About Dr. Harper and Digital Equity/Digital Divide funding
Dr. Harper is the founder and CEO of the nonprofit Generation YES organization. He is widely recognized as one of the world’s eminent leaders in the field of technology in education and has been instrumental in bringing computers and the Internet into thousands of schools in more than thirty nations. Dr. Harper received his Ph.D. in International Education at the University of California in 1983.
Dr. Harper will talk about how communities, education institutions and nonprofit organizations can approach banks to access Digital Equity/Digital Divide funding opportunities through the Federal Reserve Community Reinvestment Act (CRA). He will also explore strategies for Arizona to help banks understand the unique role they can play through the CRA.
CRA funding may support services such as broadband and broadband infrastructure, hardware, tech support, librarian assistance, numeracy (or “math literacy’), financial literacy education, “digital age skills” development (such as coding), and educational content. Many banks have become very interested in addressing the digital divide because it is an increasingly important barrier both to local economic opportunity and vitality, as well as to access to banking services which increasingly are being offered online.
Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) Introduction
The federal 1977 Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) requires all banking institutions that receive Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Insurance (FDIC) to provide equitable access for those living in “low and moderate income” (LMI) communities to banking services as well as investments for community development (i.e., enhancing economic opportunity) in LMI communities. Banks must meet their CRA obligations through a mix of volunteerism, grantmaking and investments.
As a result of advocacy and pilot projects from the National Collaborative for Digital Equity, in 2016 the Federal Reserve issued guidance (Download Below) encouraging the nation’s banks to invest CRA resources in digital equity. The challenge now is to educate banks about how to work with local education organizations to provide digital equity funding , and how educational organizations can apply for support.
NCDE emphasizes that investments that enhance equitable access only to broadband, computers and tech support are insufficient to lead to meaningful impacts for educational and economic opportunity. There is substantial research showing that simplistic investments for technology in schools that don’t address training, technical support, use of engaging instructional strategies, and assistance with literacy and cybersafety skills, are likely to yield limited impact. Thus, banks, foundations and other digital equity investors should make digital equity investments that are “systemic” – supporting an integrated, evidence-based approach to equipping low-income learners with the tools they need to prepare and qualify for living wage careers in STEM and other fields.
NCDE has launched a “One Percent for Digital Equity” campaign, advocating that banks and their community partners nationwide strive to reach a target of one percent of CRA funding to close the digital divide, as this would unleash fully $1 billion annually.
Files - Federal Reserve and National Collaborative for Digital Equity