NDIA & Benton Present Awards at Net Inclusion in Philadelphia

One of Net Inclusion’s cherished traditions is presenting the recipients of the prestigious Charles Benton Digital Equity Award. Named for Charles Benton, the founder of Benton Institute for Broadband & Society, NDIA created the awards to recognize leadership and dedication in advancing digital equity. 

Since NDIA’s creation of the award in 2016, we have recognized 15 Digital Equity Champions, and we are thrilled to welcome this year’s remarkable awardees! Each champion demonstrates:

  • Sustained commitment to digital inclusion programs and an expertise in digital equity
  • Innovation in addressing and solving digital inequities
  • Dedication to serving communities and target populations who are most in need of digital inclusion services
  • Demonstrated leadership and collaborative spirit
  • Prioritization of diversity, equity, and inclusion in their work
  • Use of data and evaluation to shape digital inclusion programs and share best practices
  • Engagement in sustainable work that can be scaled and replicated


2024 Digital Equity Champion – Emerging Leader

Karimullah Kamwar, Digital Empowerment Manager
Syracuse Northeast Community Center

2024 Benton Digital Equity Emerging Champion – Karimullah Kamwar (right) celebrate at Net Inclusion along with Angela Seifer (left).

Karim brought his wife and five children from Afghanistan to settle in Syracuse. Within one year, he became the manager of the Digital Empower Program with the Syracuse Northeast Community Center. Under his leadership, the Syracuse Northeast Community Center built an inclusive multicultural team including four Digital Navigators. He has integrated this work with other essential services offered through the community center—such as a food pantry, employment program, youth/senior program, and health connections—in order to build true self-reliance.

Karim has done especially important work with the New American, Immigrant and Refugee populations. His lived experience with this group frames the work of his program. He and his team speak a collective ten languages and have served over 500 participants in the first year. The program has been hailed by Syracuse’s Mayor and Common Council, as well as funders across the region. Karimullah’s work is marked by compassion, listening, collaboration, strong leadership, and an eye toward always doing more.

2024 Digital Equity Champion

Norma E. Fernandez, CEO

2024 Benton Digital Equity Champion – Norma Fernandez (right) celebrate at Net Inclusion along with Angela Seifer (left).

Norma joined EveryoneOn in 2013 to increase impact in underserved communities of color by connecting people to the internet. 

Norma became CEO in late 2019 and found herself leading EveryoneOn during the COVID-19 pandemic. During this time, she grew and diversified the board and staff, created a strategic framework, and oversaw the implementation of the organization’s first-ever Digital Skills Academy, a training program for individuals and organizations. This has resulted in more funds raised from diverse sources, new partnerships, and expansion in Los Angeles, the Bay Area, and Milwaukee. 

In addition, under Norma’s leadership, EveryoneOn has facilitated access to broadband to more than 400,000 households across the country, distributed thousands of computers, and trained more than 4500 people in person and virtually – all evidence that she has a relentless commitment to digital equity. Norma is passionate about social justice and helping all communities thrive, drawing from her experiences as the daughter of Mexican immigrants, a first-generation college student, and an active volunteer in her community. 

2024 Digital Equity Champion

Adrienne Pruszynski, Founder & Program Director

Renaissance 21

2024 Benton Digital Equity Champion – Adrienne Pruszynski (right) celebrate at Net Inclusion along with Angela Seifer (left)

Adrienne has been a Digital Equity and Inclusion Warrior for more than 15 years, working to close STEM/STEAM equity gaps for youth at the grassroots level from Seattle to Ecuador. She is one of the three founders of Renaissance 21, and is a founder and Program Director of the lead initiative Star Tech Global Academy (STGA).  

Given difficulties in her journey as a Black woman learning STEM, she sought to empower other underrepresented youth as a STEM teacher. However, she found that programs frequently suffered from lack of resources and infrastructure. In response, Adrienne founded Star Tech Global Academy 10 years ago to provide a novel approach to STEM that focuses on digital skills and access for teens. 

Adrienne helps at-risk and under-represented youth pursue digital equity with workshops that teach digital literacy: learning to use applications and communications technology in community focused projects. The students directly enrich the community, helping local minority-owned businesses and students to enhance or create their own professional websites. Addressing access gaps, students receive a laptop or tablet reward upon completion of their projects. Participants are connected with comprehensive resources from food and shelter to computer labs and high-bandwidth broadband—a much-needed holistic approach.

Do You Know a Digital Equity Champion?

NDIA and Benton release a call for nominations (or self-nominations) annually, usually in November. The awards are presented annually at NDIA’s Net Inclusion conference. Please see past Benton Digital Equity Champions here. Thank you to everyone who submitted nominations for the 2024 awards, and if you weren’t selected this year, we invite you to submit your nomination again next year.

A heartfelt appreciation goes out to the 2024 Champions Selection Committee, who volunteered many hours to reviewing the process, read applications, contribute to discourse, and ultimately make the challenging selection: Volunteers: Catherine Crago Blanton, Angie Cooper, Rebecca Kauma, Gwenn Weaver; and Staff: Shauna Edson (NDIA), Miles Miller (NDIA), Caitlin Kvammen (NDIA), Pamela Rosales (NDIA) and Grace Tepper (Benton).