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What's New in Digital Equity: Improving Government Service

Plus, the General Services Administration is working to ensure that the American Rescue Plan will advance equitable outcomes, the federal government is expanding its TechWomen mentor program, and more.

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:


A new report from the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) looks at federal goals to better serve constituents, and how digital services are key to success.

The report was released this month, and it notes that the Biden administration has made improving the experience of interacting with government a priority, which hinges on the federal government's ability to provide robust digital services. With that in mind, the report goes on to note that many federal agencies are behind in digital adoption, and that they generally are not doing enough to measure customer experiences on digital platforms.

In addition, the report offers six other key takeaways. These are that measuring customer satisfaction with digital services from federal agencies is insufficient; overall satisfaction with the federal government is low; adoption of best-in-class digital services is also low; and more.

Providing better digital services from government agencies is often seen as an equity issue. When services are easier to use and access, it opens up government to more people, enabling them to get the service and support they are entitled to. Improving digital service for constituents is not just a priority at the federal level, but also increasingly a goal among the central IT shops within state government. Local government — particularly in larger cities — has also made quite a bit of progress in this area in recent years.

As the report points out, federal government digital services lag behind, which tends to be the case generally. The larger a government structure is, the longer it takes to catch up to service standards set by smaller governments as well as by the private sector.

This new report can be read in full via the ITIF website. (Zack Quaintance)


The General Services Administration (GSA) has awarded a multiyear contract aimed at examining the role of the American Rescue Plan (ARP) in advancing equitable outcomes for programs at the federal, state and local levels.

The contract was awarded to the American Institutes for Research (AIR), whose work in this area will be supported by the Office of Evaluation Sciences (OES), in partnership with other adjacent groups. The OES will work to complement the AIR's study by conducting its own evaluations of American Rescue Plan programs.

Dubbed the American Rescue Plan National Evaluation, this study will seek to provide a systematic look at how some programs funded by the rescue plan are contributing to equitable outcomes. To do this, it will examine program design and delivery across the federal government. It will also be part of a portfolio managed by the GSA's Technology Transformation Services, which has been tasked with its own commitment to making government service delivery more inclusive.

All told, the American Rescue Plan stands to invest $1.9 trillion into the country to offset the negative economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The new evaluations will be essential for understanding the role of ARP programs and supported interventions in improving outcomes for historically underserved populations,” said Andrea M. O'Neal, GSA's senior adviser for equity, in a statement. “GSA’s evaluations will measure whether ARP-funded interventions are working as intended and GSA will share any lessons learned.” (Zack Quaintance)


TechWomen, an initiative of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs that brings women in STEM together for an international mentorship and exchange program, has just marked its 10th anniversary, and the program will be expanding.

The Oct. 20 expansion announcement noted the program will expand to the Balkans, starting with Albania and Montenegro, as well as to Chicago, where the program will focus on biotechnology and agricultural technology.

In addition, TechWomen will launch the first state department global summit for women in tech to collaborate as well as participate in a competition for funding. Moving forward, there will also be a stronger connection between TechWomen and TechGirls, which is the department’s tech exchange for those of the ages 15-17. And finally, with this expansion, three regional NextGen TechCamps in the Middle East and North Africa, South and Central Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa will help strengthen tech communities globally.  (Julia Edinger)


The window for state government agencies, universities and community colleges to apply for $10 million through the state’s digital equity grant program has been extended through Nov. 10.

“We are extending the application deadline to give state partners more time to develop and submit applications that will drive measurable change for communities across our state,” stated NCDIT Secretary and State Chief Information Officer Jim Weaver in the announcement.

For this initial phase of funding, grant recipients can be awarded up to $2 million for projects that will be completed by the end of 2024. The second phase of funding, totaling $14 million, will open in 2023. The grant program is leveraging American Rescue Plan Act funding for collaborative digital equity projects. (Julia Edinger)


The Maryland Board of Public Works has approved a contract of up to $30 million that will allow the Office of Statewide Broadband to provide Internet-enabled laptops to about 150,000 underserved households in the state.

To accomplish this, the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development will partner with local governments and their community partners to distribute the devices effectively. Jurisdictions may apply to participate in early November.

This is a part of the state’s Connect Maryland initiative, which aims to achieve universal broadband across the state. As the state works to expand broadband access, Internet-enabled devices are critical to ensuring adoption. (Julia Edinger)


Seattle is looking for volunteers to join its Community Technology Advisory Board, a 10-member group that helps guide the city's strategies toward and investments in technology.

The board helps advise Seattle's Information Technology department, its mayor's office and its City Council. Issues that the board advises on include broadband, digital equity, web-based city services, privacy, surveillance, community engagement and the deployment of new technologies, including small cell and 5G.

Participants don't necessarily need to work in technology. There are, however, a few baseline eligibility requirements. These are living or working in Seattle, committing to a minimum two-year appointment, devoting five to 10 hours a month to this, attending one monthly meeting, and more.

The application deadline for interested parties is Nov. 14, and the application form can be accessed via the city's website. (Zack Quaintance)
Associate editor for Government Technology magazine.
Julia Edinger is a staff writer for <i>Government Technology</i>. 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.