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What’s New in Digital Equity: The Rise of Digital Skills Training

Plus, Georgia allocates $240 million toward broadband grants; the Public Library Association is hosting digital literacy workshops at 160 libraries; every state has applied for the Internet for All Initiative; 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:

As states are advancing plans to make the most of federal funding opportunities, some government agencies and other organizations are realizing the need for digital skills training. The creation of digital skills training programs is a nationwide trend that is steadily gaining speed with broadband expansion, as access to broadband does not necessarily mean adoption. People must have the skills to use it for expansion to be effective.

This week, we have items about digital skills training initiatives: one headed by the Public Library Association will have nationwide impact, and one in Wilmington, N.C., will help strengthen the local workforce. In addition, broadband investments at the state and federal level continue.


The city of Wilmington, N.C., is bringing digital skills training to residents with the upcoming launch of DigitalBridge Wilmington, marked by the City Council’s unanimous funding approval. It will be funded through $2.5 million from the American Rescue Plan Act.

The program, which is expected to see its official launch in early 2023, will focus its efforts on high-opportunity, high-need census tracts in the city, aiming to fill local job opportunities. It will involve a one-on-one meeting with a digital coach, individualized skill trainings, certification opportunities and more.

The program is a partnership with employers — namely Cape Fear Collective, StepUp Wilmington and Wireless Research Center of North Carolina — that will help participants gain digital upskilling and reskilling, as well as be paired with jobs. Cape Fear Collective will oversee the Talent Pipeline Management and inform curriculum, StepUp Wilmington will leverage local employer relationships and house the program, and Wireless Research Center of North Carolina will oversee the program, service delivery and budgeting. (Julia Edinger)


The Public Library Association (PLA) is coordinating digital literacy workshops in 160 libraries across the country, doing so with more than $1 million in contributions from AT&T, the organization has announced.

The workshops are part of the PLA Digital Literacy Workshop Incentive, which is aimed at helping libraries generally with boosting digital skills in their communities. At the center of these workshops are online digital literacy courses that the PLA has developed in collaboration with AT&T, and which are actually available to anyone through The subject matter for these courses cover foundational digital literacy elements, from the basics of using new technologies to how best to avoid getting scammed online.

The money going to help sponsor the 160 workshops will be used for expanding lessons, deploying updated course materials and promoting the events to the communities.

Libraries have long been on the front lines of digital equity work in the United States, and, in many ways, are perhaps the original government effort to bridge the digital divide. In many communities they still serve as the first point of contact for residents who need help with or access to new technologies. In fact, a recent PLA survey found that roughly 88 percent of libraries in the country provide some form of digital literacy support, with 42 percent providing formal digital skills training classes. (Zack Quaintance)


An investment of $240 million will be used to expand high-speed Internet in the state of Georgia, made available through the Capital Projects Fund Grant Program. The projects that receive funding through this program will be those that build broadband networks to support households and businesses.

“Whether you own a small business in rural Georgia, run a farm that utilizes precision agriculture technology, or have children that need to do their homework, the expansion of high-speed internet impacts all Georgians,” said Gov. Brian Kemp in the announcement.

The funding will be administered through the Office of Planning and Budget (OPB) through a competitive grant program that began Aug. 15.

More information can be found on the OPB website. (Julia Edinger)


The U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) has announced that all 50 states and every U.S territory have now submitted applications for initial planning funds that are part of the $42.5 billion headed down from the federal government via the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program.

The BEAD Program, which makes up the majority of broadband funding through the recently passed federal infrastructure package, will first fund planning, followed by infrastructure deployment along with other programs aimed at boosting adoption of service.

The next step for states and territories is to now submit a five-year action plan for the money within 270 days of receiving the planning funds, which will total $5 million per applicant. Recipients can use these planning funds for a number of things, including data collection, research, outreach to their communities, and training employees for a broadband program, among other things.

More information about the ongoing federal effort to get the entire country access to high-speed Internet can be found at (Zack Quaintance)


Georgia is not the only state with a new broadband grant program, as New Mexico will be investing $123 million in broadband expansion through the newly announced Connect New Mexico Pilot Program. This program will award grants to cover up to 75 percent of a project’s cost.

This pilot program will precede the Connect New Mexico Broadband Grant Program that was established in 2021. At least $70 million in state funding will be made available for the next round of Connect New Mexico funding, which will likely be in 2023. In total, the programs are expected to deliver almost $200 million in broadband expansion grants in the coming years.

Applicants may include local governments, tribal communities, schools, nonprofits, cooperatives and service providers whose projects will expand networks in unserved and underserved areas of the state. A Notice of Funding Opportunity has formally opened the Connect New Mexico Pilot Program as of last week.

More information about applications can be found on the Office of Broadband Access and Expansion web page. (Julia Edinger)


Finally, South Dakota has announced a new initiative to help the state better cooperate with Internet service providers there.

Essentially, South Dakota has built a notification system for broadband providers to learn about its transportation department’s annual Statewide Transportation Improvement Plan (STIP), which details all the state’s upcoming construction projects.

Dubbed ConnectSD, broadband providers can self-register for this notification system, which will also give them updates on broadband initiatives and related grant opportunities.

“This partnership represents a dedicated effort to increase communication among state agencies and statewide Internet service providers,” said Mike Waldner, South Dakota state broadband project manager, in the announcement. “It will help coordinate telecommunication plans and state transportation plans with greater efficiency and cost savings for everyone.” (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.