You can’t cross the digital divide if you can’t get on the bridge.
That’s why the Kansas City Digital Inclusion Fund is helping build the bridge, one step at a time.
The fund, believed to be the first privately funded digital inclusion grants program in the country, is funding programs that provide digital literacy to senior citizens, the urban poor, students and non-English speakers.
Today it announces its second year of computer access and computer literacy grants to area nonprofit agencies.
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Six nonprofits are sharing $130,000 in new grants from the $1 million fund established last year at the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation. Five return grantees and one new one are getting 2015 grants ranging from $10,000 to $45,000 each.
The fund was buoyed this year by a $150,000 contribution from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. The foundation joined prior donors Google Fiber, Sprint, the Illig Family Foundation, Polsinelli, Global Prairie and JE Dunn Construction.
Rachel Merlo, Google Fiber’s top officer in Kansas City, said Google hopes to direct more funds to “outcomes-based research by a third party researcher” to determine what programs and strategies are working best.
Meanwhile, Merlo said, fund participants encourage more nonprofits to consider applying for digital literacy grants. She expects more money to be make available for 2016. The next round of applications opens in August. An anonymous panel of local and out-of-town experts chooses fund recipients.
Wendy Guillies, acting president of the Kauffman Foundation, said digital inclusion has been an important study area for the foundation and is essential to metro-area growth.
There’s no quick fix, Guillies said, but “we also know that the answer lies with the individuals and organizations already working in the community.”
The local grant recipients :
▪ ArtsTech, which trains high school students at Hogan Academy and senior citizens, focusing on spreading computer skills in the Kansas City’s Blue Hills and Town Fork Creek neighborhoods.
▪ Connecting for Good, which offers computer classes and refurbished computers to its class graduates, particularly in northeast Wyandotte County and neighborhoods east of Troost Avenue in Kansas City.
▪ The Hispanic Economic Development Corp., which sponsors computer classes in English and Spanish in seven locations, including its West Side Kansas City base.
▪ The Kansas City Public Library, which is developing a permanent training space in the Central Library and developing a community outreach program.
▪ Trinity Community Church and the Shepherd’s Center, which offer technology classes to seniors and Spanish speakers in Kansas City, Kan.
▪ Literacy Kansas City, a new grant recipient this year, which is providing digital skills classes at four locations across the metro area.
Carrie Coogan, executive director at Literacy Kansas City, said digital fluency was a vital part of modern literacy. “We see this every day with the individuals we work with,” she said.
Kansas City Digital Inclusion Fund
Grant recipients for 2015 are:
ArtsTech - $15,000
Connecting for Good - $25,000
Hispanic Economic Development Corp. - $20,000
Kansas City Public Library - $45,000
Trinity Community Church/Shepherd’s Center - $15,000
Literacy Kansas City - $10,000