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Digital Access for All


Digital Access for All

The Purpose

Digital technology affords people an evolving assortment of avenues to connect with one another and the world around us, creating pathways to the resources and relationships we all depend on to maintain our well-being and laying the bedrock for a more inclusive society. While our digital evolution holds boundless possibilities for the future, access to technology is a prerequisite each one of us must have to unlock them. Strengthening digital access among people of all ages and backgrounds — especially those from asset-limited families — helps ensure that everyone is included in our journey toward these new realities and benefiting from the many advancements.

Strengthening the Impact

As The Patterson Foundation's initiatives innovate to connect with people, organizations, and communities in new ways through digital technology, creating greater access to that technology has emerged as an aspiration with broad potential for its work in philanthropy. To pursue this aspiration, The Patterson Foundation created its Digital Access for All initiative, which explores the efforts of multiple sectors working to enhance access to technology that connects people in ways that foster inclusion and well-being.

Aspirations Journalism will cover this initial exploration through stories that build empathy and evolve our understanding of what digital access entails, how it affects our daily lives, and why it's important, while discovering who is working on it and how to inform collaborative opportunities to strengthen the broader effort.


Click on frequently asked questions below to learn more about this initiative...

What is Digital Access for All?

Digital Access for All explores the efforts of multiple sectors working to enhance access to technology that connects people in ways that foster inclusion and well-being. This initiative aspires to discover how individuals, businesses, nonprofits, government, and the media are moving the needle on access to digital technology. This knowledge will inform opportunities to strengthen these efforts collaboratively.

Why is The Patterson Foundation supporting this initiative?

The Patterson Foundation strengthens the efforts of people, organizations, and communities by focusing on issues that address common aspirations and foster wide participation. For more than a decade, The Patterson Foundation’s initiatives have emphasized embracing technology and maximizing its benefits to strengthen their work. With the COVID-19 pandemic, digital access has emerged as a basic necessity to connect to a variety of vital services that have increasingly shifted to an online format, including those related to education, health, and employment — a necessity that many asset-limited families and communities struggle to acquire. Discovering efforts and entities that are moving the needle on this issue and how each of them are working on it creates an opportunity to strengthen efforts to overcome the common obstacles to digital access.

What is digital access?

Digital access is an umbrella term referring to all elements required for any person to connect to the internet and use it efficiently and effectively to fully participate in our increasingly digital society. It includes connectivity (broadband, fiber, WiFi), devices (computers, tablets), digital skills (training, tech support), and any other important factors that could prohibit or enhance one’s ability to digitally engage in society and connect with friends, family, or essential services.

Who provides digital access?

In most cases, an individual or organization must seek out and cover the costs for digital access — which can include connecting to the internet, owning or renting a device, skills training, and tech support. In several communities, school districts, private citizens, companies, and philanthropy have stepped in to provide certain aspects of digital access like connectivity or devices. More examples of this are emerging as many entities, including schools, churches, medical providers, and other essential service providers shift to online alternatives to their traditional in-person methods.

Why is digital access important?

Digital access is imperative to participate and thrive in today’s society, and COVID-19 has accelerated this trend. From learning to healthcare to filing for unemployment to staying connected with family and friends, almost everything is happening in whole or in part online. Without quality digital access, our school-age children and young adults fall behind peers who are able to go online. Adults struggle to connect with each other and the essential services they need. As our workforce shifts to even more digitally based employment opportunities, those without access and the skills to navigate the digital world effectively will qualify for far fewer jobs than candidates who can leverage online platforms. To excel in any field, connect to others and essential services, and learn or teach virtually will require an ever-increasing amount of digital literacy going forward. For those reasons, digital access is not only important but critical to our individual and organizational success in today’s world.

Who are asset-limited families and communities?

Asset-limited families and communities (ALICE) can be found among all ages, ethnicities, households, and geographic areas. They often live below or barely above the Federal Poverty Level and struggle to afford basic necessities like food, housing, and healthcare despite working one or more full-time jobs. A lack of education and digital skills prevent many from attaining higher-paying jobs or promotions.

Within our four-county focus, data shows the percentage of ALICE & Poverty in Total Households:
  • DeSoto- 60% of 11,419 (total households)
  • Charlotte – 45% of 75,147
  • Manatee – 44% of 142,465
  • Sarasota- 37% of 176,191

What are the barriers to digital access for asset-limited families and communities?

The main barriers to digital access for asset-limited families and communities involve access, adoption, and affordability.
  • Access: Asset-limited families and communities are often marginalized and underserved as Internet Service Providers (ISPs) might choose to provide limited or no access to their homes or areas due to a lack of profitability. For example, higher-income neighborhoods may receive fast broadband technology, whereas lower-income neighborhoods may receive slow broadband technology.

  • Adoption: Broadband access adoption among asset-limited families and communities depends on the rate of subscription, the quality of internet access, and the requirement of digital skills.

  • Affordability: Typically, asset-limited families and communities do not have adequate finances or savings to support their expenses for basic necessities such as housing, food, healthcare, and more. Due to the high costs of digital access, their budgets do not allow additional investments into technology for assets like devices and the internet. The lack of lower-cost options or awareness of those that already exist discourages the adoption of broadband services.
Additionally, there are systemic barriers to universal broadband related to a lack of regulation that leads to pricing inconsistencies.

How has COVID-19 affected digital access?

Digital access has steadily grown in importance over the last several years as multiple sectors embrace and utilize online technology. Amidst COVID-19, which has forced people and institutions to quickly adapt their services and methods of communication, digital access has become even more important. With education, social services, medical visits, and many other vital services increasingly shifting to online formats, access to broadband internet, online devices, and software is critical to obtaining the resources one needs to maintain their well-being. Furthermore, COVID-19 has highlighted the long-standing barriers to digital access and support many asset-limited families and communities face.

How will Aspirations Journalism contribute to this initiative?

Aspirations Journalism is a partnership between The Patterson Foundation and the Herald-Tribune Media Group to inform, educate, and galvanize the community to build movements around sustainable community networks. Within Digital Access for All, Aspirations Journalism will focus on stories that build empathy and strengthen our understanding of what digital access entails, the ways it affects our daily lives, common barriers, and why it’s important while discovering who is working on it and how.

How will The Patterson Foundation invest in this initiative?

Foundations fulfill their missions in a variety of ways, from funding individual programs to entire organizations. The Patterson Foundation aspires to strengthen the efforts of people, organizations, and communities by working in ways that foster wide participation. Digital Access for All is an exploration into the why, what, and how of concurrent efforts to strengthen digital access for all citizens, especially those who are asset-limited or do not currently enjoy the benefits of full digital access in their daily lives. It focuses on discovering the approaches local, regional and national organizations are employing to address the needs of our communities around digital access and explores ways to align strategies and facilitate efforts to vault hurdles and advance progress toward this aspiration.

How can I secure funding from The Patterson Foundation?

Rather than making grants to individual organizations or programs, The Patterson Foundation invests in identified collaborative efforts that incorporate proven practices, data and wide participation. While The Patterson Foundation is not accepting unsolicited proposals for funding, it values the dedicated efforts underway to help asset-limited families join the digital landscape.

Additional FAQ's

How can I learn more about Digital Access for All?

Connect with The Patterson Foundation for the latest updates on Digital Access for All:

Who can I contact about the Digital Access for All initiative?

For more information, contact initiative manager Laurey Stryker or project manager John Ferguson

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