When Western New York’s philanthropic community, united under the banner of the WNY COVID-19 Community Response Fund, turned its attention from immediate responses to COVID-19 to longer-term pandemic recovery, it saw the opportunity to address issues that perpetuated inequity across the region. This gave rise to the Moving Forward Together initiative, which seeks to create system- and community-wide change by funding community innovations through responsive grants and community collaborations.
The WNY Digital Equity Coalition is one such community collaboration. Comprising representatives from community-based organizations, business, government, school districts, higher education, philanthropy, and unaffiliated community members, the coalition seeks to promote digital inclusion and digital equity for all Western New Yorkers. The Coalition was first convened in September 2020, and currently meets monthly as a full coalition, with committees meeting in between.
What is digital inclusion?
We take our lead on definitions from the National Digital Inclusion Alliance:
“Digital Inclusion refers to the activities necessary to ensure that all individuals and communities, including the most disadvantaged, have access to and use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). This includes 5 elements: 1) affordable, robust broadband internet service; 2) internet-enabled devices that meet the needs of the user; 3) access to digital literacy training; 4) quality technical support; and 5) applications and online content designed to enable and encourage self-sufficiency, participation and collaboration. Digital Inclusion must evolve as technology advances. Digital Inclusion requires intentional strategies and investments to reduce and eliminate historical, institutional and structural barriers to access and use technology.”
What is digital equity?
Again, from NDIA:
“Digital Equity is a condition in which all individuals and communities have the information technology capacity needed for full participation in our society, democracy and economy. Digital Equity is necessary for civic and cultural participation, employment, lifelong learning, and access to essential services.”