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Closing the Digital Divide in the Heart of Silicon Valley

By Stephanie Heckman, Development Director, IRC in Northern California


If you hear that IRC is working on closing the digital divide, you may be quick to assume this work is happening thousands of miles away from Silicon Valley in California. Yet, just this month, IRC in San José launched an exciting and critical partnership with the San José Mayor's office to close the digital gap that exists here in the heart of Silicon Valley.  


The city of San José is the first in the country to pledge to close the digital divide by establishing the Digital Inclusion Partnership, a $24 million cross-sector fund that will be distributed in grant awards over a ten-year period. It is the city’s largest philanthropic effort in recent history.  IRC in San José was selected as one of the inaugural group of partners to help launch this initiative. Together, we will work to provide San José residents with digital access and digital literacy skills to enhance people's opportunities to learn, work, and live here in Silicon Valley.


An award from the California State Assembly's Kansen Chu presented to the IRC in San Jose on the 28th of February 2020.


100,000 San Jose residents are without access to internet or digital services. This means thousands of school children are unable to complete school work or homework as they live in an environment where almost all curriculum is online and digital. Surrounded by an almost entirely digitized world, parents struggle to access job opportunities, pay bills, and access online banking services in a secure way. Every day they are missing out on opportunities that are right on their doorstep. 


IRC in San José is working hard to ensure the populations we know: victims of trafficking, asylees, refugees, special immigrant visa holders, and other newcomers to the area, can access affordable internet services . Together with Mayor Sam Liccardo, CA State Assemblyman Kansen Chu, and corporate partners such as Zoom, refugee families will be able to fully leverage all the possibilities that this region has to offer, and thrive in their new home. More than successfully achieving these outcomes, IRC in San Jose would love to see these efforts replicated across other U.S. cities, and states.  We hope to highlight the potential of this ambitious partnership and what it could mean for other parts of the country and world. 

An award from the City of San Jose presented to the IRC San Jose on the 28th of February 2020.


About the Digital Inclusion Partnership: 

The Digital Inclusion Partnership aims to:

1.     Connect 50,000 San José households with universal device access and universal connectivity at speeds of at least 25 Mbps download/3 Mbps upload over the next 10 years.

2.     Ensure 50,000 San José households achieve and sustain the appropriate digital skills proficiency level to stay ahead of technology and increase quality of life outcomes in education, workforce, healthcare and more.

The $24 million fund will be raised through a combination of public and private efforts. $14 million in funding will come from innovative public-private partnerships with telecommunication companies. San José has earmarked infrastructure fees from 5G small cell deployments toward digital equity programming. In addition to this commitment from the City of San José, we will raise another $10 million from private and public philanthropic donors to bring the total available for community grants to $24 million over 10 years. Every dollar given is already matched by City funding.