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City of Topeka awarded digital equity grant

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Published: Jul. 15, 2021 at 12:11 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - The City of Topeka has been awarded a digital equity grant to help close the digital divide.

The City of Topeka says it is one of four nonprofit organizations chosen to receive a grant from the Kansas Digital Equity and Inclusion Collaborative.

According to the City, it has received $250,000 in funding. It said the first year of funding is spent planning and engaging with the community and the second and third years will be spent implementing community-based plans and policies.

“This grant funding is an important step in creating digital equity for our community,” said City Manager Brent Trout. “This is the first step to eliminating the digital divide and creating better educational, economic and health environments for everyone in Topeka through digital access and literacy.”

The City said the grant will support multi-sector community collaboratives to develop and advocate for policies, programs and services that promote digital access, adoption, literacy and inclusion among families of color, low-wage worker households and others experiencing systematic barriers. It said the pandemic has deepened the digital divide, especially in low-income communities of color, rural and other under-resourced areas of Kansas as services and schools became remote.

“I am very excited about this opportunity to address any local digital divide issues we face through the support from the Kansas Health Foundation. A great team from across our community worked together to get us to this point, and each bring an individual strength, expertise and a dedicated commitment to using this moment to build out a sound strategy towards delivering digital equity & inclusion in Topeka and Shawnee County,” said Lazone Grays, a member of the digital equity work group.

“We are so very appreciative of the Kansas Health Foundation and their decision to award this grant for the Kansas Digital Equity and Inclusion Collaborative. Our team of advocates from the City of Topeka and several community partners is so very proud to help our neighbors access digital resources and to empower them with learning opportunities and support to use those resources for the benefit of their families. Healthcare, Education, Shopping, Employment, Finance, and other opportunities will soon be available to every family in Topeka, and our community will be better for it!” said Scott Gowan, Chief Information Officer for Topeka Public Schools.

According to the City, to help families get the best possible educational, economic and health outcomes, high-speed digital access and literacy are crucial. It said the initiative will focus on a two-generation approach,o more Kansas children and adults will have the chance for digital success in the future.

The City said the Topeka Digital Equity Inclusion Partnership Program will create part-time technical and digital navigator positions to collect and share community-based resources and provide digital literacy training, equipment and basic technical support for minority and low-to-moderate-income communities in 31 Topeka neighborhoods.

According to the City, initial policy focus and activities will include the following:

  • Advocacy for policies that support the collective vision of the community and local businesses;
  • Advocate for digital equity policies and plans targeted to underserved Topeka residents, including low-income families and people of color;
  • Implementation of policies and plans that align efforts with existing federal agency initiatives.

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