with the support of audio translations for those with sight impairments or low literacy. Responses were particularly helpful for providing a deeper understanding of digital equity needs among specific covered populations. See Appendix R for the methodology.

    Three charts highlighting the diverse communities that responded to the online public survey can be found in Appendices. Appendix S is respondents by language, Appendix T is respondents by covered population, and Appendix U is respondents by county of residence.
  • Digital Equity Ecosystem Mapping (DEEM) tool: CDT gained new insights into California’s digital equity landscape through the DEEM tool, including versions for all digital equity organizations, for Internet Service Providers, and for tribal communities. More than 460 government organizations, tribal entities, schools, libraries, community-based organizations, labor organizations, philanthropies, ISPs, and private sector organizations completed the DEEM tools which identified organizations, programs, resources, and gaps in California’s digital equity ecosystem and further informed the State’s asset inventory included in this SDEP. See Appendix V for the methodology and Section 3.2 for findings.

Regional Planning Workshops

The State contracted with CETF and partnered with regional broadband consortia and other local entities to conduct 17 in-person Broadband for All, Digital Equity, and BEAD Regional Planning Workshops and three Regional Tribal Consultations. These working sessions brought together over 2,200 residents, community groups, and leaders from diverse backgrounds to identify digital equity barriers for covered populations and recommend strategies to close the digital divide. See Appendix W for a complete list of regional planning workshops and Appendix X for the standard Regional Workshop Agenda.

Ongoing Stakeholder Engagement

CDT conducted over 375 individual meetings, consultations, and listening sessions throughout the planning process (Appendix Y). It distributed monthly email updates and disseminated and posted meeting artifacts and information on the Broadband for All Portal. CDT continues to engage feedback from various state entities, organizations, and diverse communities in its planning and implementation process.

This engagement process allowed California to build a broad and diverse digital inclusion stakeholder network that includes nearly 8,500 individuals and entities, including state and local agencies, tribal entities, non-profit organizations, labor groups, community-based organizations, educational entities, philanthropies, internet service providers, and the private sector.


[279] Governor Newsom Strengthens State’s Commitment to a California For All, access September 15, 2023.

[280] Ibid.