San José Launches Digital Inclusion Fund to Close the Digital Divide

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Office of Mayor Liccardo


San José, Calif. – On Tuesday February 12 Mayor Sam Liccardo announced that the City of San José had authorized the creation of the San José Digital Inclusion Fund (DIF). This initiative, funded through private corporate investment and the largest of its kind in the nation, will provide programs and grants to the community to close the digital divide in San José.

“San José aspires to be the city where the opportunities of innovation empower all residents and communities, especially those historically underserved and marginalized. Access to reliable, high-speed internet service has become a necessity, not a luxury but the reality is 95,000 San José residents are ‘un-connected’ with no internet access at home. Today that changes,” said Mayor Liccardo. “The Digital Inclusion Fund will ensure that residents have access to appropriate technology, whether for homework, career opportunities, or healthcare, and access to digital literacy programs, so all San José residents are equipped for an increasingly digital, 21st century world.” 

The Fund will be supported by the revenue from the small cell usage fees paid by telecommunications companies to upgrade broadband networks that lay the groundwork for 5G in San José. The City of San José and the California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF) will raise additional private funding. 

“It is always a good day when we can expand technology options in the capital of Silicon Valley while ensuring that no resident of our city will be left on the wrong side of the digital divide” continued Mayor Liccardo. 

The City has chosen the CETF, a statewide non-profit organization whose mission is to close the digital divide in California, to manage the fund. The City will create an advisory board composed of local stakeholders to administer and allocate the estimated $24 million in grants for digital inclusion programs. 

“The Digital Inclusion Fund is a premier example of what can happen with sincere public -private partnerships. We are truly appreciative of our telecom partners for working with the City to take this pioneering step and are thrilled to be working with the California Emerging Technology Fund,” said San José CIO, Shireen Santosham. “The CETF’s previous work with community-based organizations and other local stakeholders to get un-connected and under-connected households online across California makes them the ideal partner to do that for San José.” 

“The California Emerging Technology Fund commends the vision and leadership of the City of San José in tackling the digital divide with such commitment and focus. San José is a trailblazer in digital inclusion and a model of what is possible to ensure that the digitally-disadvantaged are the innovative entrepreneurs and skilled workers to attract investment and ensure economic prosperity in Silicon Valley,” observed Sunne Wright McPeak, the CETF President and CEO. 

Over the next 10 years, the Digital Inclusion Fund will connect 50,000 San José households with universal device access and universal connectivity at speeds of at least 25 Mbps upload/3 Mbps download; and ensure those households achieve and sustain the appropriate digital skills proficiency levels to stay ahead of technology, thereby increasing quality of life outcomes in education, workforce, healthcare and more. 

The DIF aims to begin grant allocations as early as this fall, with city programs and community organizations competing for the grants, ideally encouraging more innovative and demonstrably successful initiatives. 

In San José, the CETF will use a similar approach to ensure that the Digital Inclusion Fund is uniquely suited to address the challenges in San José. The solutions will be local and customized. 

How will grants be made? 

As the City and the CETF kick off the process, they are looking to get the first $1,000,000 in grants out to grantees in the fall of 2019 based on current permitting and cash flow estimates. 

Each grant round is 9 months long:

 3 months: Announcement and Launch of Digital Inclusion Initiative

 3 months: Community Awareness Outreach and Fact Finding; and

 3 months: Request for Proposals and Award of Grants.