Despite the widespread availability of online access, there is still a significant number of Washington residents who do not have access to this essential resource. According to the Washington State Department of Commerce, approximately 8% of households in the state lack high-speed internet connections, and 4% do not have a computing device.
To address this issue, the Washington State Department of Commerce has announced $14.5 million in funding for three organizations that are working to get people online through personal services. These organizations will operate hotlines for appointments with digital navigators, provide internet-capable devices, and offer digital skills training.
The grant recipients include the Equity in Education Coalition, which will receive $10.2 million. The coalition partners with 39 community organizations that are led by multilingual and multicultural staff. Their aim is to provide culturally and linguistically appropriate curriculum and digital skills training in communities of color. Additionally, they will offer devices, such as smartphones, to those in need.
The Community Health Network of Washington, which will receive $3.8 million, will provide digital navigation services and devices. This network comprises 21 nonprofit Community Health Centers that are committed to helping individuals access online resources.
The Nisqually Indian Tribe, in partnership with the Thurston County Chamber of Commerce, Timberland Regional Library, the Thurston Economic Development Council, and Thurston Thrives, will receive $430,958. Their comprehensive approach includes providing skills classes, devices, Wi-Fi connectivity, and discounted or free internet services.
This is the third year that the Commerce Digital Navigator Program has issued grants to enhance online access in Washington State.