Connecting California, Pt. I –– The Digital Divide: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow
Thursday, August 6, 9:00 – 10:30 a.m. PDT
View the Event Recording, here!

Amongst its far-reaching effects, the coronavirus pandemic of 2020 illuminated another as-yet-unsolved plague on American society: the yawning economic and educational chasm perpetuated by the “digital divide.” Put differently: many of our greatest problems, while newly exacerbated by COVID-19, can be traced to the same root cause–digital inequity.

When schools began shuttering mid-spring, many of us learned for the first time that millions of households lack Internet connectivity, as well as devices for online schooling and work. With each passing day, the likelihood that our 2020-2021 academic year will take place at least partially online is increasing. The “digital divide” — once a topic relegated to select circles of corporate social responsibility, creative device refurbishment, educational punditry and philanthropic experimentation — is now top of mind for business leaders, educators, lawmakers and philanthropists alike.

Connecting California attendees will hear insights from business leaders, digital equity practitioners, Internet service providers, philanthropic investors and policymakers—all representing different facets of the complex landscape around building equitable solutions to the digital divide at national, state and local levels. Join us for an in-depth analysis of digital (in)equity—its history, related policies, cross-sectoral priorities, and emerging and proven solutions.

Our inaugural event will explore the history of the digital divide in the United States and across California. The Senior Policy Advisor on Higher Education to Governor Gavin Newsom, Lande Ajose, will provide an up-to-date context for our conversation. Our speakers, each a subject matter expert or experienced practitioner in digital equity, will provide context for strategies that public, private and philanthropic partners have developed and are currently developing to ensure that sustainable solutions are created and maintained.

Join us for this discussion featuring:


Lande Ajose
Senior Policy Advisor for Higher Education, Office of Governor Gavin Newsom

Lande AjoseDr. Lande Ajose is the Senior Policy Advisor for Higher Education for Governor Gavin Newsom. She is responsible for developing and shaping the Governor’s higher education policy agenda, which is focused on protecting college affordability, preserving college access, and increasing system efficiency in order to meet the state’s need for a skilled and educated workforce.  Prior to this appointment, she served as executive director of California Competes, a nonpartisan, nonprofit project that develops and advocates on behalf of policies to equitably boost California’s postsecondary degree attainment.  Her experience in higher education spans college admissions at Vassar College, education and workforce development funding at the James Irvine Foundation, and research and evaluation at MDRC, where she managed a comprehensive evaluation of the Achieving the Dream Initiative. An ardent advocate for college affordability, in 2014 she was appointed to the California Student Aid Commission (CSAC) by Governor Jerry Brown and served as chair for two years until her resignation in May 2019.  She has served on boards of the Institute of College Access and Success (TICAS), the Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP) and, until her appointment to the Governor’s office, she was a WASC Senior College and University Commissioner. She currently serves on the advisory committee for the Higher Education Policy Center at the Public Policy Institute of California.


Ernesto Falcon
Senior Legislative Counsel, Electronic Frontier Foundation

Ernesto FalconErnesto Falcon is Senior Legislative Counsel at the Electronic Frontier Foundation with a primary focus on intellectual property, open Internet issues, broadband access, and competition policy. He represents EFF’s advocacy, on behalf of its members and all consumers, for a free and open Internet before state legislatures and Congress. Ernesto’s work includes pushing the state of California to pass the strongest net neutrality law in the country in response to federal repeal efforts, as well as leading EFF’s research and advocacy to promote universally available, affordable, and competitive fiber broadband networks.


Jeanne Holm

Chief Data Officer and Senior Technology Advisor to the Mayor, City of Los Angeles

Jeanne Holm HeadshotJeanne is the Chief Data Officer and Senior Technology Advisor to the Mayor at the City of Los Angeles, helping 4,000,000 people and 500,000 businesses get access to and use data for innovation, equity, health and safety. She connects public-private partners for innovations ranging from digital equity to 5G. She has led the delivery of online services, 311, public television and digital media, and ShakeAlertLA. She founded the Data Science Federation partnering universities and cities to create innovative solutions such as using artificial intelligence for traffic safety and machine learning to improve air quality. She was formerly the Evangelist for open data for the White House under President Obama, the leader for Africa open data for the World Bank, and the Chief Knowledge Architect at NASA. She is a Distinguished Instructor at UCLA, a Trustee of Claremont Graduate University, a Fellow of the United Nations International Academy of Astronautics, on the Global Leadership Board for Time’s Up, and an advisor to the UN’s Sustainable Development Solutions Network. She leads a startup that promotes equity, education, and social justice through technology and education programs for innovators throughout the world.


Jessica Howard
CEO, Californians Dedicated to Education Foundation

Jessica Howard headshotPreviously serving as Director of STEAM Initiatives, Jessica stepped into the role of CEO at Californians Dedicated to Education Foundation (CDE Foundation) in July 2019. She joined CDE Foundation as an Education Pioneers fellow in 2014 and has been instrumental in the organization’s growth and partnership development ever since.

Under Jessica’s leadership, the CA STEAM Symposium has grown into a premier event attended by STEAM educators from across our state and across the country. Her work has increased the quality and accessibility of STEAM professional learning opportunities for educators, helped build and communicate support for more equitable standards implementation, and brought private and public funders together to better resource California’s teachers, students, and schools.

Prior to joining CDE Foundation, Jessica worked in higher education as an undergraduate admissions officer at the University of Southern California and as a Congressional district staff member. She holds a M.S.Ed. in Education Policy from the University of Pennsylvania and a B.A. in Art History from Williams College. Based in Los Angeles, Jessica also volunteers with several non-profits in the Southern California region to support equity in expanded student services, arts and STEM education, and college access.


Devon Miner
State Network Manager, National Skills Coalition

Devon Miner headshotDevon is a State Network Manager with National Skills Coalition (NSC). In his role, Devon supports the development and promotion of a network of state coalitions working to advance policies that support industry engagement, skills equity, public accountability and job-driven investment. Devon collaborates with his NSC colleagues to provide customized technical assistance to state coalitions, particularly western states, toward policy impacts.

As a California resident, Devon co-leads the Skills for California Network which is a statewide network of organizations advancing workforce development policies that remove systemic barriers and promote an inclusive economy for all Californians.


Angela Siefer
Executive Director, National Digital Inclusion Alliance

Angela SieferAngela Siefer is the Executive Director of the National Digital Inclusion Alliance. Angela has been working in the field we now call digital inclusion since 1997. From physically setting up computer labs in underserved areas and managing local digital inclusion programs to consulting for the US. Department of Commerce and testifying before Congress, Angela develops national strategies and solutions from the ground up. In 2015, Angela helped found the National Digital Inclusion Alliance,  a unified voice for home broadband access, public broadband access, personal devices and local technology training and support programs. Government Technology Magazine named Angela one of their Top 25 Doers, Dreams, and Drivers of 2019.

Connecting California is presented by co-hosts
the Michelson 20MM Foundation
and the office of Governor Gavin Newsom
in service of advancing digital equity for all CA students and families.

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Special Thanks to Our Foundation Partners:

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