In June 2023, the Biden administration announced that the government would invest $42.45 billion in funding to connect every citizen in the country to high-speed internet. The funding, available as part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), allows the opportunity for every state and US territory to invest in high-speed broadband infrastructure through the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment Program (BEAD). This historic and critical investment will make substantial advances, particularly in unserved and underserved communities, in closing the digital equity divide.

Among those underserved populations, older adults stand out as one of the largest demographics without access to the internet. While one in four adults in the United States does not have available broadband in their homes, research by the Humana Foundation and Older Adults Technology Services (OATS) from AARP shows that 42 percent of seniors—about 22 million people ages 65 and older—have no home-based internet. Of those with internet, many deal with unstable or slow connections that make it impossible to use dependably. Notably, the divide is most significant among low-income and Black and Latinx seniors, who are far more likely to be offline than the general population.

Connectivity is a crucial first step toward digital equity, but to make internet access useful, digital literacy training will be critical for the populations deprived of regularly engaging online. To that end, the Digital Equity Act (DEA), also part of the IIJA, funds community-centric programs that provide digital skills training and readiness for underserved populations. Both state entities and community groups can apply for and receive funding for digital inclusion initiatives under the DEA for the next five years. As plans are developed, it’s critical for older adults and the nonprofits and philanthropies representing underserved seniors to have a seat at that table.

Read the full article about digital literacy for the elderly by Tiffany Benjamin and Tom Kamber at Nonprofit Quarterly .