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WATCH: Secretary Julián Castro and Rahm Emanuel talk about bridging the digital divide

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro spoke with The Post's Manuel Roig-Franzia Thursday about housing as an organizing platform for Internet adoption. (Video: Washington Post Live)

Bridging The Digital Divide | Oct. 8, 2015
9:00 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. at The Washington Post

Nearly every American now has access to the Internet. Yet 15 percent of adults still aren’t online. Lawmakers, city leaders, technology experts and entrepreneurs will examine obstacles to adoption and highlight efforts across the country to close the digital divide. Watch a live stream of the full program here Thursday.


FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai tells Washington Post technology reporter Brian Fung about the challenges of expanding broadband Internet across the country. (Video: Washington Post Live)

[A nation on the Internet, but disparate in speed and skill]

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel told The Washington Post Thursday that disparate ideological beliefs are to blame for feuds within the Republican party. (Video: Meena Ganesan/Washington Post Live)
José Díaz-Balart, host of MSNBC's "The Daily Rundown," moderates a conversation with Comcast Corporation chief diversity officer David L. Cohen, Pew Research Center's John Horrigan and National Council of La Raza president Janet Murguia at The Washington Post's Bridging the Digital Divide live event. (Video: Meena Ganesan/The Washington Post)
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a former White House chief of staff to President Obama, reflects on the 2016 campaign and the candidates in both parties' primaries. (Video: Meena Ganesan/Washington Post Live)
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and The Washington Post's Robert Costa discuss digital learning initiatives in Chicago. (Video: Meena Ganesan/Washington Post Live)
Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro spoke with The Post's Manuel Roig-Franzia about the 2016 presidential campaign and his name in the airwaves as a possible vice presidential candidate. (Video: Meena Ganesan/Washington Post Live)
Washington Post reporter Emily Badger and Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto discuss the city's growth from a steel town to one advancing the likes of Microsoft, Uber and Tata. (Video: Washington Post Live)
Maya Wiley, counsel to New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, New York Public Library director of adult education services Luke Swarthout and The Post's Emma Brown discuss digital inclusion efforts in New York City including public WiFi hot spots and loanable WiFi units. (Video: Washington Post Live)
Darrell West, vice president of governance studies and director of the Center for Technology Innovation at the Brookings Institution, talks about the barriers to Internet adoption in the U.S. (Video: Washington Post Live)
Scott Grosfield of the Housing Authority of the Choctaw Nation, Chattanooga EPB chief operating officer David Wade and Don Williams, senior program specialist for broadband at the U.S. Department of Commerce explore the economic impact of building ultra-fast Internet in communities across the country. (Video: Meena Ganesan/Washington Post Live)
Thomas Kamber of Older Adults Technology Services, Cliff Missen of WiderNet@UNC, Stephen Ewell of the CEA Foundation and The Washington Post's Alison Snyder discuss efforts to get the elderly, people with disabilities and other underserved populations online (Video: Meena Ganesan/Washington Post Live)
At The Post's Bridging the Digital Divide event in Washington on Thursday, San Antonio Mayor Ivy Taylor and Abby Livingston, D.C. bureau chief for The Texas Tribune, discuss how critical digital literacy is to the economic growth of cities. (Video: Meena Ganesan/Washington Post Live)


What people don’t get about ‘Black Twitter’

Building small businesses online, one click at a time


9:00 a.m. Opening remarks
– Lois Romano, Editor, Washington Post Live

The state of connection
– Darrell West, Vice President of Governance Studies and Director of the Center for Technology Innovation, Brookings Institution
Interviewed by Lois Romano, Editor, Washington Post Live

Adaption and adoption for underserved populations
– Thomas Kamber, Executive Director, Older Adults Technology Services (OATS)
– Cliff Missen, Director WiderNet@UNC, School of Information and Library Science, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
– Stephen Ewell, Executive Director, CEA Foundation
Moderated by Alison Snyder, Senior Editorial Producer, The Washington Post

City spotlight: Pittsburgh
– Mayor Bill Peduto, City of Pittsburgh
Interviewed by Emily Badger, Reporter, Wonkblog, The Washington Post

The homework gap
– Maya Wiley, Counsel to the Mayor, City of New York @mayawiley
– Luke Swarthout, Director of Adult Education Services, The New York Public Library @nypl
Moderated by Emma Brown, National Education Reporter, The Washington Post

A conversation with Secretary Julián Castro
– Secretary Julián Castro, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
Interviewed by Manuel Roig-Franzia, Style Writer, The Washington Post


Sponsor Panel: Broadband adoption solutions
– David L. Cohen, Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer, Comcast Corporation
– John B. Horrigan, Senior Researcher, Pew Research Center
– Janet Murguía, President and Chief Executive, National Council of La Raza
Moderated by José Díaz-Balart, Host, The Daily Rundown, MSNBC

City spotlight: San Antonio
– Mayor Ivy Taylor, City of San Antonio
Interviewed by Abby Livingston, D.C. Bureau Chief, The Texas Tribune

Building the gigabit economy
– Scott Grosfield, Regional Director, Rental Property Services, Housing Authority of the Choctaw Nation
– David Wade, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, EPB, Chattanooga, TN
– Don Williams, Senior Program Specialist for Broadband at U.S. Department of Commerce, NTIA , OTIA
Moderated by Jim Tankersley, Economic Policy Correspondent, The Washington Post

Online in rural America
Ajit Pai, Commissioner, Federal Communications Commission
Interviewed by Brian Fung, Technology Reporter, The Switch, The Washington Post

City spotlight: Chicago
– Mayor Rahm Emanuel, City of Chicago
Interviewed by Robert Costa, National Political Reporter, The Washington Post


Julián Castro was sworn in as the 16th secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development on July 28, 2014. He oversees 8,000 employees and aims to ensure HUD is a transparent, efficient and effective champion for the people it serves. In July of 2015, President Obama helped launch one of Secretary Castro’s signature projects, ConnectHome, which accelerates Internet adoption in 28 communities, providing broadband and electronic devices to children living in public and assisted housing. Previously, Castro was mayor of San Antonio. In March 2010, Castro was named to the World Economic Forum’s list of Young Global Leaders. Castro was also a member of the San Antonio City Council and an attorney at Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld.

Rahm Emanuel has served as the 55th mayor of Chicago since 2011. He has added more than 200 hours to the school day and year and has implemented full-day kindergarten for every Chicago child. The mayor’s comprehensive public safety strategy aims to expand prevention programs for at-risk youth, create smarter policing strategies and empower parents and communities to reduce violence in their neighborhoods. Previously, Emanuel was the White House chief of staff to President Obama and served three terms in the U.S. House of Representatives representing Chicago’s 5th District. He also served as a key member of the Clinton administration from 1993 to 1998, eventually becoming senior advisor to the president for policy and strategy.

Steve Ewell is the executive director of the Consumer Electronics Association Foundation, an organization that aims to link seniors and people with disabilities with technology that can enhance their lives. He joined the CEA Foundation in January 2012 and is the first person to hold this position. He was previously managing director of the InfraGard National Members Alliance, a public-private partnership with the FBI focused on promoting and developing critical infrastructure protection. Ewell was also the director of the Washington, D.C. region Business Executives for National Security. He is on the board of directors of Grantmakers in Aging and the Washington Cyber Roundtable.

Scott Grosfield has worked for the Housing Authority of the Choctaw Nation for 17 years. He has overseen the construction of its Modular Housing Department and has managed property in several counties — including budget training for tenants and enforcing lease agreements. He has managed several websites, included ones for independent elders and affordable rentals — targeting lower-income tribal members. Grosfield is now one of two regional directors for the Rental Property Services Department, where he supports site managers and their maintenance staff to better serve tribal members.

Tom Kamber is the founder and executive director of Older Adults Technology Services, a program that has helped over 20,000 seniors get online and created a technology-themed community center for older adults. Kamber teaches social entrepreneurship and philanthropy at Columbia University, and is a member of the Working Group on Aging of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. He also serves on the New York City Mayor’s Broadband Task Force, the Age-Friendly New York Commission, and the New York State Broadband Advisory Council. Previously, Kamber worked as a political campaign manager, branding strategist for a French IT corporation, project manager on a democracy-building initiative in Moscow, and tenant organizer in Harlem and the South Bronx.

Cliff Missen is a clinical associate professor in the School of Information and Library Science at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He directs the WiderNet@UNC research lab and the non-profit WiderNet Project, where he oversees efforts to improve digital communication in developing countries through hands-on training and research into low-cost applications of information technology. Missen leads development of the eGranary Digital Library, an information store that aims to deliver the world’s knowledge to people and institutions lacking Internet access. He was also a TED fellow in 2007 and a senior Fulbright scholar in Nigeria in 1999.

Ajit Pai began his term with the Federal Communications Commission on May 14, 2012. Specifically, his work includes removing uncertainty that can deter businesses and investors from taking risks, revisiting outdated regulations and setting clear, modernized rules for the road. Previously, Pai held several positions in the FCC’s Office of General Counsel, serving most prominently as deputy general counsel. He worked in the Washington, D.C. office of Jenner & Block LLP, where he was a partner in the Communications Practice until being sworn in as a commissioner. Years earlier, he served as associate general counsel at Verizon Communications Inc. He was an Honors Program trial attorney on the Telecommunications Task Force at the United States Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division. He later returned to the Department of Justice to serve as senior counsel in the Office of Legal Policy. Pai was also deputy chief counsel to the United States Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Administrative Oversight and the Courts and was chief counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Property Rights.

Bill Peduto was elected mayor of the City of Pittsburgh on Nov. 5, 2013. He resides in the Point Breeze neighborhood of the city and has worked for 19 years on Pittsburgh City Council, as a staffer and member representing District 8. Peduto was co-creator of iBurgh, a mobile app for local government, and has led discussion on e-democracy locally and nationally. He was also executive producer of a documentary about the Allegheny Observatory.

Luke Swarthout is the director of adult education services at the New York Public Library. He manages digital inclusion, adult literacy, lifelong learning and job information programs across 92 locations — serving tens of thousands of patrons. This year, the libraries of New York are making WiFi enabled devices available to 10,000 low-income families in New York City for up to a year, as part of an effort to increase broadband adoption. Previously, Swarthout worked as a higher education advocate for the U.S. Public Interest Research Group and served as senior education adviser to two Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee chairmen.

Ivy R. Taylor has been mayor of San Antonio since July 2014. Previously, Taylor served as the District 2 City Council representative. She began her career working for the City of San Antonio in the Housing and Community Development Department and the Neighborhood Action Department. After six years, she became vice president at Merced Housing Texas. Taylor is currently a lecturer at the University of Texas at San Antonio in the Public Administration Department.

David Wade is EPB’s executive vice president and chief operating officer. Wade has 27 years of experience in the electrical industry ranging from hands-on construction to engineering. EPB’s “Smart Grid,” next-generation electric system includes communication capabilities aimed to reduce the impact of power outages, improve response time and allow customers greater control of their electric power usage.

Darrell M. West is vice president of governance studies and director of the Center for Technology Innovation at the Brookings Institution. He holds the Douglas Dillon chair in governance studies. Previously, he was the John Hazen White professor of political science and public policy and director of the Taubman Center for Public Policy at Brown University.  His current research focuses on technology policy, immigration, health care and education. West is also the author of 20 books.

Maya Wiley advises Mayor Bill de Blasio on legal matters involving City Hall and the executive staff. She spearheads special projects, such as expanding affordable broadband access across all five boroughs. Wiley is the city’s Minority/Women Owned Business Enterprise director and the mayor’s liaison to the Mayor’s Advisory Committee on the Judiciary. She also serves on the city’s Procurement Policy Board and the Board of the Fund for the City of New York.

Don Williams is a senior specialist for broadband development for the National Telecommunication and Information Administration’s Broadband USA initiative. Williams managed infrastructure grants worth $300 million and led Davis Bacon Act compliance for the $4 billion Broadband Technology Opportunities Program. He is now responsible for providing technical assistance to communities seeking to build out their broadband capabilities. Before joining NTIA, Williams was chief operating officer and director of research for Rice Williams Associates, a telecommunications consulting firm. He was also a professor at the College of William and Mary and the University of Massachusetts.

Sponsor Panel Speakers:

David L. Cohen is senior executive vice president of Comcast Corporation and is the company’s chief diversity officer. Cohen serves as senior counselor to the chief executive. Before joining Comcast, he was a partner and chairman of Ballard Spahr Andrews & Ingersoll, LLP. He also served as chief of staff to Philadelphia Mayor Edward Rendell. Cohen is chairman of the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania and is also a member of the executive committee at Penn Medicine. He serves on both the board of directors and the executive committee of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce and is a member of the Chamber’s CEO Council for Growth.

José Díaz-Balart hosts “The Rundown with José Díaz-Balart” on MSNBC and anchors “Enfoque con José Díaz-Balart” and “Noticiero Telemundo” on Telemundo. Díaz-Balart began his career in 1984 and has since become one of the most respected voices in Hispanic journalism in the United States. Over the past 30 years, he has witnessed and reported historic events fir NBC News and Telemundo. He has received the George Foster Peabody Award, Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia University Award and the Broadcasting and Cable/Multichannel News Award for Outstanding Achievement in Hispanic Television. Most recently, he was honored with the 2014 Life Achievement Award by the Hispanic Federation and the Communications Award by the National Council of La Raza.

John B. Horrigan is a senior researcher at Pew Research Center, where he focuses on libraries, technology and communities as well as open data and open government. Previously, Horrigan was research director for the National Broadband Plan at the Federal Communications Commission. He was also a consultant, working his first stint at Pew Research Center from 2000 to 2009.

Janet Murguía has devoted her career in public service to opening the door to that dream to millions of American families. She continues this mission as president and chief executive of the National Council of La Raza, the largest national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the U.S. Murguía began her career as legislative counsel to former Kansas Rep. Jim Slattery. She then worked at the White House from 1994 to 2000, ultimately serving as deputy assistant to President Clinton. She was deputy campaign manager and director of constituency outreach for the Gore/Lieberman presidential campaign. In 2001, Murguía joined the University of Kansas as executive vice chancellor for university relations.

Additional speakers will be announced. Biographies are provided by the speakers and are edited only for length and clarity. Agenda is subject to change.