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Gwen Shaffer – April 4 – Digital dichotomy: Municipal policy aimed at attracting tech companies while bridging the digital divide

Thursday, April 4th, 2019

12:30 pm - 2:00 pm, ASC 236

Join us on April 4 at 12:30 in ASC 236 for Gwen Shaffer’s discussion, “Digital dichotomy: Municipal policy aimed at attracting tech companies while bridging the digital divide.”

The city of Long Beach is striving to become a high-tech hub, and laying the groundwork to transform itself into “Silicon Beach.” The second largest city in L.A. County—with a population of about 500,000—Long Beach offers tax credits to technology companies, and launched an online portal to help entrepreneurs navigate licensing and zoning requirements. However, it is impossible to characterize Long Beach as a thriving center of innovation when U.S. Census data reveal that 28 percent of Long Beach households lack broadband from an ISP, and about 8 percent of this population rely on their smartphones to connect to the internet. The challenge of closing this digital divide vexes Long Beach, as it simultaneously vies to become an innovation hub. The study explores the city’s unique approach to solving this paradox. It examines core social, political and market shifts, and has the potential to inform digital inclusion policies in cities facing similar digital dichotomies. The analysis and policy recommendations presented in this paper are based on data collected through a citywide survey and multiple focus group discussions.

Gwen Shaffer is an associate professor in the Department of Journalism and Public Relations at California State University Long Beach, where she teaches telecommunications policy and communication law. Her research examines digital inequality, data privacy, and social exclusion in the informational age. Her research has been published in Media, Culture & Society; the Journal of Information Policy; First Monday; and the Association for Computing Machinery’s Transactions on Internet Technology, among other journals and edited books. Shaffer chairs the Long Beach Technology and Innovation Commission. Prior to joining the faculty at CSULB, she was a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Computer Science at UC, Irvine.