Today, Mayor Brandon M. Scott, through the Baltimore City Information & Technology’s (BCIT) Office of Broadband and Digital Equity (BDE), moves one step closer to closing the digital divide with the launch of the Digital Equity Fund.
The initiative supports the creation of community-led digital inclusion plans and provides funding for communities to bring those plans to life. The Digital Equity Fund is initially seeded with $1 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding. The Baltimore Civic Fund will manage the distribution of funds. Grant applications are open now through June 2, 2023.
“Without question, participation in our society requires access to affordable high-speed internet and devices, as well as the knowledge and skills to use those tools,” said Mayor Brandon M. Scott. “With the Digital Equity Fund, we are investing in community-led efforts to build knowledge and skills and close the digital divide – especially among communities that have experienced historic disinvestment.”
Increasingly, our quality of life is impacted by the digital divide. Work, education, health care, and socializing with friends and family require participation in a digital world. Yet many Baltimore residents lack the essential skills and tools needed to fully engage in our modern, digital world: More than 1 in 4 Baltimore households lack a digital device, and more than 40 percent lack internet access. Centuries of disinvestment also means our most vulnerable residents often feel the most impact of the digital divide.
“Through the Digital Equity Fund, we will support the great work already happening in communities and new efforts to address the digital divide. This is an important contribution to Baltimore’s digital ecosystem and reaffirms the city’s focus on long-term, sustainable solutions benefiting all Baltimore residents,” said Kenya Asli, Interim Director, Office of Broadband and Digital Equity, BCIT.
To help address these gaps, the Digital Equity Fund will provide three types of grants to Baltimore-based nonprofit organizations working in close partnership with communities:
- Education and Outreach grants ($5,000 – 10,000) will fund community-based activities to raise awareness of the digital divide, support programming to address the digital divide, and build capacity.
- Planning grants (up to $50,000) will support community-building efforts to develop neighborhood digital inclusion plans and will also receive funding at two tiers, depending on the scope of the planning grant.
- Implementation grants (up to $75,000) will support communities in putting digital inclusion plans into action.
For more information about the Digital Equity Fund, to access the Request for Applications and application portal, or to sign up for information sessions about the Fund, visit: www.baltimorecivicfund.org/digital-equity-fund.