Globally, nearly three billion people remain offline, according to the World Economic Forum. Access alone doesn’t tell the full story. In 2021, less than half (43%) of the world’s population were not using mobile internet despite living in areas with broadband coverage.
Digital exclusion exists along multiple dimensions, including gender, disability, wealth, race and ethnicity, and generation. When people and communities have access to technology and the skills to use them, they’re better able to improve education, employment, and health. The Digital Equity Accelerator aims to accelerate inclusion in the digital economy for underrepresented and marginalized populations worldwide.
In 2022, the Digital Equity Accelerator set out to help address these injustices by pursuing a singular goal: to accelerate equity in the digital economy for underrepresented and marginalized populations worldwide. The Digital Equity Accelerator, an initiative of Aspen Institute, in collaboration with HP, fuels innovation and invests in non-profit leaders who are actively working to address the inequities that exist in technology access and use around the world.
Approach: Building the capacity of NGOs and Non-profit Organizations Across Three Countries
In its pilot year, the Accelerator identified three countries – India, Morocco, and the United States – inviting non-profit organizations performing work in any area that touches digital equity to apply. These countries were chosen due to the presence of a strong and growing tech sector while experiencing tech equity challenges.
The 2022 Digital Equity Accelerator Cohort
From the 2022 application cycle, we received a total of 181 applications. Applications were reviewed along 6 major evaluation metrics: 1) project quality; 2) organizational readiness; 3) impact and scalability of project; 4) need for the Accelerator program; 5) diversity, equity, and inclusion; 6) overall subjective fit with Accelerator.
Seven organizations were selected.
Digital Empowerment Foundation (India): Provides women from rural communities with critical digital literacy skills, tools to fight back against disinformation and online harassment, and the support needed to help many more families do the same.
Douar Tech (Morocco): Trains, supports and connects youth from disadvantaged communities to achieve socio-economic autonomy, with entrepreneurship, essential and digital skills in a way that fosters inclusion, digital equity and community development.
E4 Youth (USA): Engages young people who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color, empowers them with digital tools to tell their community’s stories on their own terms, and levels the playing field when it comes to economic opportunities in the digital world.
eSTEM Morocco (Morocco): Provides women and girls with tools to help them pursue careers in science and technology, reaching more than 950 people and catalyzing the development of over 70 mobile applications by Moroccan girls.
Fourth Wave Foundation (India): Empowers children with disabilities and special needs to find their own spaces within the education system through the use of innovative technologies.
Mobile Pathways (USA): Leverages an innovative and evolving mobile platform to uplift immigrants seeking critical legal assistance and other forms of aid on their path to equity.
Oasis Institute (USA): Expanding a new virtual platform to educate and assist aging adults as they take charge of their health and give back to their communities.
During the course of four months, the organizations worked with an Advisory Council, Mentors, Technical Experts, and Accelerator leaders. They each received unrestricted grant funding, relevant hardware from HP., Inc, and a network of like-minded leaders committed to accelerating digital equity.
Impact and Results
In its first year, the Accelerator successfully helped scale seven organizations in India, Morocco, and the United States, boosting their cumulative reach by 1.7 million people and counting.
Organizations reported the following outcomes:
- Operational changes for longevity and efficiency, including making changes to business models and operational strategies.
- The ability to raise funds more effectively.
- Long-term ecosystem building for exponential growth.
- Learning to measure direct and indirect reach.
Leaders appreciated the mentorship, strategic vision, and support:
“Participation in the accelerator has allowed us to see a path to expansion nationally that we couldn’t see previously. Before the Accelerator, our goal was to impact 15,000 youth locally in 3 – 5 years –now, it’s 200,000 nationally.” Carl Settles, e4 Youth (USA)
“It was the people: the mentors, the advisors, and the cohort. The community we created, the ‘no question is off limits,’ feel… The Accelerator gave us the framework, focus, and cadence we needed to accelerate our deliverables.” Mobile Pathways (USA)
“More than the numbers, we were interested in the question, ‘How do we devise an effective model of critical digital literacy education in India that can be scaled up?’ The Accelerator afforded us the chance to take time, consult experts, and design our program as well.” Digital Empowerment Foundation (India)
For more information, and to hear more about the 2023 cohort selection, subscribe to our email newsletter.
The Digital Equity Accelerator, a program of Aspen Institute in collaboration with HP, fuels innovation and invests in non-profit organizations who are actively working to address the inequities that exist in technology access and use around the world.
Aspen Digital empowers policy-makers, civic organizations, companies, and the public to be responsible stewards of technology and media in the service of an informed, just, and equitable world. This Aspen Institute program shines a light on urgent global issues across cybersecurity, the information ecosystem, emerging technology, the industry talent pipeline, tech and communications policy, and innovation. It then turns ideas to action and develops human solutions to these digital challenges.
Hazami Barmada is an award-winning public affairs & social impact strategist, consultant and social innovator recognized in Forbes as an “inspirational agent of change.” She is the Executive Producer and Host of the Webby Award winning top rated international affairs and human rights podcast, Finding Humanity. Her professional interests lie at the intersection of change management, behavioral economics, social justice, and innovation. For more than fifteen years, Hazami has worked with leading global brands and institutions including the United Nations, United Nations Foundation, Harvard, The Elders, B Lab, and the Royal Court of the Sultanate of Oman, to name a few. Her creative campaigns, leadership coaching, and advocacy initiatives have reached tens of millions of people in 182+ countries, receiving recognition from the United Nations “SDG Action Awards” in 2020. She is the Founder and Chairperson of the Humanity Lab and Global People’s Summit. Previously, Hazami held several high-level positions at the United Nations, including Coordinator for the United Nations Secretary General’s World Humanitarian Summit, Advisor to the first-ever United Nations Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, member of the UN SDG Strategy Hub for the launch of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, and Innovation Advisor to UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat). She is a Presidential Leadership Scholar and a frequent international speaker with her work and opinions appearing in media including the New York Times, Forbes, CNN, NPR, BBC, Associated Press, VICE, and Washington Post. Hazami has a Masters from Harvard University where she was an Edward S. Mason Fellow in Public Policy and Management. She studied social and public policy at Georgetown University and has a BA in Anthropology and Sociology.
Elizabeth Vivirito (she/her) is a writer and strategic communications leader with a passion for social change and financial security. She has built her career around communicating diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) strategies, approaches, and outcomes in nonprofit management. Elizabeth has been at the helm of many of the most influential and impacting communications projects in financial security over the past decade. She helped usher the launch “financial health” as an outcomes-based end goal for the field, re-branded and grew the EMERGE Financial Health Conference to become the unparalleled experience that it is today. Elizabeth has earned a B.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies (International Relations) from the University of California at Berkeley and a Master in Public Policy with a focus on global economic development from the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy. Stories she’s pitched or written have been published in New York Times, Forbes, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, American Banker, CNN, CNBC, TechCrunch, and many others.