A new grant at the intersection of city government and philanthropy aims to improve the quality of life for Baltimore City residents by providing broader Internet access and related essential resources.
Mayor Scott, in partnership with the Baltimore City Office of Information and Technology (BCIT) Office of Broadband and Digital Equity (BDE), created this grant — known as the Digital Equity Fund — last week. The initiative aims to reduce the digital divide and increase digital equity through a cash pool supporting community-led digital inclusion plans. The initiative begins with an initial seed of $1 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds; The Baltimore Civic Fund, an independent non-profit organization that supports public-private initiatives like this one, will manage the distribution of the funds. Applications are possible until June 2nd.
The fund aims to address the city’s endemic digital divide, which impacts residents’ quality of life – particularly in relation to work, education, healthcare and social interactions. Unfortunately, many Baltimore residents lack the necessary skills and devices to fully participate in economic life: more than 40 percent do not have wired broadband access at home. Centuries of disinvestment have left the most vulnerable residents, who are predominantly black and brown, hardest hit by this digital divide.
Mayor Scott acknowledged these issues and their dire impact on Baltimore residents in an announcement emailed to Technical.ly.
“Clearly, participating in our society requires access to affordable, high-speed internet and devices, and the knowledge and skills to use those tools,” he said. “Through the Digital Equity Fund, we are investing in community-led efforts to build knowledge and skills and close the digital divide – particularly in communities that have experienced historic divestments.”
“Through the Digital Equity Fund, we will support the great work already being done in communities and new efforts to bridge the digital divide,” added BDE interim director Kenya Asli in the same announcement. “This is an important contribution to Baltimore’s digital ecosystem and reinforces the city’s focus on long-term, sustainable solutions that benefit all Baltimore residents.”
To fill these gaps, the Digital Equity Fund will provide three types of grants to Baltimore-based 501(c)(3) organizations that work in partnership with communities. Education and outreach grants will provide between $5,000 and $10,000 for community-based activities that raise awareness of the digital divide, support programs to bridge the digital divide, and build capacity.
Planning grants, available for up to $50,000, will support community building efforts to develop neighborhood digital inclusion plans; Depending on the scope of the planning grant, the recipients receive two-stage funding. Finally, implementation grants, available for up to $75,000, will help neighborhoods enact digital inclusion plans.
According to the city’s press release, applicants should consider how their proposals would address the needs of populations most likely to fall on the wrong side of the digital divide. These groups include people with disabilities, racial or ethnic minorities, non-English speakers, ex-prisoners, families with young children, and people affected by homelessness.
Prospective applicants seeking further details, access to the application portal and details of informational sessions can visit the Baltimore Civic Fund official website:
Find out more about the Digital Equity Fund
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