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What’s New in Digital Equity: Baltimore’s $1M Digital Skills Push

Plus, New Mexico’s broadband director is retiring, California has a new public broadband services bill and applications are open for the National Digital Inclusion Alliance’s 2023 digital trailblazers program.

The Baltimore skyline as seen from a dock in the harbor.
This week in “What’s New in Digital Equity” — our weekly look at government digital equity and broadband news — we have a number of interesting items, which you can jump to with the links below:


The Digital Equity Fund, through Baltimore City Information and Technology’s (BCIT) Office of Broadband and Digital Equity, is awarding more than $900,000 in grants to help advance digital skills in the community. The funding announced last week will support 22 Baltimore-based organizations as they create digital inclusion plans.

“Overcoming decades of disinvestment and neglect to close the digital divide is going to take a long-term commitment with long-term solutions,” said Mayor Brandon M. Scott in the announcement.

The fund offers three types of grants: education and outreach, planning and implementation. Though dollar amounts vary, most organizations receiving grants in the first category have been awarded $10,000, most in the second have been awarded $50,000 and most in the third have been awarded $75,000.

Grantees were selected for their scalable approaches to address digital equity gaps for Baltimore’s most vulnerable populations, such as people with disabilities, older adults, people who are unhoused or underhoused, people with limited English proficiency and people living in low-income households.

“Access to the digital ecosystem isn’t just a matter of convenience; it’s a matter of equity, economic opportunity and social inclusion,” said Shamiah Kerney, chief recovery officer of the Mayor’s Office of Recovery Programs, in the announcement.

The Digital Equity Fund was created in April 2023, supported through American Rescue Plan Act funding, to increase digital inclusion planning and implementation in the city. The Baltimore Civic Fund manages funding distribution.

Some of the grant recipients include PCs for People, Byte Back, TechUp Baltimore and the Latino Economic Development Center. More information about the fund and recipients can be found on the city’s website.

This announcement follows the city’s other digital equity work, including creating the role of director of broadband and digital equity, launching a campaign to increase Affordable Connectivity Program enrollment and Internet-enabled device distribution. (Julia Edinger)


New Mexico’s broadband director is set to retire.

Director Kelly Schlegel is set to retire from the position Friday after holding it for a little more than a year. The departure comes as New Mexico is preparing to deploy $675 million of federal funding under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Schlegel was an appointee of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

Schlegel brought a veteran technologist’s perspective to the New Mexico broadband office, having served in the software engineering, aerospace and tech sector for more than 40 years before going to the state, including 30 years with The Boeing Company.

A replacement has not yet been announced. (Zack Quaintance)


This week, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 825, which addresses local government and public broadband services. Essentially, it enables more agencies to participate in broadband access expansion.

More specifically, the bill adds metropolitan planning organizations and regional transportation planning authorities to the list of agencies included in the definition of “local government.” (Julia Edinger)


The National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA) is currently accepting applications for its 2023 Digital Inclusion Trailblazers, which is one of the premiere certifications for government agencies in the digital inclusion and equity space.

Now in its seventh year, the program has recognized 39 cities, towns and counties as Digital Inclusion Trailblazers. This year the NDIA, along with a working group of affiliates, introduced updates to the categories, indicators and scoring it uses to identify U.S. jurisdictions leading the way on government digital inclusion.

The updated categories are as follows:
  1. Dedicate Resources
  2. Fund and Aid Digital Inclusion Programs
  3. Participate in Digital Inclusion Ecosystem
  4. Engage the Community
  5. Advance Digital Inclusion Through Policy
  6. Use Data to Inform Digital Inclusion
  7. Create a Local Digital Inclusion Plan
For more information, or to apply, visit the NDIA website. (Zack Quaintance)


This week, the Washington State Department of Commerce announced $14.5 million in grants to expand Internet access through digital navigator services. Through its Internet for All in Washington initiative, the department will award grants to three organizations to support job seekers, families with students, English language learners, Medicaid clients, people experiencing poverty and seniors.

The funding announced this week will support the Equity in Education Coalition of Washington, the Community Health Network of Washington and the Nisqually Indian Tribe. Projects will be completed in partnership with various community-based organizations. The digital navigator services funded by these grants include a hotline for community members to call to gain access to devices, digital skills training and other resources. The funding will support services through June 30, 2024.

The digital navigator model has found success nationwide. For Washington, this is the third year of the Commerce Digital Navigator Program. Already, it has helped more than 213,000 residents gain access to digital skills, services, subscriptions or devices. (Julia Edinger)


Michigan’s governor has declared Sept. 11 through Sept. 15 as the state’s Digital Connectivity and Lifeline Awareness Week.

In a proclamation, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer called on all “government agencies, industry leaders and consumer advocates to educate residents about state and federal programs for voice and broadband connectivity and further initiate and promote outreach events.” She cited the vital role broadband plays in modern life and said many can’t afford their own high-speed Internet.

Awareness is one of the major goals, as shown in the week’s name. Spreading awareness of digital equity programs — as well as funding initiatives such as the Affordable Connectivity Program — has become a foundational element of digital equity work in the U.S. in 2023. (Zack Quaintance)
Julia Edinger is a staff writer for Government Technology. She has a bachelor's degree in English from the University of Toledo and has since worked in publishing and media. She's currently located in Southern California.
Associate editor for <i>Government Technology</i> magazine.