2023 summit convenes local, global leaders to further digital inclusion

Smart technology enhances the ways we live with more convenience, safety and inclusive services. When applied to the systems governing campuses, cities, regions and even the world, they can connect underserved communities and respond effectively to local needs and requests.

Imagine broadband access in areas where there previously was little to none, exemplified by the announcement in fall 2022 that Maricopa County was granting Arizona State University and its collaborators $34.6 million to advance broadband, community support, equipment and training across the county.

The fifth annual ASU Smart Region Summit, to be held on Feb. 1 at the Heard Museum, promises to further the conversations that led to this support and many others that promote the importance of building smarter regions. With this year’s theme of “connecting smarter regions focused on innovation and inclusion,” a central part of the programming will be focused on digital inclusion: providing access to, and education on, the tools that define much of learning, working and living today.

“The Smart Region Summit is a dedicated time for us to strengthen our connections in order to build smarter communities for those who need it most,” said Lev Gonick, ASU chief information officer and host of the annual Smart Region Summit. “We’ve seen productive engagement at the summit over the years, and this year we’ll continue that collaboration to ignite the spark that advances change throughout the world.”

This year, a slate of diverse local and national panels and roundtable discussions will convene with smart-city experts, technologists, faculty and leaders. Matthew Rantanen of the Southern California Tribal Chairmen's Association will serve as the summit’s keynote speaker, where he will share on the work being done to strengthen tribal nations and bring digital equity and access to tribal lands across the United States.

Follow-up panels on Indigenous broadband initiatives and best practices in tribal nations will continue the keynote’s theme, while public-private partnership opportunities, decision-making on local and national policies, smart-city creation and more are the subjects of further discussions.

A showcase of digital equity and inclusion around the world will also apply these concepts to a global scale. Speakers include: Nicol Turner Lee from The Brookings Institution Center for Technology Innovation; Raquel Bernal, president of Universidad de Los Andes Colombia; Joshua Edmonds, DigitalC; Diana Bowman, associate dean and professor at ASU’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law; and Erin Carr-Jordan, executive director of digital equity and social impact at ASU Enterprise Technology. 

Check out the agenda on the event webpage to view a full list of speakers. Registration for the event closes on Jan. 18. 

“The breadth of topics really makes the case for how we can bring digital inclusion to communities locally and around the world,” said Bowman, who will also emcee the summit.

Just one major highlight at 2022’s event was the announcement of ASU as the newest Verizon 5G Innovation Hub, with remarks from ASU President Michael Crow and Verizon Business CEO Tami Erwin.

This year, the focus on human-centered innovation and inclusion ensures a steadfast focus on connecting smarter regions for the empowerment of all.

Tristan Ettleman