Funding awarded for Digital Equity initiatives across the City of Boston
Mayor Kim Janey announced today that 19 Boston nonprofit organizations will receive $478,900 in grants through the City of Boston’s Digital Equity Fund. The Digital Equity Fund provides support to community-based organizations that help Boston residents digitally participate in educational, economic and civic opportunities, which are increasingly reliant on technology.
“Over the past 16 months, the online experience has shifted from a convenience to a necessity in our everyday lives,” said Mayor Kim Janey. “I am proud to support 19 community organizations who are helping make digital access more equitable across our neighborhoods. Connecting Boston residents with technology tools, access, and training is critical to achieving our city’s equitable recovery, reopening and renewal.”
Digital Equity Fund awards range from $5,000 to $35,000 to support programming across a variety of Boston neighborhoods and communities. Boston-based nonprofit organizations serving Boston residents and neighborhoods disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic were prioritized in the funding, including the neighborhoods of East Boston, Dorchester, Roxbury, Mattapan, Roslindale and Hyde Park. Focus was given to organizations serving older adults, persons with disabilities, English for speakers of other languages (ESOL) or English Language Learner (ELL) students, residents of public housing or rental voucher holders, and/or adult residents who have lost employment due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The digital divide is fundamentally a social determinant of health for people with disabilities,” shared Susan Smith, Director of Operations and Development from the Boston Center for Independent Living. “We will be providing not only hotspots and laptops, but adaptive technology essential to using this technology. It is essential to break down various barriers to integration to today’s intensely technology-driven universe.”
“For immigrants, 21st century digital skills are as important as English skills if they want to attain economic self-sufficiency,” shared Mike Oliver, the Director of St. Marks. “Our project will help them on this path."
"We have been serving the community since 1775 and we are excited to expand our services,” said Justin A. Petty, Senior Grand Warden of the MW Prince Hall Grand Lodge. “Now, we will be able to offer online and technology training for seniors so that they are not left behind in this post-COVID digital world.“
The City of Boston's Broadband and Digital Equity efforts improve access to affordable and reliable high-speed Internet for households and businesses, expand the availability of high-speed Internet in public places, and facilitate ease of access to up-to-date digital tools. The Boston Equity Office joined with the City’s Department of Innovation & Technology and the Age-Strong Commission to support ways through the the Digital Equity Fund to build individual and community capacity for:
- Using the Internet, digital skills, and digital tools to pursue professional, educational, and civic endeavors;
- Engaging with the Internet safely;
- Developing needs-responsive, community-driven digital skills-building opportunities;
- Increasing broadband adoption among Bostonians who do not subscribe to this service in the home.
The following grants were announced this week:
Allston Brighton Community Development Corporation: Allston Brighton Community Development Corporation will use the funding to offer in-person technology education courses in English and Spanish for older Bostonians who live in the organization’s affordable rental portfolio. The organization will additionally provide participants with a Chromebook and other supplies after completing the course.
Boston Center for Independent Living: The Boston Center for Independent Living will use the funding to provide 150 persons with disabilities with key technology to facilitate their use of laptops, PCs, and tablets. Hotspots will be provided to ensure Internet connections and adaptive equipment will be purchased to ensure a person’s digital devices are usable by them. The project will serve residents of Dorchester, Mid-Dorchester, Roxbury, and Mattapan.
Boston Higher Education Resource Center: The Boston HIgher Education Resource Center will use the funding to increase high school and college English Language Learner (ELL) students’ access to personal computer devices as well as provide training to these students in order for them to make the best use of these devices towards their education and career goals. This programming will take place at the organization’s Boston Public Schools partner schools including English High School, East Boston High School, Jeremiah E Burke High School, Margarita Muñiz Academy, as well as through our Community-based (after school) program at our Roxbury/South End site.
Boston Project Ministries: The Boston Project Ministries will use the funding to implement a user-centered tool to help seniors connect civically and socially through digital platforms.
Castle Square Tenants’ Organization: Castle Square Tenants’ Organization will use the funding to build digital skills among Castle Square’s senior residents and elder Board Members of the Castle Square Tenants Organization (CSTO) by hosting a daily drop-in class and online chats that offer both digital skills demos and informal Q&A sessions.
Central Boston Elder Services: Central Boston Elder Services will use the funding to support low-income, elderly Roxbury residents by providing tablets, training, ongoing end-user support, and internet access. Participants will learn how to access the internet, set up email accounts, and how to participate in virtual meetings to help reduce isolation and learn about programs and community resources.
Center for Community Health Education Research and Service: The Center for Community Health Education Research and Service will use the funding to improve older African American/Black and Latinx (AA/BL) adults self-management of diabetes by increasing their self-efficacy in using technology. The proposal seeks to engage high school students (juniors and seniors) in training to become certified nursing assistants (CNAs) to help elders living independently to self-manage their diabetes.
Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corporation (CSNDC): The Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corporation will use the funding to expand existing workforce training programs (e.g. the Green Infrastructure certification program) in Dorchester and expand Codman Square’s ability to offer hybrid training opportunities.
East Boston Community Council: The East Boston Community Council will use the funding to support English Language Learning (ELL) students and their families by providing internet services at home and internet training, along with tablets for students in need.
Ethos: Ethos will use the funding to address the challenges of social isolation among seniors in Boston, both during and beyond COVID-19, through innovation in information delivery and improved technology access.
Found in Translation: Found in Translation will use the funding to support students and alumni in Dorchester’s Found in Translation program by providing the equipment and technology literacy training necessary to partake in a medical interpreting certificate training course and in the interpreting profession more generally.
Harvard Street Neighborhood Health Center, Inc.: Harvard Street Neighborhood Health Center will use the funding to facilitate telehealth access in Dorchester, Mattapan, and Roxbury by providing the equipment and training residents need to engage. The project seeks to provide cell phones and entry-level laptops for participants alongside technology training and a mobile application to overcome language, cultural, and age-related barriers.
Mothers for Justice and Equality, Inc.: Mothers for Justice and Equality, Inc. will use the funding to provide 200 chromebooks and monthly unlimited Wi-Fi access cards to residents of Roxbury, Mattapan, and Dorchester. The project focuses on a job readiness program and seeks to help participants take online training courses, apply for jobs and housing assistance online, obtain records to support citizenship, and related tasks.
Neighborhood of Affordable Housing: Neighborhood of Affordable Housing will use the funding to support families in the East Boston community currently living within subsidized units. The project will distribute technology equipment and internet access while creating spaces at the Neighborhood of Affordable Housing to facilitate virtual interactions with residents and program participants.
Prince Hall: Prince Hall will use the funding to implement an innovative training program designed to close the digital divide for seniors by teaching them how to effectively and efficiently utilize technology in their daily lives. The program will provide 15 hours of instruction to all participants focusing on such topics as operating a computer, connecting to the Internet, finding needed information, and using email word-processing and virtual meetings.Those who successfully complete the program will receive a Chromebook and will be assisted in getting Internet access in their homes.
St. Mark Community Education Program: St. Mark Community Education Program will use the funding to recruit and train 20 multilingual volunteers to offer at least 30 free digital skills courses in different languages to workers who are either unemployed or underemployed. The courses will be offered online and in the Boston Public Library’s neighborhood branches once they reopen.
Victory Programs: Victory Programs will use the funding to enhance an existing mobile prevention team to connect clients to services they need (e.g. health support, substance abuse) and provide other skills training (e.g. resume development), as well as provide internet access for members of the Boston Living Center when they are at the program.
X-Cel Education: X-Cel Education will use the funding to provide basic to intermediate computer skill training for older adults.
Zumix: Zumix will use the funding to connect Boston’s youth with media training. Through sequential program offerings, Zumix will help youth deepen their computer and digital storytelling skills, engage in paid production opportunities, and explore future careers in the film industry.
This announcement builds on the City of Boston’s continued efforts to expand digital access to Bostonians. Previously, Boston launched initiatives for WiFi hotspots as part of the Boston Public Library's lending program, the Wicked Free WiFi program, and protections for Net Neutrality rules.
Grant recipients in previous years include Castle Square Tenants Organization, La Alianza Hispana, Mujeres Unidas Avanzando, and South End Technology Center @ Tent City. Projects funded to date have focused on technology audiovisual training for high school students; digital literacy courses covering basic to intermediate computer skills; how to use social media; digital applications for health, online banking, and protecting oneself and family online; and creative engagement in technology and engineering for youth and adults, including those who are formerly incarcerated.
For more digital equity resources, we recommend the Emergency Broadband Benefit. The Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) is an FCC program to help families and households struggling to afford internet service during the COVID-19 pandemic. EBB will provide a discount of up to $50 per month towards broadband service for eligible households and $100 towards the cost of a device. If you have any questions, please reach out to email@example.com.ABOUT THE DEPARTMENT OF INNOVATION AND TECHNOLOGY
The Department of Innovation and Technology (DoIT) oversees and guides all technology related activities associated with the delivery of products and services managed by every City department. The department provides a strategic framework and direction for leveraging technology to create business value. DoIT centralizes common shared services while offering dedicated, customer-facing teams for each service group to improve service delivery.
DoIT works to engage and empower residents with up-to-date technology through the Broadband and Digital Equity program. The program supports the Digital Equity Fund and the 21st Century Access Fund, which just this month received $4.4 million to fund the digital inclusion work of Boston Neighborhood Network Media (BNN Media) and Tech Goes Home (TGH.)ABOUT THE AGE STRONG COMMISSION
The Age Strong Commission works towards making Boston a city that fully embraces aging. Our mission is to enhance the lives of people 55+ with meaningful programs, resources, and connections so we can live and age strong together in Boston. For more than 50 years, we have served constituents as a City department, Council on Aging and Area Agency on Aging. In 2017, the Commission launched its Age-Friendly Action Plan, which is the City's blueprint to make Boston the best city to live and age in.ABOUT THE EQUITY CABINET
The Office of Equity works to embed equity and racial justice into all City planning and operations. The Office focuses on dismantling systemic barriers to achieve racial, gender, health, and socio-economic equality and works to ensure that an equity lens is placed on all programs, policies, and practices of local government.