The term “digital equity,” put simply, can mean a lot of things.
During the peak of the pandemic, it involved bringing internet access and the requisite devices to more people left behind by the loss of in-person options. But like health equity or equity in education, the many avenues in which digital equity manifests are broad.
Digital equity, like equity in any other context, often means that people on the lower end of the socioeconomic totem pole get the short end of the stick. Black founders get less VC capital, tech companies can’t seem to recruit or retain a diverse workforce and under-resourced schools cannot comprehensively prepare students for STEM careers.
In majority-Black Baltimore, the birthplace of redlining and various initiatives designed to fight its endemic digital divide, several organizations and companies take plugging the aforementioned gaps to the hearts of their missions. Here are just ten doing that work in Baltimore right now:
This organization is creating a network of Black-led, underserved startups in Baltimore. More importantly, CLLCTIVLY is also funding those startups. Programs like the Adaptive Village Small Grants project will give $100,000 to 13 different health equity organizations on June 13thk, while the “We Got Your Back” Campaign offers a year-long, no-strings-attached grant to support a Black woman-founded company.
PCs for People aims to bridge the digital divide that leaves around 96,000 households in the city of Baltimore without PCs or internet access. This disparity freezes many people out of the opportunities that the tech sector can offer. PCs for People not only recycles and provides devices to those disconnected households, but also teaches traditionally excluded people the skills that can help them enter the tech economy.
This grassroots organization provides free internet and training to Baltimoreans across the city. At many apartments, including the public housing facilities at Ashland Commons and Hollis House, Project Waves provides new tenants with free internet and digital literacy training.
Serial entrepreneur and RealLIST Connector Luke Cooper pays it forward to Black entrepreneurs and founders with this new VC firm, which aims to address the legacy of disinvestment from Baltimore’s Black communities. When the VC fund is operational, its headquarters will be in West Baltimore.
This coalition of local tech companies is unified around the idea of increasing opportunities for non-white technology professionals. This work is primarily executed by having local tech companies pledge to hire more diverse talent. In more recent months, the org has been proactive in building the tech talent pipeline through partnerships with Codeworks and the Baltimore City’s YouthWorks Summer Jobs Program that gets Baltimore youth experience in tech through internships with Baltimore Tracks’s member organizations.
In the new digital space of Web3, Core Immersive Labs is trying to make the innovators of this new technology more diverse by training as many residents in Baltimore as possible in Web3 development and related skills. The six-month training program teaches VR and blockchain technology at 1100 Wicomico in Baltimore’s Pigtown neighborhood.
This company is creating opportunity for Black and Brown creatives via an online platform that connects them to prospective employers. The goal is to take advantage of the network effect and increase access to employers, thus hopefully bridging the network gap that often leaves many without access to transformative opportunities.
This org provide free tech training to residents of Baltimore and the surrounding eponymous county. Its mission is to provide equitable educational access as a solution to creating a more diverse workforce. The deadline for its IT support course is July 5th, so there’s plenty time to sign up.
Fiscally sponsored by Baltimore’s Digital Harbor Foundation, Last Mile provides emergency funding that can be disbursed in three to five days, bridge funding grants of up to $3,000 for catastrophic expenses or internship support and funding for degree program-relevant tuition and expenses. These funds go a long way toward giving diverse populations the necessary safety net to pursue a degree in computer science or complete a tech bootcamp.
Do you know of other organizations actively working on digital equity issues? Let us know by sending a note to email@example.com.
Donte Kirby is a 2020-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation.