KANSAS CITY— April 30, 2024 — KC Digital Drive is leading the relaunch of the region’s Digital Inclusion Fund, which will award up to $250,000 this year in grants starting with a call for applications opening on June 3, 2024.

The digital divide continues to be a persistent barrier to participation in society in all its forms—from workforce and the economy to social and cultural life, from democracy and political decision-making, to education and healthcare. Digital Inclusion is a compounding challenge bound up with many other barriers to participation in society—and technology and access alone will not resolve these issues. The Fund aims to advance a more systemic strategy toward addressing the digital divide by filling specific programmatic gaps and signaling strong ongoing community commitment to the issue; and to attract new local money to this cause beyond existing funders, further strengthening the region’s competitiveness for state and federal dollars.  

Originally established in 2013 to address digital literacy and technology access, the Fund provided just under $1 million to 33 grantees over 5 cycles with funding from Google Fiber (or GFiber), the Sprint Foundation, The Illig Family Foundation, Polsinelli, Global Prairie and JE Dunn.

Now, based on findings from a recent funding landscape analysis white paper, KC Digital Drive is picking up where the former left off. The Fund is relaunching to support 501(c)(3) public charities, educational or governmental entities that focus on digital inclusion access, affordability and adoption to increase participation in digital society for Kansas City’s most underserved and/or disconnected residents. Initial support is from the Health Forward Foundation, Kauffman Foundation, Kansas Health Foundation and Google Fiber.  

The Fund is a charitable fund led by KC Digital Drive and administered at the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation with an Advisory Council that includes Dred Scott, President, Civic Council of Greater Kansas City; CiCi Rojas, President, Tico Productions; Adriana Pecina, Impact Strategist, Health Forward Foundation; Rachel Merlo, Head of Government and Community Affairs (Central + OC, CA), GFiber; and Aaron Deacon, Managing Director, KC Digital Drive. 

“We are mission-driven to advance capacity and resources to the region’s digital inclusion ecosystem, and we have made a multi-year commitment to administering the fund to ensure its long-term success. Along with its funders, the program serves as a conduit for digital equity and as a force-multiplier for direct service organizations who help the people they serve participate in digital life,” said Aaron Deacon, Managing Director of KC Digital Drive. 

The Fund will award up to $250,000 to 501(c)(3) public charities (including schools and churches) or governmental entities across three grant cycles in 2024, starting with Devices Grants opening on June 3. There is an ongoing need for devices, both at an individual level and a shared-use level. Devices are a prerequisite for participating in digital life and are a fixed, hard cost that providers often don’t have the budget to cover. The second cycle is I.T. Support Grants opening on August 1, followed by New Courses Grants on October 1.  

“This is all about digital infrastructure in communities, and I’m most excited to see how this will impact grass-roots community organizations and help them to demonstrate the social impact of digital inclusion, and prove and improve year over year,” said Adriana Pecina, Impact Strategist at the Health Forward Foundation. 

Each cycle has its own request for applications, application requirements and evaluation criteria. KC Digital Drive will provide applicant support through informational events, office hours and 1:1 assistance leading up to each grant cycle; and will provide tech support, and evaluation and reporting assistance to all grantees. 

About the KC Digital Inclusion Fund 

The KC Digital Inclusion Fund supports organizations and programs that focus on digital inclusion access, affordability and adoption to increase participation in digital society for Kansas City’s most underserved and/or disconnected residents. Initial funding support is from the Health Forward Foundation, Kauffman Foundation, Kansas Health Foundation and Google Fiber. For more information and to apply, visit kcdif.org

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