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District Government Wins New Federal Grant to Bridge the Digital Divide

Bridging the digital divide means ensuring that people have access to computers, know how to use them, and have high-speed Internet access--at public venues, at work, and at home.
— Bryan Sivak, Chief Technology Officer

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Today District of Columbia Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Bryan Sivak announced that the District has won a fourth federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) grant for nearly $2.549 million from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). The new ARRA grant, awarded to the Office of the Chief Technology Officer (OCTO), will increase funding for several initiatives in the District’s suite of programs to bridge the digital divide and create jobs.

“My administration is committed to bridging the digital divide and creating jobs for District residents,” said DC Mayor Fenty. “With our ARRA grants, we’ll make great strides toward that goal by expanding access to technology citywide, and especially in underserved communities.”
The new award increases funding for the District’s Broadband Data & Development project, bringing the project’s total ARRA funding to $4,042 million. The project consists of three initiatives.

The Technical Assistance initiative will provide technical assistance to local institutions, working across governmental agencies to focus and resolve broadband-related obstacles, and coordinating stakeholder activities across communities. In February 2010 OCTO hosted a Community Broadband Summit with a portion of an earlier grant. The new funding will enable OCTO to continue hosting semiannual broadband summits for the next three years. The next semiannual broadband summit is scheduled for October 27, 2010.

The Application Usage and Development initiative will create a platform for one-stop-shop online delivery of the District’s existing e-learning content, including curriculum and video training. Currently, this content is scattered among multiple formats and locations throughout the city. Once online, these e-learning resources will be available to everyone. OCTO will educate all training sites in the District so they can show residents how to use and benefit from these resources.

The Data Collection, Integration, and Validation initiative funds broadband planning and data collection to help OCTO better map the District’s digital divide and design digital inclusion programs accordingly. An earlier grant funded broadband planning and two years of data collection. The new award extends data collection activities for an additional three years and funds work to identify and implement best practices.

Earlier this year the District won three other BTOP grants to bridge the digital divide and create jobs. One grant for $1.553 million, awarded to the District of Columbia Public Libraries, will dramatically expand computer learning centers and training at District libraries, especially in Wards 5, 6, 7, and 8. A second $17.458 grant, awarded to OCTO, will fund expansion of the District’s high-speed fiber-optic network, DC-Net, to create a citywide public middle-mile network. This new network will be available to anchor institutions such as schools, health clinics, libraries, and public housing, and to Internet Service Providers who can use the middle-mile infrastructure to offer lower-cost broadband to end users. A third $4.197 million grant funds efforts to promote broadband access and adoption among underserved populations through free computer and job training classes.

Together, the District’s ARRA-funded projects will help bridge the District’s digital divide by enabling residents in Wards 5, 6, 7, and 8 to acquire computer and Internet skills and access more affordable Internet service at home. To date, the total funding is $27.250 million.

“Bridging the digital divide means ensuring that people have access to computers, know how to use them, and have high-speed Internet access--at public venues, at work, and at home,” said CTO Sivak. “Bridging the digital divide also means using technology to help create jobs for residents of underserved communities. We’ll be able to do all of these things with the projects funded by the ARRA grants.”