Episode 4: Digital Equity in Central Texas

This episode discusses the Digital Divide in Central Texas. Right now, a majority of Austin residents have access to computers and the internet. Most of us are logging in on a daily basis, specifically with mobile technologies, but there is a segment of the population, that represents the digital divide. These are people who do not have access to, or knowledge of how to use computers and the internet, making it harder to get a good job, to have access to social programs or even keep in touch with family and to make ends meet overall. In this episode we talk about what Austin is doing to close that gap.

Our Guests:

Juanita Budd

Juanita Budd

Executive Director, Austin Free-Net

Ruben Cantu

Ruben Cantu

CEO, LevelUp Institute

John Speirs

John Speirs

Program Manager, City of Austin Digital Inclusion Initiative


Juanita Budd - Bio

Juanita Budd:

Juanita Budd has more than 20 years of nonprofit experience in a plethora of roles including strategic planning, volunteer, board member, and staff. Ms. Budd serves as the Executive Director of Austin Free-Net and is responsible for the strategic vision of direct delivery of programs and services.  She drives forward the organization’s mission to eliminate the digital divide.  A sub-recipient of a 9.6 Million federal grant from the Broadband Technology Opportunity (BTOP) grant program awarded by Department of Commerce under the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act, to create, enhance and improve public computer centers in Austin. She has also partnered with Housing Authority of the City of Austin ‘s (HACA), Google Fiber , Austin Community College and others  to deploy  the “Unlocking the Connection” digital inclusion initiative which created a national model for digital literacy known as “ConnectHome”.  .  Since her tenure, she has collaborated with over 30 organizations to educate and improve broadband adoption and digital literacy programs.

Previously, Ms. Budd served as a Human Resources Director, Administrative & Operations Director, Chief Operations Officer and Vice President of Programs for Girl Scouts of Central Texas which served 46 Texas counties. She implemented the strategic vision and leadership for the direct delivery of services and programs to adults and volunteers through the region, managing staff across five locations.

In addition, Ms. Budd recently spoke at South By South West, SXSW, in Austin TX March 2014 on Digital Inclusion and Gigabit speed coming to Austin through Google Fiber, as well as served as the moderator for Mozilla (Fire Fox browser) CEO Mark Surman. She served as one of the lead speaker in the Digital Inclusion Conference in Texas (“A Conference & Colloquium” at the University of Texas) hosted by with Evan Smith of the Texas Tribune. In 2014, she spoke at the Brooking Institute in Washington D.C.

Ms. Budd holds a BA in Political Science from Bucknell University; HR Management Certification from the University of Texas at Austin; is a certified Mediator through the Dispute Resolution Center; and received her Certificate in Texas Nonprofit Leadership & Management Program in 2008.

She served as a member on the Texas Statewide Task Force on “Improving Relations with Nonprofits” recommended by the 83rd Texas Legislature; SAFE Alliance, a partnership of Austin Children’s Shelter and Safe Place, Advisory Committee of Black/African-American community members;  Campus Advisory Council for National American University; Board Member for The Austin School for the Performing  & Visual Arts, Member One Voice Central Texas, panelist for Austin Human Resources Management Association (AHRMA) and has been invited to speak at the iConference  in Berlin Germany.

Winner of the 2016 Pinnacle Philanthropic Business of the Year from Austin Women’s Magazine!

She has been featured in various media outlets, including radio, print, and television.

Ruben Cantu - Bio

Mission: Empowering the next generation of diverse entrepreneurs.


​Ruben Cantu:

An international public speaker, trainer, marketing strategist and serial social entrepreneur focused on creating impactful movements that make the world a better place.
A community servant and a global citizen focused on using the power storytelling and technology to be a bridge for peace.
Nominated as Entrepreneur of the Year 2014, Austin Under 40; nominated Change Maker of the year 2016, Austin Young Chamber;
and winner of 50 on Fire for AustinInno 2016 in Social Impact.
John Speirs - Bio

John Speirs is responsible for managing and administering City’s implementation of the Digital Inclusion Strategic Plan in Austin by coordinating with local organizations, commissions and other public and private entities involved with digital and communications technology in Austin. John provides contract management for a portfolio of $400,000 in services delivered by Austin non-profits for community technology services including public access & digital literacy skills training and the City’s Grant for Technology Opportunities Program. John provides administration of the Google Fiber Community Connections program including annual reporting goals of recipients and program monitoring. He faciliates strategic efforts with the Austin Community Technology & Telecommunications Commission, whose members are appointed by the Austin City Council, to identify opportunities to maximize program effectiveness where practical. John, a native of California, has a Bachelor of Science in Political Science with a minor in Environmental Planning from Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Arizona with a Masters in Public Administration from Texas State University- San Marcos.