Partnership with community groups works to improve the state's ranking for broadband coverage.
As a national nonprofit connecting technology donors with organizations serving people in need of computers, Digitunity supports the state of Arkansas in working with community-based groups to close the digital divide afflicting the state’s marginalized residents. They do this through their Digital Opportunity Network, comprised of 1,500 organizations across the U.S.
In July, Heartland Forward, a Bentonville nonprofit, announced the organization of a coalition of over a dozen Arkansas-based organizations. Its goal is to expand internet access throughout the state by supporting local initiatives and securing federal funding to ensure high-speed internet is more accessible and affordable across Arkansas.
According to findings from the Arkansas State Broadband Manager’s Report, as of June 2020, Arkansas is 50th in the nation for broadband coverage. Only 79% of the state’s population has internet service with speeds of at least 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload. As recently as 2022, there are still 210,000 households in the state lacking adequate broadband access.
Having a connected computer and the skills to use it productively is a fundamental need in today's society. Since its founding, Digitunity has partnered with several nonprofit organizations in Arkansas, with wide-ranging missions from youth-focused projects to life skills and digital literacy for adult learners, all with a shared mission of bridging the technology gap.Scot Henley, Executive Director, Digitunity Tweet
Digitunity has six Digital Opportunity Network members in the state:
- The North Central Career Center of Leslie
- The Conway County Center for Exceptional Children of Morrilton
- Carter’s Crew of Little Rock
- The Arkansas Adult Learning Resource Center of Little Rock
- Shirley Community Service and Development Corporation of Shirley
- Northeast Arkansas Innovative Training Center of Jonesboro
These distribution partners provide technology to adults looking for jobs, schoolchildren, and nonprofit organizations like career and technical centers. As of 2021, Digitunity and its Network have distributed 273 devices in Arkansas. Their body of work connecting donors of technology with recipient organizations serving people in need spans nearly 40 years.
Since Digitunity’s inception, thousands of people have benefitted from its efforts. Its perspective has been shaped by decades of experience creating local impact through the benefit of a national lens. As an independent, national nonprofit focused on advancing digital equity through device ownership, Digitunity is unique in the digital inclusion landscape.
One way Digitunity demonstrates this uniqueness is by partnering with local organizations and governments to benefit members of these communities. One such way they’re doing this is by helping state and local governments, like those in Arkansas, create digital equity plans. This action was inspired by the landmark Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will expand broadband infrastructure and enable eligible households to obtain home broadband access and a connected device. Digitunity sees this initiative as an opportunity to help the state of Arkansas as they develop a digital equity plan. The goal of this plan is to expand access to connected devices for all Arkansas residents.
In response, the organization has developed recommendations for state digital equity plans. This expertise in both supply and community distribution gives Digitunity the ability to effectively partner with coalitions, cities, and states to create sustainable device access solutions. Learn more about Digitunity’s digital equity planning work here.