Who’s Supporting Digital Inclusion in Alabama and Why?

 photo:  Zerbor/shutterstock

photo:  Zerbor/shutterstock

The digital divide is not a term you hear much these days. It's often assumed that everyone has access to the Internet and knows how to use it. In fact, though, there are enduring inequities in this regard, especially when it comes to high-speed broadband connectivity. One community foundation in Alabama is looking to bridge gaps for local residents. 

The Community Foundation of Greater Huntsville (CFGH) recently launched a new fund that’s all about supporting digital inclusion in the community and investing big in the power of online information. Google Fiber provided the seed funding to get the fund off the ground so that CFGH can start making grants to increase the availability of Internet access and digital education. The push for digital inclusion came after a meeting that involved CFGH, nonprofits, public official from local schools, city officials, and more than 50 stakeholders.

Prior to this, there hadn’t really been widespread conversation about what digital inclusion would look like in Huntsville, Alabama or how this relates to local equity issues. But it makes lots of sense that better Internet access will help Huntsville residents educate themselves and find jobs. 

Explaining what's behind this initiative, Stuart Obermann, CEO and President of CFGH said:

The information we received from this discussion will help inform our grantmaking decisions from the Digital Inclusion Fund. We believe that this collaborative public/private partnership will provide measurable results this year by funding the most promising programs that will work to close the digital divide in our community. In addition to the initial funding provided by Google Fiber, we are assembling a funders’ collaborative to bring additional resources to the table to leverage funding from a variety of public and private sources.

We’re expecting to see the first round of grant distributions from this Digital Inclusion Fund be awarded in May, and it’ll be interesting to see who secures funding for this tech-centric approach to expanding economic opportunity. Even more interesting will be watching what kind of impact this effort has. Will advancing fast and free Internet really translate to a better-educated and employed community? Stay tuned.

On an unrelated note, CFGH has also been working with Vector Wealth Strategies lately, which is a Huntsville-based company that set aside 10 percent of annual profits to support education, health, human services, and disaster recovery efforts. You can subscribe to the foundation’s e-newsletter to be among the first to know about newly funded grantees in Alabama.