Mayor Janey announces funding awards for digital equity initiatives across the City of Boston

The City announced last week 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.

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.”

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 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 local grants were announced this week:

•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 as well as through our Community-based (after school) program at our Roxbury/South End site.

•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.

•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.

•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.

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