Government Initiatives to Bridge the Digital Divide in Maryland

1. What steps has Maryland taken to promote digital literacy among its citizens?

1. Statewide Digital Literacy Initiative: In 2016, Maryland launched the Statewide Digital Literacy Initiative to provide digital literacy resources and training to residents across the state. The initiative includes partnerships with community-based organizations, libraries, and other institutions to offer classes, workshops, and one-on-one coaching on basic computer skills, internet safety, social media usage, and more.

2. Digital Education Resources: The state’s Department of Education works with school districts to provide students with access to digital education resources such as online learning platforms, digital textbooks, and educational technology tools. This helps students develop digital literacy skills as they use technology for learning.

3. Computer Science Standards: Maryland has adopted computer science standards that integrate digital literacy skills into K-12 education. These standards include concepts such as coding, data analysis, and problem-solving in various subjects like math and science.

4. Technology Training for Government Employees: The Maryland Department of Information Technology offers technology training programs for government employees to improve their digital literacy skills. These programs cover topics such as cybersecurity awareness, Microsoft Office applications, and web design.

5. Libraries as Digital Literacy Hubs: Maryland’s public libraries play a crucial role in promoting digital literacy among citizens by providing access to computers and the internet as well as offering classes on basic computer skills, online safety, and digital resources.

6. Online Resources: Maryland offers online resources on its website through its Digital Learning Center that provides citizens with free access to courses on a variety of topics related to digital literacy such as job searching techniques and using social media effectively.

7. Partnership with Tech Industry: The state has partnerships with major tech companies such as Google and Microsoft to provide free or low-cost access to their products for non-profits and schools in the state. This helps improve access and familiarity with these important digital tools.

8. Accessibility Initiatives: Maryland promotes accessibility for people with disabilities by providing assistive technology tools and resources to help them access and use digital devices effectively.

9. Digital Equity: Maryland recognizes the importance of bridging the digital divide and has initiatives in place to promote digital equity among its citizens. This includes providing low-income families with free or discounted internet access and affordable devices through programs such as ConnectHome and Lifeline.

10. Collaboration with Community Organizations: Maryland collaborates with community organizations such as Senior Tech groups, AmeriCorps, and Senior Corps to provide digital literacy training to elders, immigrants, and other underprivileged populations who may not have access or knowledge about technology.

2. How is the government of Maryland working towards bridging the digital divide in rural areas?

The government of Maryland has implemented several initiatives and programs to bridge the digital divide in rural areas. These include:

1. Maryland Broadband Program: This program was established in 2012 to expand broadband access and adoption across the state, particularly in rural areas. The program provides grants and loans to internet service providers (ISPs) to build and improve broadband infrastructure in unserved and underserved regions.

2. Rural Broadband Coordination Committee: The state government created this committee to identify barriers to high-speed internet deployment in rural areas and recommend solutions. The committee also advocates for policies and funds to support broadband expansion.

3. Project C.O.R.E.: Through this initiative, the state government is investing $7 million annually to bring affordable high-speed internet access to underserved areas, including rural communities.

4. Broadband Expansion Program (BEP): The BEP focuses on expanding broadband services across Maryland, with a particular emphasis on addressing gaps in coverage in rural areas. The program provides funding for feasibility studies, network design, construction of network facilities, and coordination with local governments.

5. Connect MD: This initiative aims to provide affordable broadband access through a collaboration between state agencies, local governments, non-profits, ISPs, and technology companies.

6. Digital Inclusion Fund: This fund supports projects that promote digital literacy skills, equipment distribution, community technology centers, public computing centers, training resources for job seekers or information about health care or other government services.

7. Partnerships with ISPs: The state government has partnered with various ISPs such as Verizon Fios and Comcast Xfinity to extend broadband services into underserved communities at reduced prices.

8. Wi-Fi hotspots in public spaces: The state has set up free Wi-Fi hotspots in libraries, parks, community centers, and other public spaces in rural areas where residents can access the internet at no cost.

Overall these efforts by the Maryland government aim to increase broadband availability, affordability, and adoption in rural areas, providing residents with better access to education, economic opportunities, healthcare services, and other resources.

3. What are some specific policies implemented by Maryland government to improve internet accessibility in low-income communities?

1. Broadband Infrastructure Program: The State of Maryland has allocated over $25 million to its Broadband Infrastructure Grant Program, which provides funding to internet service providers (ISPs) to expand broadband infrastructure in underserved communities.

2. Affordable Broadband Options: The Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC) has required ISPs to offer discounted broadband services to low-income households through the Federal Communications Commission’s Lifeline program.

3. Digital Literacy Programs: The Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development offers digital literacy training programs for low-income residents, teaching basic computer skills and internet usage.

4. Digital Equity Grants: The PSC also offers grants to local governments and community organizations for projects that promote digital inclusion and equity, such as public computer centers and Wi-Fi hotspots in underserved areas.

5. Public-Private Partnerships: The state government has partnered with private companies, such as Microsoft and Google, to provide free or low-cost internet access in low-income communities through initiatives like “Airband” and “Project Loon.”

6. Universal Service Funds: The PSC manages the Universal Service Fund, which provides subsidies to ISPs serving low-income or rural areas, ensuring they can offer affordable broadband services.

7. Net Neutrality Protections: In 2018, Maryland became one of the first states to pass legislation protecting net neutrality by prohibiting ISPs from blocking or slowing down internet access based on content or source.

8. ConnectingMN Program: Launched in 2020, this program aims to connect all K-12 students in Maryland with reliable high-speed internet access for online learning by working with ISPs to provide discounted or free services.

9. Broadband Task Force: In 2019, Governor Larry Hogan created a task force dedicated to studying issues related to internet access and affordability in rural and underserved areas of the state and developing recommendations for improvement.

10. Digital Divide Data Visualization Tool: This mapping tool created by the Maryland Broadband Cooperative allows residents to see areas with limited or no internet service and advocates for broadband expansion in those areas.

4. In what ways is Maryland ensuring affordable internet and computer access for underserved populations?

1. Broadband Infrastructure Development: One of the major steps taken by Maryland to ensure affordable internet access is the development of broadband infrastructure. In 2018, Maryland established a $100 million investment fund for rural broadband deployment, which has helped in expanding high-speed internet access to underserved areas.

2. Connecting Susquehanna Region (CSR) Project: The CSR project by the Maryland Broadband Cooperative aims to bring affordable and reliable internet access to underserved and unserved communities in the state. This project has received funding from the Universal Service Fund (USF) and will bring high-speed internet to over 37,000 homes and businesses.

3. Digital Divide Bridge Program: The Digital Divide Bridge Program offers discounted high-speed internet and low-cost computers to low-income families in Maryland through partnerships with local internet service providers.

4. Broadband Affordability Pilot: The state government launched a pilot program in Baltimore City in 2020 aimed at increasing digital equity and affordability for low-income households. Through this program, eligible households can receive $25 per month towards their internet subscription bills.

5. Low-Income Assistance Programs: Some counties in Maryland also offer low-income assistance programs that provide discounts on either monthly internet bills or purchasing a computer for eligible households.

6. Community Partnerships: Many community-based organizations in Maryland are working towards bridging the digital divide by providing free or low-cost computers, training resources, and workforce development programs to underserved populations.

7. Public Wi-Fi Access Points: The state government has deployed public Wi-Fi access points in libraries, schools, parks, and other public places across the state to provide free internet access for those who cannot afford it at home.

8. Digital Literacy Programs: To ensure that underserved populations have the necessary skills to utilize the available internet resources, various initiatives have been launched in Maryland such as digital literacy training programs for residents of all ages.

9. E-rate Program: Maryland participates in the federal E-rate program, which provides discounts for internet and telecommunications services to eligible schools and libraries, ensuring affordable internet access for students and teachers.

10. Statewide Digital Inclusion Plan: The state of Maryland has developed a comprehensive digital inclusion plan that outlines strategies and actions to bridge the digital divide, especially for underserved populations. This plan includes partnerships with local governments, community organizations, and private sector entities to address affordability issues and promote digital literacy.

5. What are the key initiatives launched by Maryland to expand broadband access across the state?

1. Maryland Broadband Plan: In 2019, the state of Maryland released its first-ever statewide broadband plan, outlining a roadmap to address existing gaps in broadband access and adoption.

2. Rural Broadband Initiative: In 2020, Governor Larry Hogan announced a $300 million investment in broadband infrastructure to connect rural communities across the state with high-speed internet.

3. One Maryland Broadband Network: The state implemented a partnership with private companies to develop a statewide fiber-optic network that will provide high-speed internet access to areas currently underserved by existing providers.

4. Reducing Regulatory Barriers: In order to encourage private investment in broadband infrastructure, Maryland has implemented legislation aimed at reducing regulatory barriers and streamlining the permitting process for broadband providers.

5. Digital Connectivity Act of 2021: The recently passed Digital Connectivity Act provides funding for expanding broadband access and supports initiatives such as public-private partnerships and targeted subsidies for low-income households.

6. E-Rate Program: The state participates in the federal E-rate program which provides subsidies for schools and libraries to obtain affordable internet access.

7. Connect MD: A public-private partnership between the State of Maryland and non-profit organizations focused on closing the digital divide through various initiatives such as providing low-cost devices, digital literacy training, and affordable internet service options.

8. Smart Workforce Centers: These centers provide technology resources, employment assistance, and digital skills training for job seekers in underserved areas of the state.

9. Wireless Infrastructure Modernization Program (WIM): This program aims to accelerate wireless infrastructure deployment through streamlined processes and reduced fees for wireless providers.

10. HERO Broadband Program: Launched in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, this program offers free or low-cost internet service options for low-income households in order to ensure remote learning and work opportunities for all during times of crisis.

6. What role does the government of Maryland play in addressing issues of unequal internet access between urban and rural areas?

The government of Maryland has taken steps to address unequal internet access between urban and rural areas through several initiatives. These include:

1. Broadband Infrastructure Funding: The state government has allocated funding to support the expansion of broadband infrastructure in underserved rural areas. In 2020, Maryland received a $38 million federal grant to improve broadband infrastructure in rural communities.

2. Broadband Task Force: The state has established a Broadband Task Force to identify gaps in broadband coverage and develop strategies for improving internet access across the state, particularly in rural areas.

3. Broadening Access in Rural Maryland (BARM) Program: This program provides grants to internet service providers (ISPs) to expand broadband services to unserved and underserved rural areas.

4. Connecting Rural Maryland Grant Program: This program offers grants to local governments, nonprofits, and other organizations for projects that improve broadband availability and adoption in rural communities.

5. Enhanced Emergency Communications Act: In 2019, Maryland passed this act which requires ISPs that receive state subsidies to provide high-speed internet service with a minimum download speed of 25 Mbps and a minimum upload speed of 3 Mbps.

6. Digital Divide Investment Act: This legislation, signed into law in 2021, establishes a fund to provide incentives for ISPs serving low-income or underserved areas to invest in expanding broadband access.

7. Promoting Public-Private Partnerships: The governor’s office has also encouraged public-private partnerships to bridge the digital divide in underserved areas by providing tax incentives for private companies that invest in broadband infrastructure projects.

Through these efforts, the government of Maryland aims to close the gap in internet access between urban and rural areas and ensure that all residents have access to reliable high-speed internet connections.

7. How is Maryland promoting tech education and skills development to close the digital divide among its citizens?

Maryland is promoting tech education and skills development in several ways to close the digital divide among its citizens:

1. Funding for technology in schools: The state government provides funding for technology resources, such as computers, software, and high-speed internet connections, to schools throughout Maryland. This ensures that students have access to the necessary tools for learning about technology.

2. STEM education initiatives: Maryland has placed a strong emphasis on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education in recent years. These programs aim to inspire and train young people in these fields and prepare them for future careers in the tech industry.

3. Community programs: There are various community-based programs in Maryland that offer training and classes on basic technology skills. These may include computer literacy classes for adults or coding workshops for children.

4. Tech apprenticeships: Some organizations and companies in the state offer apprenticeship programs to help individuals develop technical skills through hands-on experience. These programs can be particularly beneficial for people who may not have access to traditional forms of education or who want to switch careers.

5. Digital literacy initiatives: Maryland has various initiatives aimed at improving digital literacy among its residents, particularly those in underserved communities. These programs provide training on using computers and navigating the internet safely.

6. Partnerships with tech companies: The state works collaboratively with tech companies to bring more opportunities for education and skills development to its citizens. For example, Microsoft has partnered with Maryland’s department of labor to offer free digital literacy classes across the state.

7. Free public Wi-Fi hotspots: In recent years, Maryland has launched multiple initiatives aimed at providing free public Wi-Fi access in low-income areas and communities lacking adequate internet infrastructure.

Overall, through these various efforts, Maryland is working towards bridging the digital divide by providing equal access to technology resources and education opportunities for all its citizens.

8. Can you provide examples of successful public-private partnerships in Maryland that have helped bridge the digital divide?

One example of a successful public-private partnership in Maryland that has helped bridge the digital divide is the Baltimore Digital Equity Initiative. This partnership was formed between the City of Baltimore, private companies, and community organizations to address the lack of affordable high-speed internet access in low-income neighborhoods in the city. The initiative has provided discounted internet services to over 40,000 households, as well as free digital skills training and technology resources.

Another example is the Partnership for a Connected Maryland, which is led by the state government in collaboration with private companies and nonprofit organizations. This partnership aims to expand broadband infrastructure to underserved areas of the state and increase digital literacy through educational programs and resources.

Additionally, Comcast’s Internet Essentials program has been successful in providing low-cost internet service and computer equipment to low-income families with school-aged children in Maryland. The company has also partnered with local schools and community organizations to provide digital literacy training and support for families.

The Digital Harbor Foundation’s Tech Fellowship program is another successful public-private partnership in Maryland that helps bridge the digital divide through education and mentorship. The program pairs students from underserved communities with mentors from technology companies, providing hands-on learning opportunities and career readiness skills.

These partnerships have all played a significant role in bridging the digital divide in Maryland by addressing various barriers such as affordability, infrastructure, and education. By combining resources and expertise from both the public and private sectors, they have been able to make a positive impact on closing the digital divide in their respective communities.

9. What measures has Maryland taken to address disparities in quality of internet service between different regions within the state?

Maryland has taken several measures to address disparities in quality of internet service between different regions within the state:

1. Broadband Infrastructure Investment Grant Program: In 2018, Maryland established this program to provide funding for the expansion and improvement of broadband infrastructure in underserved and unserved areas of the state. The program has awarded millions of dollars to internet service providers to expand their coverage in rural and low-income areas.

2. Broadband Task Force: In response to a study that showed significant disparities in broadband access between urban and rural areas, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan formed a Broadband Task Force in 2017. The task force made recommendations for policies and programs aimed at increasing broadband availability and quality throughout the state.

3. Digital Connectivity Act: In 2021, Maryland passed the Digital Connectivity Act, which sets ambitious goals for universal broadband access by 2026. The act also established an Office of Statewide Broadband within the Department of Housing and Community Development to coordinate efforts to improve internet service across the state.

4. Public-Private Partnerships: Maryland has utilized public-private partnerships (P3s) to sponsor large-scale broadband infrastructure projects in underserved areas. These partnerships allow private companies to invest in broadband infrastructure while using public resources like rights-of-way and easements.

5. Digital Literacy Programs: To address disparities beyond physical access, Maryland also offers digital literacy training programs for individuals with limited internet experience or skills. These programs help people make better use of available internet services, increasing their ability to find jobs or access education online.

6. Telework Assistance Program: The Telework Assistance Program provides grants for small businesses in rural areas that need assistance expanding their capacity to engage with customers remotely through technology such as videoconferencing or e-commerce platforms.

7. Local Initiatives: Various counties and towns throughout Maryland have implemented their own initiatives aimed at improving internet access and quality within their communities. For example, Garrett County has established a fiber optic network and Caroline County has provided financial incentives for internet service providers to upgrade their infrastructure.

Overall, Maryland has taken a multi-faceted approach to address disparities in quality of internet service between different regions within the state. By investing in broadband infrastructure, promoting public-private partnerships, and offering support for digital literacy programs, the state is working towards ensuring that all individuals and communities have access to high-quality internet services.

10. How has the government of Maryland utilized technology to improve service delivery and accessibility for citizens?

1. Online Services and Applications: The government of Maryland offers a wide range of online services and applications that make it easier for citizens to access government information and complete transactions without having to visit physical offices. These services include online payment systems, application portals for licenses and permits, and access to vital records.

2. Mobile Apps: The state has developed various mobile apps that allow citizens to access government services from their smartphones. These apps cover areas such as transportation, public safety, health, and social services.

3. Smart Technology in Transportation: Maryland Department of Transportation has introduced smart technology on roads to improve traffic flow and reduce congestion. This includes variable message signs, intelligent transportation systems, and real-time traffic data available through mobile apps.

4. E-Government Initiatives: The state has implemented several e-government initiatives such as the portal, which serves as a central platform for government information and services. Citizens can access state agency websites, search for resources, and complete transactions through this portal.

5. Virtual Services during COVID-19: In response to the pandemic, many government services in Maryland have shifted online to limit in-person interactions. This includes virtual court hearings, remote meetings with state agencies, and online classes for students.

6. GIS Mapping Systems: The use of geospatial technology has enabled the state to create interactive maps that provide valuable information for citizens such as property boundaries, election districts, zoning areas, emergency service locations, etc.

7. Social Media Engagement:The state government actively uses social media platforms like Facebook,Twitter,and Instagramto reach out to citizens,take feedback,and share updates.This enhances communication between the authoritiesand thepublic,making it easier for residents to voice their opinions or concerns.

8. Open Data Initiative: In 2012,Maryland launched its Open Data Portal,to increase transparency,and allow citizento access and use government data including crime rates,voter registration statistics,and transit schedules.This initiative aims to encourage the creation of innovative applications and promote civic engagement.

9. Telehealth Services: The state has expanded telemedicine services in recent years to improve access to healthcare for citizens, especially those in remote areas. Virtual consultations, remote monitoring, and other telehealth services have become more widely available through government initiatives.

10. Cybersecurity Measures: As technology becomes more integrated into service delivery, the government of Maryland has also prioritized cybersecurity measures to protect citizen data and prevent cyber attacks. These include implementing multi-factor authentication processes and regular security updates on government systems.

11. Are there any specific efforts being made by Maryland to increase digital inclusion for marginalized communities such as people with disabilities or seniors?

Yes, Maryland has several initiatives in place to increase digital inclusion for marginalized communities, including people with disabilities and seniors:

1. Accessibility Standards: Maryland has adopted the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) as the standard for all state websites and applications. This ensures that people with disabilities can access online information and services.

2. Technology Assistance for People with Disabilities: The Maryland Department of Disabilities provides training, education, and support to individuals with disabilities on how to effectively use technology, as well as assistive technology resources for individuals who are blind or visually impaired.

3. Senior Connects Program: Through the Senior Connects program, the state offers free computer equipment and internet service to low-income seniors aged 60 and older who want to get online but cannot afford it.

4. Digital Inclusion Fellowship Program: The Baltimore Digital Equity Coalition runs an annual fellowship program that trains young adults from marginalized communities in digital literacy skills and equips them to support digital inclusion efforts in the city.

5. Broadband Access Programs: The state has implemented various programs to improve broadband access in rural areas, particularly through partnerships with private companies and grants for infrastructure development.

6. Digital Literacy Training: Maryland provides digital literacy training programs through public libraries, community centers, and senior centers to equip residents with essential skills for using technology.

7. Statewide Computer Refurbishment Efforts: Through partnerships with non-profit organizations, Maryland collects used computers from government agencies, schools, and businesses for refurbishing or recycling. Refurbished computers are then donated to low-income households or sold at a discounted rate.

8. Expansion of Public Wi-Fi Networks: Several cities across Maryland have expanded their public Wi-Fi networks to provide free internet access in public parks, libraries, community centers, and other locations frequented by residents from marginalized communities.

9. Telehealth Initiatives: To improve healthcare accessibility for seniors and people with disabilities living in rural areas or without easy access to transportation, Maryland has expanded telehealth programs that allow patients to access medical services remotely through digital devices.

10. Digital Inclusion Taskforce: In 2020, the state established a task force to study and make recommendations for improving digital inclusion statewide. The task force has been actively working on identifying barriers and developing strategies to promote digital equity across Maryland.

Overall, Maryland is committed to promoting digital inclusion for marginalized communities by providing resources, training, and infrastructure to help bridge the digital divide.

12. What innovative approaches is Maryland using to increase broadband penetration in remote or underserved areas?

Some of the innovative approaches being used in Maryland to increase broadband penetration in remote or underserved areas include:
1. Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs): The state has formed partnerships with private companies and local communities to fund and build broadband infrastructure in rural areas.

2. Rural Broadband Expansion Program: This program provides financial assistance to internet service providers (ISPs) for deploying broadband infrastructure in unserved or underserved areas.

3. Wireless Broadband Technology: Maryland is utilizing wireless technology, such as fixed wireless and satellite, to reach remote areas where traditional wired infrastructure is not feasible.

4. Telehealth Initiatives: The state is using telehealth programs to provide healthcare services remotely in underserved areas, which requires reliable broadband access.

5. State Funding Programs: Maryland has created funding programs like the Broadband for Rural Areas Initiative and the Connect Maryland Program to support broadband infrastructure development in unserved or underserved communities.

6. Digital Equity Grants: The state offers grants to community organizations that are working towards bridging the digital divide and increasing broadband adoption among low-income households.

7. Broadband Mapping: Accurate mapping of broadband availability helps identify gaps and target investment more effectively. Maryland has implemented a comprehensive broadband mapping program to track internet speeds across the state.

8. Enhanced Infrastructure Access Policies: The state has adopted policies that encourage and facilitate the deployment of broadband infrastructure, such as allowing ISPs to use existing utility poles for fiber connections.

9. Community-Owned Networks: Some communities in Maryland have built their own local networks, either independently or through partnerships with local ISPs, to provide high-speed internet services where they are lacking.

10. Fiber-To-The-Premises (FTTP) Deployment: FTTP is considered one of the most efficient ways of delivering high-speed internet, and many rural communities across Maryland have been deploying this technology with the help of government funding and partnerships with ISPs.

11. Mobile Broadband Expansion: The state has initiated programs to expand mobile broadband coverage in underserved areas, such as partnering with private companies to build new wireless towers and infrastructure.

12. Broadband Taskforce: In 2017, the state established a Broadband Taskforce to advise the Governor on strategies for improving broadband connectivity and adoption statewide. This taskforce has been instrumental in guiding the development and implementation of innovative solutions to increase broadband access in remote or underserved areas.

13. How is data privacy and security being addressed by the government of Maryland during its initiatives to bridge the digital divide?

The state of Maryland has several initiatives in place to address data privacy and security concerns, particularly when it comes to bridging the digital divide:

1. Cybersecurity initiatives: Maryland has established the Cybersecurity Investment Fund (CIF), which provides resources for small and mid-sized technology companies to develop cybersecurity solutions. The state also collaborates with federal agencies and private sector partners to share information about cyber threats and vulnerabilities.

2. Privacy laws and regulations: Maryland has laws in place to protect personal data, such as the Personal Information Protection Act, which requires businesses that collect personal information to implement reasonable security measures to prevent unauthorized access to this information.

3. Education and awareness programs: The Maryland Department of Information Technology conducts training and awareness programs for government employees on cybersecurity best practices. This helps ensure that sensitive data collected during digital divide initiatives is handled securely.

4. Data protection protocols: Government agencies in Maryland are required to follow strict protocols for storing and sharing data, including encryption, firewalls, and other security measures.

5. Partnerships with Internet Service Providers (ISPs): The state has partnered with ISPs to implement security protocols and ensure secure internet connectivity for residents participating in digital divide initiatives.

6. Emphasis on trustworthy vendors: In its initiatives to bridge the digital divide, the state prioritizes working with reputable vendors who have a strong record of protecting sensitive information.

Overall, the government of Maryland recognizes the importance of data privacy and security in its efforts to bridge the digital divide and is taking steps to ensure that individuals’ sensitive information is protected through various measures such as laws, education programs, partnerships, and vendor selection processes.

14. Can you share success stories of individuals or communities who have benefitted from government initiatives aimed at reducing the digital divide in Maryland?

Yes, there are many examples of success stories from individuals and communities who have benefitted from government initiatives aimed at reducing the digital divide in Maryland. Here are a few examples:

1. The SmartBuy program, launched by the State of Maryland in 2016, has helped many first-time homebuyers to purchase homes through discounted mortgage rates and down payment assistance. This has enabled more individuals and families to become homeowners and gain access to high-speed internet and other digital resources.

2. The Broadband for All program, initiated by Governor Larry Hogan in 2017, has successfully connected thousands of rural households in Maryland with reliable internet service for the first time. This has had a significant impact on education, healthcare, and economic opportunities in these communities.

3. The Baltimore City Digital Equity Coalition (BCDEC), a public-private partnership launched in 2018, has been working to bridge the digital divide in underserved communities in Baltimore. Through their efforts, they have provided training programs and resources to improve digital literacy among low-income individuals, seniors, and people with disabilities.

4. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the state government of Maryland collaborated with local school districts to provide laptops or tablets and internet access to students from low-income families so that they could participate in virtual learning. This initiative has helped thousands of students across the state continue their education during this challenging time.

5. The TechHire program, funded by federal grants and administered by the Department of Labor Licensing and Regulation (DLLR), has offered free IT training and certification programs to unemployed or underemployed individuals in Maryland since 2016. Many participants have found employment after completing these programs and advancing their IT skills.

Overall, these initiatives have contributed to reducing the digital divide in Maryland by improving access to technology and skills training for disadvantaged communities. They have also opened up new opportunities for economic growth and development across the state.

15. Has there been any research or evaluation conducted on the effectiveness of various programs implemented by Maryland to bridge the digital divide?

Yes, there has been research and evaluation conducted on the effectiveness of various programs implemented by Maryland to bridge the digital divide. Here are a few examples:

1. The Pew Research Center released a report in 2019 analyzing broadband access and adoption in Maryland. The research found that although the state has high levels of broadband access, there are still gaps in adoption among low-income and rural communities.

2. The Maryland Department of Information Technology (DoIT) conducted an evaluation of their Community Connect Grant Program in 2017, which provides funding for local broadband infrastructure projects. The evaluation concluded that the program has successfully expanded broadband access to underserved areas in the state.

3. A study published by Deloitte in 2018 examined the impact of public Wi-Fi initiatives in Maryland on bridging the digital divide. The study found that these initiatives have positively influenced economic development, education, healthcare, and civic engagement.

4. In 2020, the University of Maryland School of Public Health published a report on telehealth use during the COVID-19 pandemic, highlighting how increased access to technology and telehealth services has helped bridge the digital divide for underserved populations.

These are just a few examples of research and evaluations conducted on programs aimed at bridging the digital divide in Maryland. Overall, while progress has been made in expanding access to technology and internet services, there is still ongoing effort and need for further research and evaluation to assess effectiveness and identify areas for improvement.

16. How has collaboration with local governments and community organizations played a role in tackling the issue of unequal access to technology in Maryland?

There are several ways that collaboration with local governments and community organizations has played a role in tackling the issue of unequal access to technology in Maryland:

1. Identifying areas of need: Local governments and community organizations have been able to work together to identify specific areas or communities that lack access to technology. This allows for targeted efforts and resources to be directed towards those who need it most.

2. Increasing awareness: By collaborating with local governments, community organizations can raise awareness about the issue of unequal access to technology and its impact on individuals and communities. This helps to build support for initiatives that address this issue.

3. Providing funding and resources: Collaboration between local governments and community organizations can lead to increased funding for programs and initiatives aimed at increasing access to technology. They can also share resources, such as equipment or space, which can help in implementing these programs.

4. Developing partnerships: Partnerships between local governments and community organizations can bring together different strengths, expertise, and resources, allowing for more comprehensive solutions to the issue. For example, a partnership between a local government agency and a nonprofit organization may result in a program that provides both internet access and digital literacy training.

5. Advocating for policy change: Local governments have the power to implement policies that promote equal access to technology, such as providing free public Wi-Fi or investing in underserved communities’ broadband infrastructure. Community organizations can work with them to advocate for these policies, raising awareness about the importance of equal access.

6. Engaging communities directly: Collaborating with community organizations allows local governments to engage directly with communities affected by unequal access to technology. This enables better understanding of their needs and perspectives, resulting in more effective strategies for addressing the issue.

Overall, collaboration between local governments and community organizations is essential in tackling unequal access to technology as it brings together various stakeholders, enhances resource mobilization, shares best practices, builds partnerships, encourages innovation, increases accountability, and helps achieve meaningful and sustainable impact.

17. Is there a plan in place for sustained efforts to bridge the digital divide in Maryland, or are initiatives on a case-by-case basis?

Currently, initiatives to bridge the digital divide in Maryland are done on a case-by-case basis. However, the state is aware of the importance of addressing this issue and there are efforts being made to create a more comprehensive plan.

In 2020, Governor Larry Hogan signed an Executive Order creating the Maryland Commission for Digital Equality, which is tasked with developing a comprehensive plan to provide universal access to affordable and reliable internet service throughout the state. This plan includes identifying areas lacking broadband access and developing strategies to increase adoption and usage of high-speed internet service.

Additionally, there are ongoing efforts by local governments and community organizations in Maryland to address the digital divide. For example, Baltimore City has launched multiple initiatives such as “Digital Harbor,” which provides free Wi-Fi hotspots in public spaces, and “ConnectHome,” which aims to increase affordable broadband access for low-income households. Other cities and counties in Maryland also have similar programs in place.

In summary, while there is currently no all-encompassing plan for sustained efforts to bridge the digital divide in Maryland, there are ongoing initiatives at both the state and local levels. It is likely that these efforts will continue to develop as more attention is given to this important issue.

18. How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected government initiatives to bridge the digital divide in Maryland specifically?

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted and exacerbated the digital divide in Maryland, as it has across the nation. Many students were unable to participate in online school due to lack of access to reliable internet and necessary devices. This has led to increased urgency for the state government to address the digital divide and ensure that all residents have access to affordable high-speed internet.

In response to the pandemic, Maryland launched several initiatives to bridge the digital divide, particularly for students. These include:

1. Connecting Students Initiative: In April 2020, Governor Larry Hogan launched this initiative which provided Comcast’s Internet Essentials program at no cost for two months to low-income families with school-aged children.

2. Mobile Hotspot Program: The State Department of Education distributed mobile hotspots and devices to provide internet access for students who were unable to connect at home.

3. Digital Learning Collaborative: This collaboration between the State Department of Education, local school systems, and technology partners provides support for remote learning during the pandemic.

4. Equity in Education Grant Program: Governor Hogan announced this $10 million grant program in May 2020 to assist schools in closing achievement gaps caused by COVID-19 related disruptions.

5. Broadband Infrastructure Grant Program: In July 2020, Governor Hogan announced a $10 million grant program dedicated to expanding broadband infrastructure in underserved areas of the state.

Overall, these initiatives have helped mitigate some barriers caused by the digital divide during the pandemic. However, there is still a long way to go in terms of providing reliable and affordable internet access for all Marylanders.

19. What measures are being taken by Maryland to ensure equitable access to technology and internet for students across all school districts?

To ensure equitable access to technology and internet for students across all school districts, the state of Maryland is taking the following measures:

1. Digital Equity Initiatives: The Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) has launched digital equity initiatives such as the “Digital Education Equity for Students” program, which provides funding for schools to purchase devices and internet connectivity for students in need.

2. Technology Grants: MSDE also offers technology grants to schools in low-income areas to support technological resources.

3. Accessible Learning Management Systems: All public schools in Maryland are required to use learning management systems that are accessible to students with disabilities.

4. Mobile Hotspots and Devices: Some school districts have distributed mobile hotspots and devices such as laptops or tablets to students who do not have access to reliable internet or devices at home.

5. Partnerships with Community Organizations: The state has partnered with community organizations such as Comcast’s Internet Essentials program and local libraries to provide free or discounted internet services for families in need.

6. Digital Learning Resources: MSDE provides a list of recommended digital learning resources that are available for free or at a reduced cost, making them more accessible for students across all districts.

7. Student Technology Support Teams: In some districts, Student Technology Support Teams have been formed consisting of high school students who provide technical assistance to their peers in need of support with online learning tools and technology.

8. Professional Development Opportunities: The state offers professional development opportunities for teachers on how to effectively use technology resources in their classrooms.

9. Targeted Outreach: School districts are encouraged to conduct targeted outreach efforts to identify students who may not have access to technology and provide support accordingly.

Overall, Maryland recognizes the importance of equitable access to technology and internet for all students, especially during times of remote or hybrid learning, and is working towards bridging the digital divide across all school districts in the state.

20. Can you discuss any future plans or goals of Maryland government regarding bridging the digital divide and how they will be implemented without leaving any communities behind?

The state of Maryland has a number of initiatives and plans in place to bridge the digital divide and ensure that all communities have access to reliable and affordable broadband technology. Some key future plans and goals include:

1. Statewide Broadband Plan: The Maryland Broadband Coordinator is currently working with stakeholders across the state to develop a comprehensive plan to improve broadband access, adoption, and utilization. This plan will include strategies for reaching underserved communities and will be regularly updated to address emerging technologies.

2. Investment in Broadband Infrastructure: The state has committed significant resources to expand broadband infrastructure in underserved areas. This includes funding through programs such as the Rural Maryland Prosperity Investment Fund, the Connect Maryland Program, and the Governor’s Office of Rural Broadband.

3. Public-Private Partnerships: Maryland is actively seeking partnerships with private companies to bring high-speed internet access to unserved and underserved areas. These partnerships involve sharing costs, resources, and expertise to extend network coverage.

4. Digital Equity Grants: The state provides grants through its Digital Connectivity Initiative to support community-based organizations that are working towards closing the digital divide by providing internet connectivity, devices, digital literacy training, or other related services.

5 . Addressing Barriers to Access: Along with expanding infrastructure and service availability, the state is also focused on addressing other barriers to broadband access such as affordability, education levels, language barriers, disability accommodations, etc.

6. Data Collection and Mapping: In order to better understand where broadband is needed most urgently throughout the state – particularly in rural areas – Maryland has developed an interactive mapping tool that shows community-level data on internet connectivity speeds.

All of these efforts are being coordinated by the Governor’s Office of Rural Broadband which works closely with local governments, private sector partners/non-profits/providers, ensuring accountability of funding allocations/measures incumbent/aids progress/fosters innovation toward maximum proliferation/inclusivity via societal impact analyses/rigorous application of best practices.

Additionally, the state is committed to ensuring that these initiatives do not leave any communities behind. This includes targeted outreach and engagement with underserved populations, as well as incorporating equity considerations into all aspects of broadband planning and implementation.

The Maryland Broadband Outreach Council, formed by Executive Order by Governor Larry Hogan, is also working to identify gaps in broadband connectivity and monitor progress towards closing these gaps. This council includes representatives from various communities and industries across the state.

Furthermore, the state is actively engaging with federal agencies and partnering with neighboring states to coordinate efforts in expanding broadband access. By working together, they can better leverage resources and ensure that no region or community is left behind in bridging the digital divide.

Overall, Maryland is committed to addressing the issue of the digital divide and ensuring that all residents have access to fast, reliable, and affordable internet connectivity. Through a combination of strategic planning, investment in infrastructure, partnerships with private companies, data collection/mapping, and focus on equity considerations – the state aims to bridge this divide for all its communities.