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Digital Equity Initiatives

Introduction

MCA is working to advance digital equity for all: to ensure that all Maine people, especially those that are most impacted by the digital divide, have access to and are able to use, information and communications technologies so they can fully realize all of the civic, economic, health, educational, social and other benefits that they provide.

MCA Contact


Maggie Drummond-Bahl
Strategic Partnership Director
mbahl@maineconnectivity.org

(207) 209-3841

What is MCA doing?

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Maine leads the nation with the first approved statewide Digital Equity Plan

Faced with the opportunity for unprecedented funding, Maine Connectivity Authority facilitated the integrated development of a Digital Equity and Broadband Action Plan in coordination with stakeholders around the state. The state's first Digital Equity Plan plan outlines the steps the state will take to expand access to high-speed, reliable internet and break down barriers to connections, especially for populations most impacted by the digital divide. Its approval is the first step for Maine to qualify for Digital Equity Act funding, resulting in an estimated allocation between $12 million and $14 million. The allocations and details will be released by NTIA later this spring.

Digital Equity Plan Screenshot

Digital Equity Plan Strategies

The plan includes key strategies to reduce barriers to connectivity for those who are most underserved - including older adults, veterans, low-income families, people living in rural areas, people with disabilities and minority populations. Strategies outlined in the plan include:
 

  1. Improve access to broadband through grant funding for local and regional infrastructure projects;

  2. Sustain and grow Maine’s investment in digital equity by establishing the Maine Digital Equity Fund, which will raise $15 million in philanthropic support and be matched by additional investment from the federal government.

  3. Increase affordability of internet service, including increasing enrollment in the Affordable Connectivity Program, and expanding access to free or low-cost connectivity in affordable housing units;

  4. Secure at least 25,000 donated devices for refurbishment from businesses, institutions, and agencies statewide;

  5. Ensure access to affordable devices (desktops, laptops, tablets) and technical support by distributing 50,000 new and refurbished devices to Maine people who need them;

  6. Improve digital skills of Maine people through outreach and training;

  7. Help Maine people stay safe online by providing internet safety training;

  8. Make it easier to access government resources and programs online; and

The Digital Equity Planning Process

Through the planning process, the Maine Connectivity Authority identified several key challenges that need to be addressed to close the digital divide, including a focus on the affordability of service, access to internet-capable devices, digital skills, and online safety training. 
 

To create this plan, MCA and its partners conducted significant outreach and engagement between January and June 2023. Six stakeholder groups comprising 117 individuals, organizations, and agencies contributed to the engagement process. Additionally, three formal tribal consultations were held with the chiefs of the Mi’kmaq Nation, the Passamaquoddy Tribe at Sipayik, and the Passamaquoddy Tribe at Motahkomikuk. The statewide Maine Broadband Survey collected over 3,200 responses online and in hard copy versions and was translated into 12 languages. Thirteen focus groups were facilitated by MCA and hosted by organizations that serve or represent the priority populations. An additional 16 community meetings were held around the state to collect feedback from the general public. Finally, the Maine Digital Equity Task Force, a group representing organizations that serve a broad range of people most impacted by the digital divide, provided guidance to MCA throughout the planning process. We are greatly appreciative of all the insightful comments and helpful feedback that was provided by the people of Maine!

Digital Equity Alliance

MCA's Digital Equity Taskforce included 45 organizations which supported the development of Maine's Digital Equity Plan and guided an equitable planning process engaging with Maine people and communities. In May 2024, the taskforce transitioned to become Maine’s Digital Equity Alliance. The Alliance is a self-led coalition of organizations and community members in Maine that are working collaboratively toward digital equity by sharing resources, advocating for funding, educating stakeholders, and implementing Maine’s Digital Equity Plan. MCA remains a member of the Alliance.

Digital Inclusion Week logo

October 4-13, 2024

Save the date for Maine’s Digital Inclusion Week, an annual week of awareness, recognition, and celebration of digital equity. The national effort is organized by the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA) and its 1,400+ affiliates.


Maine will kick off our events with a two-day event hackathon style event focused identifying solutions for protecting older adults from fraud in Maine. The Start Summit event is being led in collaboration with The Roux Institute at Northeastern University, AARP Maine, the University of Maine Center on Aging, and the University of Maine Foster Center on Innovation. Learn more and register here.

October 2-6, 2023

Last year, MCA highlighted solutions for affordable internet access, appropriate devices, and digital skills programs around the state on social media and through our communications channels. Highlights included partner spotlights, nominated Digital Inclusion Stars, and features on the covered populations as defined by the Digital Equity Act of 2021.

DIW social post
DIW social post
DIW social post
DIW social post

Other Resources

National Digital Inclusion Alliance

National Digital Inclusion Alliance advances digital equity by supporting community programs and equipping policymakers to act so that everyone has the opportunity to use technology to live, learn, work, and thrive. 

National Digital Equity Center

The NDEC provides communities at all levels the expertise needed to mobilize broadband technologies through digital inclusion, literacy efforts, education, resource planning, funding research, infrastructure leveraging and stakeholder engagement.

Maine Broadband Coalition

MBC is a network of public policy wonks, educational advocates, businesses, non-profit organizations, government agencies, and individuals who care deeply about Maine’s digital future and believe in the power of community-driven broadband planning.

Maine State
Library

The Maine State Library helps people, makes Maine libraries stronger and transforms information into knowledge. 

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Press Release: MCA Partners With Nonprofits to Help Maine People Use Broadband

MCA has recently made investments into the National Digital Equity Center and give IT get IT to achieve goals set out in Maine's Digital Equity Plan. Read the press release here!

Digital Equity Plan implementation
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