In episode 186 of the Disruptors for GOOD podcast, I speak with National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA) Executive Director Angela Siefer and Google.org Americas Director Justin Steele, on removing digital divide roadblocks and empowering communities through technology.
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Access to the internet and digital resources is increasingly becoming a fundamental requirement for education, work, healthcare, and overall well-being. However, many rural and tribal communities in the United States still face significant barriers to digital inclusion.
The National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA) has recently announced a game-changing $10 million grant from Google.org.
This generous funding will facilitate the creation of the National Digital Navigator Corps, a transformative initiative aimed at removing digital divide roadblocks and empowering communities through technology training and connectivity.
The Largest Grant Yet
The $10 million grant from Google.org represents the most substantial funding NDIA has received to date.
It will not only support the establishment of the National Digital Navigator Corps but also enable NDIA to expand and refine its digital navigator model, which has proven successful across various programs nationwide.
“When access to the internet, a computer, and tech support keeps a community member from education, work, healthcare, and all the necessities of life, it is heartbreaking.
We must address any and all barriers to digital equity. This is what digital navigators do – weave digital support into our social safety net.
We’re thrilled to have the support of Google.org to build a digital navigator model in rural and Tribal lands, both supporting those communities and further defining digital navigator programs for the benefit of the whole country.” – Angela Siefer, executive director of NDIA.
NDIA’s National Digital Navigator Corps
The National Digital Navigator Corps will span 18 rural and tribal communities in the United States, reaching thousands of individuals.
The initiative will focus on providing one-on-one technology training, community outreach, and assistance in connecting people to the internet, appropriate devices, and essential training.
By deploying community-based digital navigators, the program aims to bridge the digital divide and integrate digital support into the existing social safety net.
Google.org’s Commitment to Digital Inclusion
Kent Walker, President for Global Affairs at Google, highlighted the importance of internet access and digital skills training as catalysts for opportunity.
“Where you live shouldn’t be a barrier to connecting to the world. Internet connections and digital skills training can provide enormous opportunities.
By supporting NDIA and their work to deploy a team of Digital Navigators across the country, we’ll be meeting people where they are, in rural and Tribal communities, providing tailored, one-to-one support.”
The Path Forward
NDIA identified 18 rural and tribal organizations that are receiving funding to establish digital navigator programs through the National Digital Navigator Corps.
The digital navigators work closely with individuals to determine the technological resources most beneficial to their communities, including broadband deployment, home internet connectivity, devices, and digital skills training.
Beyond the establishment of the National Digital Navigator Corps, the grant funding will have additional positive effects.
It will formalize NDIA’s digital navigator model, create a data collection system to track progress and impact, support digital navigator programs at tribal sites in collaboration with AMERIND, and develop publicly available digital navigator assets such as trainings, templates, and outreach tools.
This comprehensive approach aims to facilitate the expansion and scalability of digital inclusion initiatives nationwide.
AMERIND’s Role in Tribal Broadband Deployment
AMERIND Critical Infrastructure (ACI), a division of AMERIND, will collaborate with NDIA to support digital navigator programs at tribal sites.
ACI specializes in planning, building, and financing modern community broadband networks in Native communities.
By embedding digital inclusion advocates across Indian Country, this collaboration will empower tribal nations to leverage the benefits of high-speed internet and take their rightful place in the digital world.
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