2023-24 Institute on Digital Equity

Kickoff - Virtual

The Institute on Digital Equity is a seven-month online engagement model designed to accelerate the work of teams seeking to enact ambitious strategies to pursue digital equity on their campus, in their community/region, and/or in their state. This institute will directly engage participating teams from September 2023 to April 2024 via virtual events, consultations, mentorship, and cross-team interactions as participants develop and implement digital equity action plans.

Institute Context and Purpose

Access to broadband and competency with associated digital skills are now undeniably necessary for full participation in many aspects of society, including civic and cultural involvement, healthcare, employment, and education. While "digital divide" concerns had been widely acknowledged prior to 2020, the pandemic made digital equity gaps far more transparent. As a result, we are now at the beginning of a historic moment of engagement regarding digital equity that has the overarching goal of ensuring that all people and communities have the skills, technology, and capacities needed to reap the full benefits of our digital economy. Higher education, given its facilities, resources, partnerships, personnel, expertise, and mission, is uniquely positioned to be a leader and collaborator in digital equity efforts. The purpose of this institute is to support, facilitate, and accelerate those efforts.

Many colleges and universities are seeking to develop or expand efforts to address digital equity concerns on their campus. This includes employing inclusive pedagogy, adopting open educational resources, distributing devices, promoting the FCC’s Affordable Connectivity Program, and developing partnerships across and beyond the institution in service to digital equity goals and to reach a broader and more diverse population of students. In addition to these important campus projects, there are also opportunities for higher education to contribute to local, regional, and national digital equity efforts. Key examples are represented by funding opportunities supported by $65 billion contained within the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which are designed to support inclusion efforts for groups and communities disproportionally impacted by digital inequity, including low-income households, incarcerated individuals, persons with disabilities, racial and ethnic minorities, rural inhabitants, veterans, people with language barriers, and aging individuals. Currently, in state contexts, governors' offices are leading statewide, digital equity planning efforts that will conclude late in 2023, and colleges and universities are well-positioned to contribute to this planning and future initiatives. Additionally, at the beginning of 2024, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s (NTIA) $1.25 billion Digital Equity Competitive Grant Program will open, and higher education will be able to compete directly for this funding to support their work.

There are key opportunities for higher education to engage and lead in these larger digital equity efforts, including

  • serving as community anchor institutions that are focused on human capital;
  • leading community, workforce development for broadband infrastructure, for advanced manufacturing, etc.;
  • offering skill development and technology innovation within the university;
  • assisting with data and planning in communities;
  • sharing fiber and participating in regional initiatives; and
  • providing research and program evaluation leadership.

This institute will include programming to enable teams to pursue such opportunities, collaborate in service to a broad array of digital equity efforts, and receive guidance and connections to assist them if they choose to pursue funding.

Who Should Attend?

The Institute on Digital Equity is designed for teams of five or more seeking to launch or expand digital equity initiatives in their context. Attendees can be at any stage in the process of launching, leading, and/or contributing to digital equity work. Broadly speaking, we anticipate two types of teams:

  1. Those from a single campus seeking to improve digital equity for their students and constituents. Teams from a single campus should include a diverse set of colleagues. They may include a senior academic officer, faculty members, IT leaders, learning technologies professionals, center for teaching and learning staff, student affairs professionals, advancement staff, evaluation specialists, and/or partners from beyond the campus.
  2. Teams comprised of multiple organizations aspiring to leverage the resources, leadership, and expertise of higher education to further local, regional, or state-level digital equity efforts. Teams consisting of multiple organizations might include those mentioned above from one or more campuses. The team would also include partners beyond the campus and may include community-based organizations, libraries, public leaders, state broadband officers, state higher education officials, senior centers, device refurbishers, housing authorities, to name a few. For any team of this type, the team must include at least one team member from a higher education institution or entity to be eligible to participate in this Institute.

The Institute is designed to fully support both types of teams described above. Although not restricted, the size of a typical team should consist of a minimum of five individuals.

2023-24 Institute Dates

  • Institute Kickoff (2 days)

  • Mid-year Event

  • Capstone Closing Event (2 days)

Three women sitting at a table in a conference room during the American Association of Colleges and Universities Annual Meeting.


For questions or additional information about the Institute on Digital Equity, please email [email protected].