Christmas came early for Digital Equity Act administering entities! After nearly a year of dissecting the State Digital Equity Planning Grant Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO), gathering best practices working with states, territories, and DC, and consulting with our affiliates, we’re beyond thrilled to share that the NDIA State Digital Equity Plan Toolkit is (finally) live!
This is the essential guide for all states, territories, and DC, working on a state digital equity plan. It’s also a great tool for advocates.
It has been just over a year since the Digital Equity Act (DEA) was signed into law as part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), and the $2.75 billion it provides is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to design systems that will enable true digital equity. In the law and subsequent NOFO, Congress and NTIA outlined specifics for states to include in their digital equity plans.
Yet many of the administering entities are also tasked with implementing the Broadband Equity Access and Deployment (BEAD) program in addition to deploying American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds and may have existing state grant programs to run. In addition, many of the administering entities are in newly established offices. Others may have a long history of working on broadband deployment or other issues in the states but have not had the ability to work on digital equity issues. And even for those who have long worked on digital equity issues, new staff, new environments, and a new digital equity landscape combined with other responsibilities make the digital equity planning process feel daunting. And if the administering entities are unable to create robust, impactful plans, the implementation of them will also be less impactful.
Given the combination of this unique moment and the need for support in efficiently and collaboratively launching the DEA planning process, NDIA with support from Microsoft offer this resource to the administering entities as a support. This is the first—and possibly the only time—every state, US territory, and the District of Columbia will simultaneously design digital equity plans. We hope this State Digital Equity Plan Toolkit will equip the administering entities with the guidance, best practices, and tools needed for them to design robust, comprehensive digital equity plans that lead to the creation of meaningful and impactful digital inclusion programs, policies, and tools.
The toolkit is composed of three sections: (1) general recommendations to consider for the entire planning process, (2) a suggested outline for the plan, and (3) tactical recommendations for building a digital equity plan section by section.
More than ever, we can affirm that digital equity is necessary for civic and cultural participation, employment, lifelong learning, and access to essential services, and these plans could be the catalyst for putting our nation on the path towards digital equity.
With digital equity, we all win.