As an ISPP Scholar, Chukwuemezie (Charles) Emejuo is appointed with the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, Office of Broadband. His work is significant as it explores the ways in which the digital divide may be eliminated in Illinois communities and how best to support digital equity among communities with high immigrant populations. Charles shared some thoughts with me about the ISPP program, and his work so far.
Why did you apply for the Illini Science Policy Program?
When I saw the call for applications through an email from the Law Grad Programs office, one thing that drew my attention to the application is the subject of the email, “Public Policy Opportunity”. I consider public service as a significant bedrock to positive impacts. I was interested in leveraging my background in law and experience in advising on legal and policy issues, non-profit administration and management and I subsequently looked at host agencies and where my interest aligns. When I chose the Office of Broadband as one of the host agencies I was interested in, I thought about how my background and experiences could best be applied to the development of policies in increasing the use, access and adoption of technology that will help Illinois communities.
Tell us a bit about what you hope to accomplish as a result of being a 2023 Scholar.
For me, being a 2023 Scholar is an opportunity to serve the Illinois community. I really hope that by the end of this program I will have a better understanding of Illinois and will have contributed considerably to digital equity and inclusion in the state. I am equipping myself for this by being involved in various projects and conversations that promote digital equity and inclusion through the IL DCEO, Office of Broadband.
Tell us a bit about what you are working on for your host agency.
Our work is basically about grant management and administration for broadband and digital inclusion in the state. I worked on the Notice of Funding Opportunity for Eliminating the Digital Divide Fund; review reports from grantees of the Broadband READY and give feedback on the reports. I am also contributing to a report on broadband access issues in immigrant communities, among others.
Tell us a bit about what you are working with your Extension Mentor
I will be working on broadband access in immigrant communities with my Extension Mentor, Nancy Ouedraogo. We will be considering how access to broadband affects immigrant communities in the state of Illinois. We will be looking at these issues in view of how best it can be addressed.
What makes the work you are doing as an ISPP Scholar meaningful to you?
The work I do and the people it impacts are of great importance to me. When I look at how the work will positively affect lives in the state, I feel privileged to be working on that and want to give in my best to ensure the best possible outcome as Broadband and digital inclusion are essential to modern-day human existence. Thus, being able to work on projects that affect these issues gives me the feeling of impact and adding value to the community. Technology is an essential tool that affects and helps the settling and integration of immigrants into the community and I see my project with my Extension Mentor on broadband access in immigrant communities as a work that will positively affect the immigrant population in Illinois and I am really excited about this.
What is one thing that you have learned since becoming an ISPP Scholar that has made an impression on your transition from graduate student to career individual?
I have learned that no skill and experience is a waste. My skills, experiences, and previous training, although not directly in broadband, is however relevant to my current position as an ISPP Scholar as I am a technology savvy lawyer. This will make it easier for me to transfer useful skills that I have picked up in the course of my studies and career journey to my current role.
Why is/are the issue(s) important to the communities with which you are working?
In our world today, almost every human activity is digital from commerce to education to agriculture, to virtually all sectors of life. To be successful in any endeavor, one needs to be technology-enabled, and being technology enabled requires high-speed internet and digital skills. These issues are important because they affect technology access and that is what my work with both the Office of Broadband and my Extension Mentor is geared towards solving.
Who is impacted by the issue(s) you are working on?
Broadband literally affects everyone. In our world of today where almost everything is technology-oriented broadband can be likened to water which we cannot do without. We currently live daily with access to broadband and digital technology. Our work on broadband and digital inclusion directly impacts everyone in the state of Illinois and everyone that has connections with the state of Illinois.
What is the most unexpected thing about this program so far?
I joined this program with an open mind, although I was not certain that I would be fully working in the frontline of projects. So, I will state that what is unexpected is the fact that I have input and worked directly on the policies and the projects of the office.
If you could do one thing through this program and think “Wow, I did that,” what would you like it to be?
I would be happy if I can produce a guide for digital inclusion in immigrant communities through my project on broadband access in immigrant communities.
Anything else you’d like to share?
The program is an interesting one. It offers hands-on experience in policy issues in the state. You are treated more like a colleague while being given an opportunity to learn. And your opinions, suggestions, and contributions are considered in the work. I find this quite enthralling.
More information about the Illini Science Policy Program is available on our website.. Keep reading to learn more about Charles' colleagues in the of 2023 ISPP Scholar Class.