Many folks have been left behind in today’s increasingly digital society, as they lack the skills or resources to use technology. To address this problem, the U.S. federal government passed the Digital Equity Act in 2021, which allocated $2.75 billion to support digital inclusion efforts. A government agency called the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) is responsible for overseeing this work.
Recently, the NTIA issued a Request for Comments, or RFC, to solicit feedback on how to best implement the Digital Equity Act funding in order to truly make the biggest impact on the lives of Americans. Anyone was eligible to submit their opinion.
Since Community Tech Network has been working to establish digital equity for the past 15 years, we decided to offer the NTIA suggestions based on our firsthand experiences. On May 1, 2023, we submitted an 11-page response to 12 questions related to the Digital Equity Act.
Our comments covered a wide range of topics within the realm of digital inclusion, particularly highlighting the need to make initiatives be community-focused. For example, in response to one question, we said, “Capacity grant programs will ensure that equity is achieved by supporting organizations which center the lived experiences of the communities being served, in their own neighborhoods with culturally and linguistically appropriate interventions rather than looking for a one-size-fits-all approach.”
Additionally, we stressed the importance of listening to folks from marginalized communities. Our team wrote that, in order to measure success, “NTIA should include qualitative data that capture the voices of those most impacted by the digital divide. NTIA should establish testimonials, survey quotes, and other primary sources of data directly from individuals … in the covered populations who received some support from the Digital Equity Act grant programs.”
Overall, digital equity advocates have an important role to play in shaping policies that promote access to digital resources and technology. CTN is transforming lives on the ground every day, but by applying our knowledge in sharing our feedback in RFCs such as this, we can also bring about change on the political level.
CTN’s digital equity program coordinator, Uhunoma Edamwen, led the effort to organize and submit our comments. He says: “Our comments on the Digital Equity Act Request for Comments reflect Community Tech Network’s deep expertise in, and commitment to, transforming lives with digital equity. As the federal government prepares to spend the bulk of its $2.75 billion Digital Equity Act funding, we recognize the importance of contributing our voice to help shape how these programs will operate over the next five years. I look forward to seeing the progress ahead as NTIA weaves our and others’ shared hopes and visions into a robust vehicle that drives digital equity into the future.”