You can take advantage of an increasing array of digital products and services. Unconnected families cannot; and they are falling behind as work, education, healthcare, civic participation, and access to services provided by your grantees, are increasingly moving online. For unconnected families, the internet — once touted as a great equalizer — is becoming a wedge between the haves and have-nots.

With less than 0.05 per cent of all philanthropy invested in digital equity over the past decade, it is fair to say that philanthropy has largely ignored this issue. The primary reason I hear for doing so is ‘the market will provide, telecommunications operators will get the job done.’ They won’t. Even when subsidized to do so. It was painfully demonstrated in a Deloitte study calculating that the $54 billion of taxpayer dollars spent across various U.S. government programs over ten years increased internet adoption in the country by only 1 per cent. Providing affordable, high-speed internet to families in low-income areas simply isn’t in these companies’ business models.

The results of our persistent digital divide were painfully evident during the pandemic. In addition to the headlines many of us read, and conversations many of us had with our grantees, a fact buried in a TechSoup survey should give all of us in philanthropy pause. Of the nearly 12,000 organizations from more than 120 countries who responded to the survey, four in five said their services were disrupted during the pandemic because their communities didn’t have internet access. Even when our grantees could take their programs and services online, their communities could not access them. Millions of the world’s most marginalized people were left without vital support at their moment of greatest need because, as philanthropy and as a society, we’ve allowed the digital divide to persist.

This can and must change. Philanthropy can support pathways to digital equity — the state in which all people have the affordable, high-speed internet, tools, and skills they need to participate in our digitalizing world —and ensure the communities we care about do not get left further behindIf our success is predicated on the success of our grantees, and their success is predicated on the increased quality of life for those they serve, and both are increasingly dependent on access to digital technologies, then we must engage.

The good news is there are clear ways to do so. Here are three ways philanthropy can begin to engage in ensuring digital equity.

Read the full article about philanthropy and digital equity by Chris Worman at Alliance Magazine.