NTEN, the Nonprofit Technology Network, is partnering with Google Fiber to find 16 tech experts who can build digital inclusion programs in eight U.S. cities. The Digital Inclusion Fellowship was announced today, and applications are open through June 10.
“It was certainly something on both organizations’ priorities lists. Both were looking for partners to invest in digital inclusion, partners that can recognize the nuances involved,” said Amy Sample Ward, CEO of the Portland, Ore.-based NTEN. “Digital inclusion requires a local approach. There’s no way to have one blanket solution to something that involves so many different communities, different barriers, different political pieces.”
The 16 fellows will begin their work in July, starting with a weeklong training program at Google headquarters. Then the fellows will return to their local host organization sponsors to begin implementing the programs. Programs were designed by Google, NTEN and the host organization and tailored to each organization’s needs and challenges.
Eight cities will host the fellows. These cities are places to which Google will be bringing its fiber network. The cities are: Atlanta, Ga.; Austin, Texas; Charlotte, N.C.; Kansas City, Mo.; Nashville, Tenn.; Provo and Salt Lake City, Utah; and, Raleigh-Durham area, N.C.
Google has invested about $1.2 million in the Digital Inclusion Fellowship thus far, said Sample Ward, most of which will go to support the fellows’ $33,000 salaries, plus benefits. Additionally, the host organizations will be fundraising for project budgets, and NTEN will match their efforts.
Sample Ward said it’s important that the fellows “are already connected with the communities they serve. We’re not taking fellows from one state and flying them into another. These are one-year placements so we want to make sure fellows are coming from their communities, they know their communities, they have investment there and are able to work there to launch new programs and campaigns.”
While Google and NTEN worked with host organizations to design programs, Sample Ward said the fellows would have a large degree of autonomy. “There will be a lot of opportunities to define and create the shape of the project, even though we already identified the communities and the project level.”
The project’s goals are threefold: to increase the number of digital literacy programs, to increase the number of trainers, and “creating and supporting local champions and advocates who understand digital inclusion,” said Sample Ward. She added that after the first year, the program would be evaluated with the balance between “long term system change and real-time impact.”
“We want to see more digital literacy skills and more trainers available,” said Sample Ward. “We also want to make sure that a year from now NTEN has supported, not necessarily led, but supported more national dialogue around digital inclusion, since it includes every kind of mission. Every organization should understand how digital inclusion impacts their mission and community. And, most practically we want to learn a lot so when we’re forming Year Two we’ve learned what works and where more investments are needed.”