RIHousing Funds Efforts to Bridge the Digital Divide
Awards broaden access and support digital literacy
Providence, RI – RIHousing today announced funding awards to support innovative and long-term sustainable projects to increase internet access for low- and moderate-income households across the state. The agency’s new “Bridging the Digital Divide” (“Digital Divide”) program provides financial resources to eligible organizations and municipalities in support of initiatives to bridge the digital divide.
“While there are a number of initiatives to broaden access and remove barriers, there are still gaps in access to high-speed internet,” said Carol Ventura, Executive Director of RIHousing. “We recognize that high-speed internet access is now considered a key utility and sought proposals that will provide low-and-moderate income Rhode Island residents with free or low-cost, long-term access to the internet as well as digital capacity and literacy.”
RIHousing issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) for awards of Digital Divide funding in February 2021. A total of $250,000 in funding, with a maximum award amount of $75,000 per grant, was made available. The agency received proposals from 20 applicants representing service organizations, housing developers, public housing authorities, municipalities, a university, and privately owned entities. Funding requests received totaled $969,904.
“The COVID-19 pandemic greatly accelerated the shift to online services, making digital access a necessity for participation in society and economic well-being,” said Nicolas P. Retsinas, Chairman of the Board of Commissioners at RIHousing. “Disparities in broadband access can have adverse economic and social consequences on those left behind. Award recipients presented innovative and creative programs that will empower Rhode Islanders all across the state to take advantage of new opportunities and compete in the knowledge economy.”
Applications were evaluated on the proposed population served, need in the community, program sustainability, partnerships, organizational capacity, and program innovation, as well as several other key metrics. Program grant terms are for one year.
The following organizations were approved for funding by the RIHousing Board of Commissioners at its May Board meeting:
- City of Central Falls: $50,000, Mobile hot spots and payment for hot spots, Central Falls
- NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley: $75,000, Outdoor public WiFi; upgraded hardware for youth centers; devices, WiFi and digital literacy for seniors, Northern Rhode Island
- Newport Housing Authority: $75,000, Expanded WiFi for public housing residents, Newport
- University of Rhode Island: $50,000, Devices and digital literacy via URI students for seniors, East Greenwich, Jamestown, Newport, North Kingstown, North Smithfield, South Kingstown, Providence
The program represents RIHousing’s commitment to helping Rhode Islanders and complements existing initiatives from cable providers, the state and non-profit community to provide tablets and hot spots and improve internet use and digital literacy.
RIHousing works to ensure that all people who live in Rhode Island can afford a healthy home that meets their needs. RIHousing provides loans, grants, education and assistance to help Rhode Islanders find, rent, buy, build and keep a good home. Created by the General Assembly in 1973, RIHousing is a self-sustaining corporation and receives no state funding for operations. For more information regarding RIHousing, visit our website or follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Click here to see all press releases.