All In Washington announced in a press release today (Sept. 2) that several major local leaders and organizations, including Microsoft and the Seattle Seahawks, launched the Digital Equity Initiative.
The All In Washington relief effort launched last May with the intention of raising $65 million to mitigate food shortages, provide housing and small business assistance, and address health disparities most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The new initiative, which is hosted by All In Washington and the Seattle Foundation, will help address digital access — an area that hadn’t been addressed during All In Washington’s original launch.
According to the release, the initiative seeks to provide critical resources to close the digital divide and support remote learning for students across the state. Others involved in the initiative include Puget Sound Energy, a group of local philanthropic organizations, representatives of Indigenous communities, and state agencies, according to the release.
“As we work to keep our communities safe and healthy during this crisis, we must ensure all children have what they need to access distance learning,” said Gov. Jay Inslee in the release. “The Digital Equity Initiative is helping to provide thousands of students in Washington with the support necessary to keep up with school while our state recovers from this pandemic. Every child deserves the opportunity to succeed, and the public, private, and nonprofit sectors have come together to make this possible.”
Microsoft has designated $1.25 million of its All In Washington pledge to go toward the new fund. Donations are eligible to be matched by Amazon CEO and founder, Jeff Bezos. Ahead of the announcement, Bezos pledged to match up to $1 million for every unique donor. Puget Sound Energy has contributed $200,000 for hardware purchases and support. The Seattle Seahawks and Microsoft have additionally joined forces with the Boys & Girls Club of King County to support technology needs.
“Digital access is more critical than ever for learning and connecting with teachers and peers,” said Jane Broom, senior director of Microsoft Philanthropies, in the release. “One tablet, one laptop, and reliable internet access make all the difference for a student trying to keep up with remote learning. We are proud to support this effort to close the digital divide and help see to it that no child falls behind as a result of this crisis.”
According to the release, initiative funding will be distributed through InvestED, a Washington nonprofit connected with over 600 secondary schools statewide. The nonprofit works to provide need-based funding in education. InvestED will additionally be working with the Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) and other government agencies to better address student needs.
“In a showing of how Washingtonians stand together, we have seen schools and communities work closely to fill gaps in learning resources during this pandemic,” said Washington State Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal in the press release. “This initiative will take the coordination of public and philanthropic resources to a new level, and we are grateful to our philanthropic and corporate partners who are helping to urgently fill support gaps for our students.”
For more information, go to All In Washington’s website.