On July 13, 2021, the Kansas Health Foundation (KHF) announced the four nonprofit recipients of its Kansas Digital Equity and Inclusion Collaborative grant. KC Digital Drive (KCDD) is one of the four recipients, all receiving a 3-year, $250,000 award. The “initiative will support multi-sector community collaboratives to develop and advocate for policies, programs and services that promote greater digital access, adoption, literacy and inclusion among families of color, low-wage worker households and other Kansans experiencing systemic barriers.” 

KCDDs project, serving Johnson and Wyandotte Counties, will focus on capacity-building to help expand collective impact in the digital equity and inclusion ecosystem. This grant project builds on KCDD’s long-term work cultivating the digital inclusion ecosystem with various projects and partnerships throughout the greater Kansas City metro area. It also harkens back to our founding work of helping neighborhoods and community organizations exercise agency over their broadband and digital future. 

Over the past year, KCDD has been highly involved in COVID-19 response efforts, including programs focused on maintaining and expanding digital inclusion and access. The pandemic created a new urgency and need for this, as more people required internet access for school and work while simultaneously many were losing income to fund that access. This predicament brought more civic and philanthropic attention to this critical issue. 

In late 2020, KCDD launched the Internet Access Support Program to address the growing need for digital inclusion and access. This program is open to limited-income households who live in the greater Kansas City region and is designed to help people find affordable internet service; pay off past balances; get caught up on current internet service payments; and pay for internet service for the following six months. Other efforts to accelerate KCDD’s work to expand digital inclusion and access included bringing on a Digital Inclusion Coordinator staff member and an intern working to systematize and sustain out digital inclusion initiatives. 

KCDD is particularly suited to this project and to the Kansas Digital Equity and Inclusion Collaborative due to our role as a founding member of the Kansas City Coalition for Digital Inclusion. We will leverage and build upon our existing network and relationships. 

Building on this organizational history and these focus areas, KCDD’s project will help move toward a long-term coalition objective of expanding digital inclusion and access work impact on the Kansas side of the metro. The goal is to build a collaborative network of community-based organizations and other stakeholders who will work together to develop projects and policy recommendations, with a particular focus in working alongside low-income, low-wealth, immigrant, and racial and ethnic minority community members. The early project focus will include: 

  • providing digital training to families; 
  • working with existing organizations to add digital inclusion programming; 
  • engaging the counties to better understand digital infrastructure and address gaps; 
  • utilizing digital census work with target groups to understand progress in bridging the digital divide; 
  • improving broadband participation through community ambassadors; 
  • and connecting digital equity and inclusion work with local frameworks.

Kansas residents will be engaged throughout these efforts to help determine what policies, practices and programs would be useful solutions. 

KCDD’s expected impacts for this project includes building capacity for collective projects to supplement the work of collaboration and community-building happening through the existing Kansas City Coalition for Digital Inclusion. Additionally, specific projects will be identified through collaboration with stakeholder partners, including schools, libraries, local government, health care providers, workforce development organizations, chambers of commerce, nonprofits, and community organizations. If your organization would like to be notified of opportunities to get involved or support the effort, please email lscott@kcdigitaldrive.org.

Further Reading

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