Digital Equity is not a common phrase, but it is becoming a common issue among Vermonters and the rest of the nation. What is Digital Equity? Digital Equity is a condition in which all individuals and communities have the information technology capacity needed for full participation in our society, democracy, and economy. Digital Equity is necessary for civic and cultural participation, employment, lifelong learning, and access to essential services. To sum it up, Digital Equity means that everyone has equal access to technology and the internet for things such as community engagement, employment, learning opportunities, health care and more.
What is the problem?
“Increasingly, Americans require a broadband internet connection to live, work, and interact. Yet far too many individuals, many of whom are members of historically overlooked and underserved communities, lack the skills, technologies, and support needed to take advantage of the opportunities made available by a reliable broadband connection.
Absent help, they are at risk of being left behind. Expanding access to broadband is necessary but is far from sufficient. The Federal Government must work towards ensuring ‘all individuals and communities have the information technology capacity needed for full participation in our society, democracy, and economy”—a principle called 'digital equity'." - National Digital Inclusion Alliance
What is the solution?
Digital inclusion week is October 4th through October 8th. This week is all about bringing awareness to Digital Equity, as well as something called The Digital Equity Act of 2021. The Digital Equity Act is part of 2.75 billion dollars in proposed funding in the bipartisan Infrastructure and Investments Jobs Act (passed in August of this year). This act will establish two grant programs, as well as support research and promote informed policy decisions that will promote digital equity nationwide.
- Building Capacity within States through Formula Grants: The Digital Equity Act of 2021 creates an annual $125 million formula grant program for all 50 States, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico to fund the creation and implementation of comprehensive digital equity plans in each State.
- Spurring Targeted Action through Competitive Grants: The Digital Equity Act of 2021 creates an annual $125 million competitive grant program to support digital inclusion projects undertaken by individual groups, coalitions, and/or communities of interest.
- Supporting Research and Evidence-Based Policymaking: The Digital Equity Act of 2021 tasks NTIA with evaluating digital inclusion projects and providing policymakers at the local, state, and federal levels with detailed information about which projects are most effective.
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