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2023 Digital Equity Fund

Note: The application period for the City of Boston's 2023 Digital Equity Fund is now closed. We look forward to reviewing all submitted applications and thank everyone who applied!

The City proudly launched the latest round of the Digital Equity Fund back on October 2, 2023. We are excited to continue helping ensure that our residents have affordable and reliable internet, needs-based digital skills training, and access to vital online resources. 

This year's fund was the largest to date, totaling $1,522,200. We also expanded it to have three focus areas:

  1. Digital Navigation Work* ($922,200)
  2. Efforts to Improve Telehealth Programming ($500,000)
  3. Device Refurbishment Programming ($100,000)

We encouraged all community-based organizations who were interested to apply. We look forward to supporting innovative ways to provide Bostonians with the tools we need to navigate our increasingly digital world. The deadline to submit an application was 11:59 p.m. on Monday, November 13, 2023

*Note: Due to the uncertainty about the continuation of the federal Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) first announced in January 2024, we had to change the original focus area, "Enrollment into the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP)," to "Digital Navigation Work," which will help organizations provide technology assistance, computer classes, devices, and more to their community members. We allowed applicants who had applied to the original focus area to update their applications.

Apply for the fund

  • Have questions? Contact us:

    Please email or call our team with any questions about the Digital Equity Fund and the application process:

  • 1 City Hall Square
    Room 703
    Boston, MA 02201-2021

About the Fund

This year's Digital Equity Fund will continue to accelerate solutions for: social, educational, and economic problems through community-based digital equity programs.

The programs will provide immediate, positive impacts on Boston families. They will help to increase participation and access to opportunities in all aspects of life for those who have been historically left behind. The City of Boston Digital Equity Fund will cover three areas.

  1. Digital Navigation work,
  2. Efforts to improve telehealth programming, and
  3. Device refurbishment projects. 

Digital Equity Fund Areas

Boston is fortunate to have robust competition among broadband and wireless service providers, with wide access throughout the City. However, broadband that is not affordable is not accessible, and so one focus area of this year's Fund is to provide community-based organizations with the tools they need to perform Digital Navigation work. These services include (but are not limited to) ongoing assistance with affordable internet access, device acquisition, technical skills, and application support. 

The City invites community-based organizations, non-profit institutions, social service agencies, local religious groups, and advocacy agencies to apply for this grant to assist eligible clients, constituents, customers and congregations. Awards for this portion of the DEF will range from $20,000 to $30,000 and recipients will have one year to expend funds from when they are received. 

In order to help residents, funds may be used for the following:

  • Purchasing devices for staff and/or residents (laptops, tablets)
  • New or existing digital skills programs
  • Staff support (current and new employees, such as hiring "Digital Navigators")
  • Outreach efforts (ads, translation services, events, supplies, tools)

The COVID-19 pandemic showed us that we as a society must adapt to how we provide healthcare services. Since in-person visits were not possible, countless people lost out on the opportunity to have their annual physicals and health screenings, necessary care for illnesses ranging from cancer to the flu to mental health, important surgeries, and general consultations. 

With Boston being home to the best healthcare services in the country and the world, we are committed to ensure broad access to quality medical care to our residents. 

We plan on competitively distributing two awards of $250,000 each to be spent over a two year period to existing providers and partners who can propose plans to enhance telehealth access; enhancements might include: investing in additional capabilities for the health care providers, and increasing support for patients who experience gaps in digital tools by providing education and training. As part of an initial screening, participants who are identified as candidates for additional digital health literacy education can participate in courses. Each of the two recipients will receive funds to cover participants’ costs for participating in the literacy courses, including transportation ($25,000), childcare ($20,000), and space/logistics ($5,000).

Device refurbishment programs offer a unique opportunity to provide low-or no-cost devices to families that need them, while reducing the environmental impact on the lifecycle of these devices. These programs also provide pathways to employment, which benefits vulnerable groups. This component of the Digital Equity fund will seek partners that execute programs providing workforce development, training, and other activities while refurbishing devices that are provided to income-eligible residents. 

The device refurbishment portion will provide two awards of $50,000 each to be spent over a two year period. Organizations interested in applying for the Device Refurbishment portion of the Digital Equity Fund must be committed to providing devices to a substantial and meaningful number of Boston residents, even if the organizations are not entirely Boston-based. 

Apply for the Fund

Funding will be prioritized to: 
  • local non-profits,
  • places of worship,
  • healthcare organizations, and
  • community-based organizations serving Boston neighborhoods disproportionately impacted by the digital divide. This includes (but is not limited to) Dorchester, Roxbury, Mattapan, East Boston, and Hyde Park.
We encourageD organizations that work with the following populations to apply: 
  • Households with income at or below 200% of the national poverty line.
  • Households where any member participates in one of these programs:
    • Assistance programs such as SNAP, Medicaid, SSI, Federal Public Housing Assistance, WIC, Veterans and Survivors Pension Benefits, or Lifeline.
    • Eligible Tribal programs.
    • A currently-awarded federal Pell Grant.
    • A school lunch or breakfast program.
  • Households where any member meets the eligibility criteria for a participating service provider's existing low-income program. 
To Have qualified for a grant, organizations must Have fit the following criteria:
  • Be a 501(c)(3) or have a fiscal sponsor
  • Be Boston-based and/or serve Boston residents specifically.
How to Apply

The application period for the 2023 Digital Equity Fund is now closed. Applications and attached files had to be submitted through the 2023 Digital Equity Fund Google Form Application by 11:59 p.m. on Monday, November 13. You could only apply for one of the above options and award amounts will vary for each focus area. To preview the questions, and prepare answers ahead of time, applicants were able to make a copy of this Google Document version of the application.

Apply Today

Fund background

We support projects that:
  • help people use the Internet, digital skills, and digital tools to pursue life goals
  • allow communities to work, play, learn, and engage in civic life on the Internet safely and securely
  • make decisions based on the needs of their community, and
  • work to help households who don’t subscribe to broadband get access to this service.
History

In 2017, the City of Boston used $35,000 to offer grants to local community organizations. We administered the fund through a selective application process. The first grant was awarded to the Castle Square Tenants Organization to fund its work with local students. Through our grant, the nonprofit was able to provide paid internships to more than a dozen students. They also offered an audio/visual college course, in partnership with the Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology. 

In 2019, three Boston nonprofits received the grants — La Alianza Hispana, Mujeres Unidas Avanzando, and South End Technology Center. These groups received $100,000 in grants combined through the fund.

Most recently in 2021, we were able to support 19 community-based organizations with nearly $500,000 in funding. These grants funded projects that addressed three major technology challenges: device access, affordable and reliable internet access, and digital skills training. Learn more about the 2021 recipients here!

Watch: Castle Square Tenants Organization

Previous Years Digital Equity Fund

Previous Years
The 2021 round of the Digital Equity Fund supported 19 organizations with nearly $500,000. 

We are excited to announce that 19 Boston nonprofit organizations received $478,900 in grants. Learn more about the programs that were funded:

2021 Digital Equity Fund Awards

In 2021, City of Boston launched the third round of the Digital Equity Fund, which supported the Boston community through nearly $500,000 in mini-grants. This work was funded in partnership with:

  • the Age Strong Commission, and
  • the Department of Innovation and Technology

Grants went towards solving three major technology challenges:

1. EQUIPMENT:

We supported the community by providing the technology equipment required to keep folks connected. This included:

  • smartphones
  • tablets
  • laptops, and
  • any other technology devices that would support your cause.
2. ACCESS:

Internet access is essential to staying connected to the world. These grants also went toward hotspots, WiFi, and any other connectivity essentials. It also supported organizations working with residents who are eligible for the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP).

3. TRAINING:

We know technology can change by the day. These grants also supported the training needed to empower organizations or residents with the tools they needed to utilize technology. 

We encouraged non-profits focused on serving the following populations to apply: 

  • Older adults 
  • Persons with disabilities 
  • English for speakers of other languages (ESOL) or English Language Learner (ELL) students
  • Residents of Public Housing or rental voucher holders
  • Adult residents who have lost employment due to the COVID-19 pandemic

Finally, organizations focused on neighborhoods disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 were prioritized. These neighborhoods included:

  • East Boston
  • Dorchester
  • Roxbury
  • Mattapan, and
  • Hyde Park.

See the map of neighborhood impact.  

  • Have questions? Contact us:

    Please email or call our team with any questions about the Digital Equity Fund and the application process:

  • 1 City Hall Square
    Room 703
    Boston, MA 02201-2021
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