The state of Washington’s Department of Commerce is awarding $14.5 million in digital equity funding for digital navigator services, which are essential in helping new internet users get online.

The grants are designed to support individuals seeking work, families with students, English language learners, Medicaid clients, people experiencing poverty and seniors.

Organizations receiving the most recent grants will include a hotline where community members can receive or schedule an appointment with a digital navigator. The program also will support digital skills training and will enable eligible individuals to use internet-capable devices. These projects are in partnership with various community-based organizations, such as regional libraries, healthcare providers, and both multicultural and education-focused nonprofits.

The projects awarded funding will offer statewide and regional digital navigator services over the state’s fiscal year July 1, 2023 – June 30, 2024.

Specifically, the grants went to:

  • Equity in Education Coalition, which received $10.2 million to provide community-embedded digital literacy skills and offer skills training and a multilingual call-in center to provide technology support services. The funds will also support creation of a Digital Navigation Resource app available to all Washington residents, as well as the distribution of internet-capable devices, smart phones, headsets and supporting equipment.
  • Community Health Network of Washington, which received $3.8 million to support use of Link to Care WA, a support and referral hotline that is available in English and Spanish, hosting web-based digital literacy skills training, and distributing devices to patients in need.
  • The Nisqually Indian Tribe, which received $430,958 to help ensure that all individuals and businesses have access to digital navigation services, a variety of digital skills classes, devices, Wi-Fi connectivity and discounted or free internet services.

“Being able to use the internet is a necessity, not a luxury,” Mike Fong, the state’s commerce director, said in a prepared statement. “Support for digital navigators is a successful strategy – these programs open equal opportunities for people to thrive, especially community members who may be struggling to reach their full potential.”

Digital equity is also an important initiative at the federal level. Federal initiatives to improve improve digital equity are included in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act, also known as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

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