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City creates $35,000 Digital Equity Fund

October 13, 2017

The fund will support the City's goal of ensuring all residents have equal access to digital services.

Mayor Martin J. Walsh today announced the creation of a $35,000 Digital Equity Fund, which will support the City's goal of ensuring all residents have equal access to digital services. The Digital Equity Fund will provide support to community-based organizations that help Boston residents fully connect and participate in today's media and information landscape.

"A more connected Boston is a more equitable City, a more innovative City and a more prosperous City," said Mayor Walsh. "This grant program will allow more residents to connect digitally, and will encourage residents to grow their digital skills while increasing access to information."

The Digital Equity Fund will explore ways to build individual and community capacity to: 

  • Use the Internet, digital skills, and digital tools to pursue professional, educational, and civic endeavors;
  • Engage with the Internet safely and securely;
  • Develop needs-responsive, community driven digital skills building opportunities;
  • Increase broadband adoption among the roughly 1 in 5 Bostonians who do not subscribe to this service in the home.

In 2017, Boston will award one grant of $35,000 or up to two grants up to $17,500 each to nonprofit organizations that promote digital equity. By providing seed funding, the City hopes to identify promising strategies that can attract outside funding and further create a City where everyone has the tools and skills they need to succeed in the 21st century.

To qualify for a grant, nonprofit organizations must be Boston-based and serve Boston residents. The application deadline for 2017 is November 17 and the application can be found online. Priority will be given to proposals that aim to advance the use of technology to improve quality of life and increases access to opportunity for all residents and align with the City of Boston's Broadband and Digital Equity goals of:

  • expanding access to digital tools
  • creating opportunities to learn digital skills, and
  • increasing the adoption of high-speed Internet in the home.

Money for this fund comes from license agreements between the City of Boston and telecommunications companies.  

"We believe in making modern technology available to all," said Theodora Higginson Hanna, Co-Director of Tech Goes Home. "This fund will help provide Bostonians with the tools they need to support the development of their digital skills."

The Fund will be overseen by the City of Boston Department of Innovation & Technology (DoIT) and an external Fund Council consisting of five to seven members. Advisory board members will be appointed by Mayor Walsh and serve three year terms. Current Fund Council members include:  

  • Alessandra Brown, Director, Roxbury Innovation Center
  • Colin Rhinesmith, Assistant Professor, School of Library and Information Science, Simmons College
  • Turahn Dorsey, Chief of Education, City of Boston
  • Trinh Nguyen, Director of Workforce Development, City of Boston
  • Sasha Costanza-Chock, Associate Professor of Civic Media, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

"Access to broadband and digital literacy skills are essential in today's society," said Colin Rhinesmith, Assistant Professor at the School of Library and Information Science at Simmons College and member of the Digital Equity Fund Council. "Unfortunately, too many Bostonians do not have the reliable and affordable broadband they need, as well as the training required, to fully participate. The City of Boston's Digital Equity Fund is a key initiative to support residents in achieving these goals."

About the Department of Innovation and Technology

The Department of Innovation and Technology makes sure the networks, computers and systems that support the City are secure and effective. They also manage the City's websites and technologies focused on service delivery.

The department's core work involves five priority areas:

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