U.S. Department of Education Communicates Vision to Advance Digital Equity for All Learners

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U.S. Department of Education Communicates Vision to Advance Digital Equity for All Learners

New resource supports plans under $2.75 billion Digital Equity Act -- funded by Bipartisan Infrastructure Law -- to resolve inequities highlighted during pandemic
September 28, 2022

Today, during the National Digital Equity Summit hosted by the U.S. Department of Education, the Office of Educational Technology (OET) launched Advancing Digital Equity for All: Community-based Recommendations for Developing Effective Digital Equity Plans to Close the Digital Divide and Enable Technology-Empowered Learning. This resource provides recommendations for equitable broadband adoption to support leaders crafting digital equity plans, an aspiration that became an emergency for many schools and families during the pandemic. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law passed earlier this year supports that goal, allocating $2.75 billion under the Digital Equity Act to ensure that all people and communities can reap the full benefits of the digital economy.

“Digital equity has never felt more urgent. But our opportunity to deliver digital equity has never felt more within reach. The pandemic turned equitable access to technology from an aspiration into an emergency,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. “Students without broadband access or only a cell phone have lower rates of homework completion, lower grade point averages … even lower college completion rates. Today, there can be no equity without digital equity. Thanks to President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, we’re making tremendous progress towards that goal.”

The National Digital Equity Summit will convene nearly 200 equity-minded organizations, state and local systems leaders, federal agencies, and educational technology experts to discuss how broadband investments from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law can be leveraged to better serve students furthest from digital opportunities and close the digital divide, thereby supporting transformative learning experiences empowered through technology. The summit will be livestreamed and can be viewed here.

“The pandemic illuminated long-standing educational equity gaps and spurred an unprecedented period of emergency remote learning. One of the most critical challenges during this time has been providing the foundational access to high-speed, reliable internet necessary to facilitate everywhere, all-the-time learning,” said Assistant Secretary for Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Roberto Rodríguez. “We’ve all understood that digital equity is no longer a ‘nice-to-have’ condition, but a ‘must-have’ to ensure that all may fully participate in the digital economy and society of today and tomorrow.”

The new publication also highlights existing barriers across the three components of availability, affordability, and adoption, and provides examples of promising strategies to overcome these barriers. Much of the content was gathered through the Digital Equity Education Roundtables (DEER) Initiative launched by OET in the spring, which progressed national conversations with leaders from community-based organizations, as well as families and students furthest from digital opportunities, to learn more about the barriers faced by learner communities and promising solutions for increasing access to technology. During these events, participants expressed the need to address the three components of digital equity — availability, affordability, and adoption – in order to serve all learners in an equitable manner. Key takeaways from participants are captured in the new Advancing Digital Equity for All resource.

The DEER Initiative, today’s summit, and the new resource are examples of the commitment from the Biden-Harris Administration to address connectivity barriers around the country. Also, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Education Cindy Marten recently attended a roundtable discussion in Charlotte, North Carolina, hearing directly from school leaders, community-based organizations, and parents about efforts necessary to boost participation in the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP). Additionally, the Department engaged in a back-to-school campaign to promote ACP enrollment, contributed to interagency efforts in streamlining information about federal broadband funding, and published a series of resources to ensure students’ access from home.

Over the next year, OET will build on this progress by fostering a sense of urgency around adoption barriers that impede digital equity in education and cultivating a community of champions who are implementing solutions.

For the latest information on OET’s digital equity efforts, visit DEER - Office of Educational Technology.