The North Carolina Department of Information Technology’s (NCDIT) Division of Broadband and Digital Equity announced $9.9 million in Federal funding for the state’s Digital Equity Grant program.
The Digital Equity Grant program will help state residents afford high-speed internet, obtain digital devices, and access digital literacy resources. Funding for the program came from the American Rescue Plan Act approved by Congress in 2021. A press release from NCDIT explains that the multi-phased Digital Equity Grant “encourages collaborative partnerships that positively impact populations” identified in the state’s Digital Equity Act.
“All North Carolinians need the knowledge and the devices to safely access the internet,” said Gov. Roy Cooper in a press release. “This first round of digital equity funding will help us build the foundation of the effort to make sure everyone can get online in an affordable way.”
NCDIT highlighted which state entities received the funding:
- East Carolina University was awarded $1.4 million to train community health workers across the 29-county eastern N.C. subregion to provide digital literacy and skills training sessions and partner with libraries to deploy computing devices, hotspots and rugged internet hubs.
- C. Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Aging and Adult Services was awarded $1.1 million to train and support digital navigators to serve the digital needs of older adults in all 100 counties.
- C. Department of Adult Correction, Education Services was awarded $1.4 million to upfit classrooms in prison facilities with computer labs and devices and increase digital literacy among incarcerated individuals enrolled in education services.
- C. State University – Institute for Emerging Issues was awarded $1.2 million to develop and help implement digital inclusion plans across the state to support Gov. Cooper’s goal to increase broadband adoption to 80 percent across all racial subgroups by 2025.
- C. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Rural Health was awarded $1.6 million to implement a train-the-trainer digital skills and health language program for rural communities across the state, provide technical and capacity building support for organizations, and increase access to affordable internet in migrant housing.
- C. Business Committee for Education, Inc. was awarded $1.4 million to expand technology teams to provide free training and paid experience to high school students who can provide technical training for adults and peers and help desk support to their schools and communities.
- C. Department of Transportation, Office of Civil Rights was awarded $1.3 million to provide job-specific digital skills training and devices for individuals enrolled in N.C. Department of Transportation workforce trainings.
- C. Division of Historic Sites and Properties was awarded $468,000 to increase the availability and accessibility of online content by hiring a digital inclusion coordinator to develop online offerings that feature various assistive technologies and fund broadband subscription costs for visitors at historic sites and properties.
“Through this collaboration with our state partners, we can advance meaningful digital equity, inclusion and literacy projects in communities across the state,” said NCDIT Secretary and State Chief Information Officer Jim Weaver. “These Digital Equity Grants will help fund digital device distribution, technology support and workforce development programs that will help us close the digital divide.”
NCDIT said the second phase of the digital equity grant program will open by March to applications from municipalities and nonprofits, community-based organizations, and key stakeholder groups for local digital inclusion projects and device distribution. A total of $14 million will be available to fund proposals made during phase two of the grant program.