As many of us continue to work or complete schoolwork from home, we’re reminded of the importance of internet and digital access. Due to the COVID-19 crisis, the digital divide feels as present as ever. Many individuals do not have internet or digital access and need the support to get it. The Digital Literacy Alliance (DLA) recognized this issue—and decided to respond.  

A fast-track grant cycle 

In April, the DLA launched a fast-track grant cycle to address the need to work and study remotely. The grant provides funding to create one or more Digital Navigator roles in  community organizations. This position focuses on digital inclusion—Digital Navigators will help residents access affordable internet and technology needs. These needs range from finding remote digital literacy training to helping residents apply for internet access to identifying low-cost or free computers 

The selected organizations 

When selecting the grant winners, the DLA considered a few key aspects. Applicants needed to meet the below criteria: 

  • Prepared to identify an existing employee that is qualified to take on the Digital Navigator role and/or manage a Digital Navigator volunteer model 
  • Able to define their specific community reach and how they are currently reaching out to individuals amid social distancing guidelines 
  • Hold expertise and experience in managing digital literacy programs and providing digital support 

The grants have been awarded to three organizations that meet the criteria and show their immense dedication to this work: Community Learning Center (CLC), the ExCITe Center at Drexel University, and SEAMAAC 

Each of these organizations have been awarded a total of $30,000. The total amount of money is split into two categories: $25,000 is dedicated to launching the Digital Navigator program, and $5,000 is designated to providing access to computers for those who need them.  

Looking ahead 

The organizations will receive these funds quickly so that they can dive into preparing their Digital Navigators and launching this work. Once each group has sorted through the logistics and defined the services they will be providing, we will share how to access these services with the public.