CETF - On a mission to close the Digital Divide - Page 27

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“ If you enable the workforce to work remotely , imagine how many Vehicle Miles Traveled could be averted .”
Lloyd Levine Senior Policy Fellow , UC Riverside School of Public Policy

Broadband is enabling increased environmental sustainability ,” says Trish Kelly , managing director of the Sacramento-based civic leadership organization Valley Vision , a longtime California Emerging Technology Fund partner and grantee . “ Everything in the ‘ clean economy ’ requires energy-efficient tools and we need the internet to manage those tools . To help us reach our environmental goals — a carbon-free economy , a high-performing energy grid , the ability to use battery storage and electric vehicle infrastructure — we absolutely have to have broadband .”
A 2021 survey by CETF in partnership with the University of Southern California underscores how broadband adoption can help the state reach its goals to reduce emissions and increase energy efficiency and green environmental practices . Most employed respondents in the State Survey on Broadband Adoption who have been working at least part-time at home on broadband during the pandemic say they expect to continue with a reduced or no commute . Nearly one-third expect to only work from home and more than half expect to work from home at least once a week . Assuming a five-day-per-week commute pattern , telecommuting could reduce 55 % of vehicle trips relative to pre-pandemic levels .
“ The average car produces 19 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions for every gallon of gas burned ,” says former California State Assemblymember Lloyd Levine , a Digital Divide expert and senior policy fellow at the UC Riverside School of Public Policy . “ If you enable the workforce to work remotely , imagine how many VMT ( Vehicle Miles Traveled ) could be averted . And that ’ s just the tip of the iceberg .”
In addition to reduced commuting , use of telehealth and distance learning among adults for online classes and training also jumped . A third of adult Californians ages 18 or older ( including college students ) said they ’ ve taken an online class or training during the pandemic . Two-thirds of those say they ’ ll continue distance learning if they have the opportunity , though the likelihood increases with age . Overall , 95 % of the respondents expect that distance learning and telehealth combined would replace at least some vehicle trips for traditional in-person courses and medical visits .
Broadband connectivity is emerging as one of the key factors in maintaining the state ’ s green momentum . Despite having the largest population , Levine notes that California has led the country in the lowest amount of per-capita energy use since 1974 .
Valley Vision ’ s Kelly says that another area where connectivity is proving especially useful is in agriculture . ( Valley Vision is part of a broadband ag-tech pilot program in Yolo County in conjunction with Fresno State and Chico State funded initially by CETF and also supports the AgStart incubator in Woodland .) As the most ag-forward-looking region in the world , the cost to transport water is a huge part of our region ’ s energy usage . If farmers can use that water more efficiently through sensoring and monitoring — which requires a connection to the internet — that can have a big impact on energy usage , which in turn impacts emissions .
“ Agriculture needs connectivity for the Internet of Things ,” Kelly says . “ Data analytics give farmers much better information over time , which impacts their decision-making , investments and management of resources to weather droughts and participate in flood control and habitat conservation . But a lot of these farmers can ’ t deploy technology because of a lack of connectivity . We ’ re competing on a global stage — everyone deserves fair access to the benefits of technology .”
CETF and Valley Vision are publishing a Resource Guide ( see page 78 ) to provide policy guidelines for local governments and encourage civic leaders to bring together diverse stakeholders to discuss funding , infrastructure , technology deployment and digital skills training to protect California ’ s environmental future .
Jessica Laskey is the Special Sections Editor . More at jessicalaskey . com .
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