We aim to help close the global digital divide, and advance justice in healthcare, education, and economic opportunity through digital means.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the consequences of disconnection across the world. Piloting in the United States, India, and Morocco, we support nonprofits in scaling their efforts to advance digital equity for marginalized and underserved populations, including women and girls; ethnic, racial, and religious minority communities; aging populations; people with disabilities; and the teachers working with these groups.
Four months to build and launch your nonprofit’s plan to accelerate digital equity.
A collaboration of the Aspen Digital program and HP Inc., the Accelerator provides senior-level mentorship, workshops with experts in the field, assistance in developing targeted programming, and strategies for scaling efforts.
Our program helps expand your organization’s impact in digital equity, contributing to your core mission. The Accelerator concludes with a final Demo Day, where participants can pitch major partners and donors in the field for funding, collaboration, and more.
The commitment is for four months, roughly 4-8 active hours per week in virtual workshops and mentor sessions, with the expectation that at least one designated senior member from each nonprofit’s leadership team will attend every session.
Educational components of the accelerator may include:
Frequently Asked Questions
If your questions are not answered here, please email us at [email protected].
We reference the National Digital Inclusion Alliance’s definition:
“Digital Equity is a condition in which all individuals and communities have the information technology capacity needed for full participation in our society, democracy and economy. Digital Equity is necessary for civic and cultural participation, employment, lifelong learning, and access to essential services.” - NDIA
We believe that digital equity consists of four pillars which, when met, will ensure that traditionally underserved and marginalized groups can fully participate in an increasingly digital society:
- Access: Access to digital infrastructure (i.e., hardware, the internet), tools, and opportunities (including economic success, education, and public health/healthcare)
- Literacy: Resources for families across generations to better use and understand new technologies and platforms, navigate new media and online information, and better protect themselves and their digital rights
- Representation: Meaningful inclusion of the perspectives and lived experiences of underrepresented communities in all aspects of the digital economy, from input into product design, to culturally diverse visual representation on social platforms, to the hiring of more diverse talent
- Skills: Technical skills and training needed to compete for jobs of the future and take ownership over the development of emerging technologies that directly affect their communities
“Underserved communities” are populations within a broader society that don’t have access to the same opportunities to learn, stay healthy, and pursue economic success. This is due to a variety of barriers, depending on the community, though it often includes historic marginalization by systems of power that were not built to serve or represent them. In the digital age, many underserved communities have seen these gaps only grow.
Such groups may include but are not limited to:
- Aging populations
- Communities discriminated against due to ethnicity, race, or religion
- People with disabilities
- Refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs)
- Women and/or girls
We also prioritize assisting the educators that work to serve these communities.
We believe that the inclusive access to infrastructure, technology, and literacy that bridge the digital divide are fundamental human rights. This became even clearer during the COVID-19 pandemic, as education, healthcare, and economic opportunity moved further into the digital space. The pandemic did not create the digital divide, but it has certainly exacerbated it. Digital inequity is therefore a more critical challenge than ever and will only continue to grow if we do not work together to find solutions and support efforts that are closest to the communities themselves. By improving digital equity for the most marginalized communities among us, we will build a better connected world for everyone.
- Prior to the pandemic, 258 million children were out of school. We know that COVID has created new barriers to access for many, and this number has grown as so many more have fallen behind.
- Broadband access is now widely considered to be a social determinant of health: research shows that people with little or no broadband access are likely to experience poor health outcomes.
- Economic and social conditions have stifled access to economic opportunities among marginalized groups by a lack of connectivity, resources, and education to develop skills, knowledge, and trust, and understanding of technology.
Digital inequity is a global problem with many faces but the same result: more and more communities left in the dark while innovation benefits the most privileged. To truly turn the tide and connect those most in need, we must better understand what these unique challenges look like in different contexts. We’re building the Accelerator with a global focus because we believe centering the needs and solutions of communities across the globe will help us together create a more equitable digital world.
We’re starting with the United States, India, and Morocco because each country represents a uniquely different context through which we can accelerate on the ground work towards digital equity:
- Heading into 2021, up to 12 million students in the U.S. lacked adequate access to the internet at home. What’s more, before the pandemic, it was estimated that 16% of U.S. adults were unable to navigate modern, digital technologies. In India, 18 million households entered the pandemic without any way to access the internet. At the same time, it is estimated that the country can generate an economic value of $1 trillion USD< by 2025 by using digital technology.
- When it comes to Morocco, the number of individuals using the internet increased by nearly 20% between 2018 and 2020, making the country one of the fastest growing users in the Middle East and North Africa. Yet digital adoption is constrained by gender, with only 56% of women using the internet in Morocco by late 2020, compared to 79% of men. According to the Government of Morocco, during the pandemic, 40% of youth were unable to continue their education due to lack of access to the internet and virtual school.
- And India, the largest democracy on earth, is home to one of the world’s fastest growing IT industries, and yet is paradoxically home to nearly 500 million people who can only access basic web services through outdated, feature phones.
The ability to adequately engage in a digital economy is vital, particularly in our current pandemic environment, where access to education and economic opportunity is intricately linked to digital access and literacy. Ultimately, Aspen Digital and HP selected these three countries for the pilot because of clear challenges facing underserved communities in each, their vibrant ecosystems of social impact organizations, and the program’s strong partnerships on the ground. The intention is to expand the initiative in subsequent years, building on lessons learned from the first cohort.
Overall, successful applicants will be those who:
- Perform work primarily aimed to benefit underserved communities in the United States, India, or Morocco
- Intend to improve digital equity for historically underserved communities in the areas of economic opportunity, education, and/or public health/healthcare.
- Demonstrate impact in our target communities and areas of focus and are looking to expand their programming or scale to new/larger populations.
- Hold active legal registration as a nonprofit in the United States (501c3 or equivalent), India (FCRA), or Morocco
- Commit to completing all required sessions of the Accelerator (approximately 6-8 hours per week for 1-2 senior members of the nonprofit leadership team)
- Possess fluency in English
- Have consistent and reliable access to the internet
The target communities and digital equity focus areas identified are meant to capture a variety of different solutions and contexts. However, if your organization does not feel the communities it serves or the aspects of digital equity you focus on are represented, you may outline additional considerations in your application. All applicants must operate in the U.S., India, or Morocco.
Your organization is not required to already work to advance digital equity, as long as you have (1) proven impact in at least one of our target communities and priority sectors, and (2) have a plan to build a project or program during the Accelerator that will advance digital equity solutions for these communities.
It depends! If you are based regionally but have a local registration in one of our three countries of focus and a significant percentage of your programming in one of those countries, you will still qualify. Make your case!
It does not! While technical solutions and new digital tools can do a lot to advance digital equity, sometimes the best solutions for a community’s problems involve a more human touch. Whether you are a local, literacy training program that is looking to expand, a device recycling program in need of a growth boost, or something else entirely, if you are serving our core communities and advancing their digital equity, we want to hear from you!
While we do not have a specific size requirement, we are especially interested in supporting organizations that have proven impact and can demonstrate the potential to truly take off and scale meaningful digital equity solutions if given the chance to participate. If your organization meets our eligibility criteria, and you can demonstrate how our program can uniquely help you expand or create new digital equity programs, we encourage you to apply.
We assess organization based on the following, primary criteria:
- Organizational Profile. Organizations must have legal registration for activities in the US, India and Morocco. While we will accept applications from organizations that operate regionally, at least 75% of the programming of those organizations must be in one of our three countries. Organizations must have proven impact serving one of our listed target communities (or make a good case for an additional one) to advance economic opportunity, education or public health/healthcare. A senior leader of the organization must be able and willing to participate in the program full-time (virtually) and must be fluent in English. Organizations must be able to clearly speak to their mission, vision and impact.
- The Need. The organization must have a clear understanding and vision for how they will benefit from the Accelerator, and what their digital equity programming, mentorship and hardware needs are - and why.
- About Your Project. Applicants must identify a clear challenge related to digital equity facing the communities they serve, propose a specific solution for addressing it, and outline their path to successfully implement their project with the support of the Accelerator.
- Project Impact. Applicants should share general thoughts on how they plan to evaluate the impact, reach, and success of their digital equity projects both during and beyond their time at the Accelerator. What is the current status quo of the community you serve vis-a-vis digital equity needs? How many people can you potentially reach through this programming, and what impact overall does that make in the community and ecosystem in which you work? Who else is working on meeting these needs, and why are you best positioned to meet them - and how will that real impact be measured? How can your project scale in later months/years to increase its impact? What vision do you have to ensure the financial and technical sustainability of your project?
- Your Team. The diversity, strength, and organizational soundness of your team are important indicators of successful participation in the Accelerator. It’s ok if you are a young organization still building your capacity, but we want to know more about who you are, how you lead, and why you're in the best position to serve your target communities.
Applications for the summer 2022 cohort closed on March 28.
Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis, with final decisions by mid-May. The Accelerator will launch June 1, 2022.
MENTORSHIP AND INVOLVEMENT
Please send an email to [email protected] with the headline “Mentor Interest.” Please provide some information about your background, what you’d be able to provide as a mentor, and what interests you about mentoring for the Digital Equity Accelerator. We will be in touch as soon as we are able!
We have plenty of opportunities to get involved! Start by joining our mailing list, linked at the bottom of this page, and use the drop-down menu to let us know why you're contacting us. You can also send an email to [email protected] with the headline “Getting Involved.”
Our in-program work focuses on helping you expand your organization’s impact in the digital equity space, so that the Accelerator contributes to your organization’s core mission. The Accelerator concludes with a final Demo Day, where participants can pitch major partners and donors in the field for funding, collaboration, and more.
The Accelerator commitment is for four months, roughly 4-8 active hours per week in virtual workshops and mentor sessions.
Educational components of the accelerator may include:
- Centering Directly Affected Communities
- Employee and Volunteer Hiring, Management, and Training
- Financial Planning and Projection
- Grantmaking and Fundraising
- Navigation of Compliance and Government Regulation
- Market Research and Testing
- Marketing and Communications Strategy
- Nonprofit Leadership and Management Principles
- Programmatic Ideation, Brainstorming, and Agile Development
English. All participants must be fluent in written and spoken English to join the program.
No. Due to the pandemic, we are operating year one entirely virtually. Future cohorts may have the opportunity to participate in in-person activities.
At least one leadership team member or board member must attend every program session. This does not have to be the same person every time. However, we ask that no more than two different people from each cohort participate in the program. Both may attend a session, at once, if they wish.
The Accelerator's program runs for four months, roughly 4-8 hours per week. This is inclusive of program sessions, mentorship check-ins, and a final Demo Day. Certain events, such as pitch preparation days and additional events may add to this number on select weeks.
The Accelerator’s first cohort will run from June 1, 2022 to September 30, 2022.
Demo Day is your opportunity to pitch your organization and the digital equity project you’ve developed during your time at the Accelerator to major institutions, funders, corporate charities, and others to gain their help and support. This support may include funding, material assistance, network connections, partnership, and more.
All Demo Day 2022 events will be virtual and are expected to last 2-3 hours.