Last week, U.S. Senators Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Rob Portman (D-Ohio), and Angus King (R-Maine) reintroduced the Digital Equity Act. The Digital Equity Act of 2021 strengthens federal support for efforts to help ensure students, families, and workers have the information technology capacity needed to fully participate in society.
This legislation would achieve this goal by establishing two grant programs to be administered by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to promote digital equity nationwide. More specifically it would:
- Build capacity within states through formula grants.
The legislation creates an annual $125 million formula grant program for all 50 States, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico to fund the creation and implementation of comprehensive digital equity plans in each state.
- Spur targeted action through competitive grants.
The legislation also creates an annual $125 million competitive grant program to support digital equity projects undertaken by individual groups, coalitions, and/or communities of interest.
- Support research and evidence-based policymaking.
The legislation tasks NTIA with evaluating digital inclusion projects and providing policymakers at the local, state, and federal levels with detailed information about which projects are most effective.
At Voqal, we believe that closing the digital divide is an urgent priority. Furthermore, COVID-19 has shone a harsh light on the existing inequities that make up this divide. According to a 2019 report from Pew Research Center, 58% of Black adults and 57% of Hispanic adults have a laptop or desktop computer, compared with 82% of white adults. Meanwhile, 66% of Black adults and 61% of Hispanic adults have broadband access at home compared with 79% of white adults. These numbers show that the racial inequities that have come into sharp focus this past year are ever-present in the digital space.
Digital equity is about ensuring everyone can fully participate in our society, democracy, and economy. In a world where digital skills and digital access are needed to get an education, invest in skills training, apply for jobs, access unemployment benefits, and more – digital equity is essential. The bipartisan Digital Equity Act of 2021 recognizes this reality and proposes an important step forward to address the digital divide. Voqal fully supports this important piece of legislation and strongly encourages Congress to take this necessary step towards a more equitable digital landscape.
Learn more about the Digital Equity Act of 2021 at digitalequityact.org.