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City Innovation Office Promotes Project Manager to Digital Inclusion Role

In addition to working in city government, she is an MBA in IT candidate at Texas Tech University.

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A special projects manager for the San Antonio Office of Innovation’s Smart Cities Program has been promoted to digital inclusion administrator.

Rhia Pape, a San Antonio native, has spent eight years working with the city, holding various positions like senior management analyst and research and development specialist.

Rhia Pape.
According to Pape, her most recent role as a project manager differs from her new position in a few ways.

“My new position differs from my previous role in that I will now oversee the Digital Inclusion Program working to design and implement digital equity initiatives in an effort to solve for the digital divide in our city,” Pape said via email.

Another difference is that her previous role used information and technology to collect data to inform policy decisions to improve residents’ quality of life.

In this new position, Pape would focus on engaging in the city’s digital inclusion ecosystem and addressing specific challenges.

For example, “one of the main challenges is working to fit all the pieces of this puzzle together,” Pape said. “While there are many people doing digital equity, it’s challenging to align all this work across organizations.

The other challenge, she explained, pertains to Internet access and affordability, access to devices and tools and having the necessary skills to use these tools.

“What we don’t talk about is that these are three different sectors of work,” Pape said. “There is no one-size-fits-all program that is going to work for every neighbor in our city. Our challenge is to identify and prioritize the needs of our community and work with our partners to develop and implement effective solutions.”

In the short term, Pape and her team plan to address this challenge by preparing and releasing a second iteration of the city’s Digital Inclusion Survey and Assessment.

“We opened the original survey in 2020 and collected data pre- and mid-pandemic,” Pape said. “One of our biggest takeaways was that 20 percent of households don’t have adequate broadband access. Not only did this have many negative implications during the pandemic when we found ourselves relying heavily on the Internet and technology to do everyday things, but we continue to see these impacts now.”

As for long-term goals, Pape doubled down on her commitment to addressing Internet access, device accessibility and skills training for digital tools.

“Without reliable access to the Internet, access to devices relevant to user needs and the skills required to use digital tools, our residents are simply unable to fully participate in our community as active and engaged members,” Pape said. “It’s our job to ensure our programs are built to represent the lived experiences of those we are serving.”
Katya Maruri is a staff writer for Government Technology. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in global strategic communications from Florida International University.