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Decoding Philly’s Digital Divide - A Funder’s Blueprint

Monday, April 26, 2021
11:00am - 12:15pm EDT
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Video Conference
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Co-hosted with Independence Public Media Foundation

The COVID-19 pandemic has unveiled and amplified various societal injustices, including digital inequity. In Philadelphia we witnessed K-12 students doing homework in parking lots in order to access local Wi-Fi hotspots and learned about families without access to computers at home.

We will explore the impact of our region’s changing relationship with technology from an optional luxury to a utility necessary for work, education and day to day life. We will also answer:

  • How are funders responding to digital inequity?
  • What are the needs they’ve identified, want to prioritize, and why?
  • What are pitfalls funders should avoid when supporting this work?

Participants (see bios below)





Andrew Buss is a Deputy Chief Information Officer for Innovation within Philadelphia’s Office of Innovation and Technology. His ten-person team focuses on a diverse portfolio, including innovation capacity within government, digital equity, smart cities, creative services, and communications. After directing Philadelphia’s implementation of the KEYSPOT program, a citywide network of 77 community technology centers, he established the City’s Innovation Management team to increase government capacity for innovation. Andrew also founded the Digital Literacy Alliance, a cross-institutional grantmaking group in the digital equity space. Andrew earned a master’s degree in geography from Temple University in Philadelphia and now teaches about government innovation at Temple University and Babson College.


Chancellar Williams is a program officer with the Ford Foundation’s US program in Technology and Society, helping to shape and implement the team’s efforts to ensure that digital technologies are designed and governed in ways that advance equity and justice. He manages a portfolio of grants and other activities to advance effective and equitable public interest technology policies, regulations, and social norms, as well as to deepen public understanding of the impact of digital communications technologies on society. Ford grantees in this portfolio work at the intersection of civil rights, social justice, and technology policy. They are challenging corporate and government surveillance and discriminatory technology tools and practices, advocating for digital rights and access, and working toward freedom of expression, digital security, accessibility, privacy, and an open internet. Previously, Chancellar was a program officer with the Open Society Foundations’ US Program where he managed grant making related to journalism and media and communications technology policy. Prior to that, he coordinated successful federal advocacy campaigns to protect the open internet, expand broadband access, and promote diverse and independent media ownership as associate policy director at Free Press. Chancellar earned a bachelor of science degree from Miami University and a master’s in public service from the University of Arkansas.


Sylvie Gallier Howard is Founder & CEO of Equitable Cities Consulting, LLC, a practice focused on expanding the field and impact of inclusive, equitable economic development. Sylvie has extensive experience leading organizations and diverse teams in the non-profit, private and public sectors. In her most recent tenure at the Department of Commerce as part of the leadership of Philadelphia’s City government, she spearheaded strategic planning and implementation processes for the City in areas of inclusive growth, workforce development, equitable entrepreneurship and economic recovery. Equitable Cities Consulting was commissioned in January 2021 by United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey to assess Philadelphia’s strengths, gaps and opportunities related to digital equity. As part of this work, Sylvie conducted in-depth primary and secondary research related to digital access, navigation and tech workforce development, culminating in strategic recommendations for Philadelphia to achieve digital equity and resilience. Sylvie has a B.A. in International relations from Barnard College of Columbia University and an M.A. in Sociology from Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales (FLACSO) in Ecuador - a graduate school started by the United Nations Development Program to promote development in Latin America. She is fluent in Spanish and French.


Francella Ochillo’s vision for Next Century Cities is simple – elevate the voices of local officials who are working to expand high-speed connectivity. An attorney and digital rights advocate, Francella has worked on a variety of technology and telecommunications issues with a specific focus on assessing the impact of policy proposals on unserved and underserved communities. Breaking through to various audiences in keynote presentations, government agency filings, podcasts, and news outlets like Axios or The Washington Post, Francella helps policymakers and lawmakers recognize the importance of ubiquitous broadband. She is committed to creating opportunities for local leaders to participate in a national dialogue about how to connect every resident in every community. A member of the District of Columbia Bar and Federal Communications Bar Association, Francella serves on the FCC’s Consumer Advisory Committee and served on the 2020 Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee’s Disaster Response and Recovery Working Group. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland, and her Juris Doctor from UIC John Marshall Law School in Chicago, Illinois.
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