A new program through the N.C. Department of Information Technology’s (NCDIT) Office of Digital Equity and Literacy will award $14 million in grants to community organizations to help North Carolinians afford high-speed internet, obtain digital devices and access digital literacy resources. The Digital Champions grant program has received 230 applications from community service, nonprofit, higher education and regional organizations requesting more than $150 million in funding from the $14 million program, demonstrating the strong need for more digital equity resources in the state.
“The vast interest we received from diverse organizations shows what a strong digital equity ecosystem we have here in North Carolina and demonstrates the ongoing need for digital inclusion efforts in every part of our state,” said Annette Taylor, director of the NCDIT Office of Digital Equity and Literacy. “By supporting the great work of our partners, we will help provide every North Carolinian with the chance to succeed in today’s digital society.”
The office received applications proposing digital equity projects from eligible entities to serve all 100 counties, including 31 higher education organizations, 29 K-12 organizations, 14 libraries, 24 local governments, 120 nonprofits and 12 regional entities. Many counties had project proposals from multiple applicants.
The Digital Champion grant program will create partnerships with organizations statewide to implement digital equity solutions that positively impact target populations identified in the Digital Equity Act, including low-income households; individuals who primarily reside in a rural area; older Americans/aging residents; incarcerated or justice involved; veterans; individuals with disabilities; individuals with a language barrier; and individuals who are members of a racial or ethnic minority group.
All projects must develop or expand digital equity programming and address at least one of the following elements of digital inclusion:
• Affordability of reliable high-speed internet
• Provision of internet-enabled devices (computer, laptops, etc.) that meet users' needs
• Access to digital literacy and skills training
• Quality technical support
• Applications and online content designed to increase accessibility and inclusivity
An external review committee will begin the multi-criteria application vetting process in February, and NCDIT expects to begin awarding Digital Champion grants this spring.
NCDIT is administering the grant program using federal American Rescue Plan Act funds as part of Governor Roy Cooper’s plan to close North Carolina’s digital divide. For more information, visit ncbroadband.gov.