Bridging the Digital Divide in Los Angeles County

May 29, 2024

The COVID-19 pandemic revealed a stark digital divide. The gaps widened for our most vulnerable populations as the world moved online, from classrooms to doctors’ offices. Students in low-income households struggled without reliable internet for their education. Telehealth, a crucial link to medical care during lockdowns, was out of reach for many. Essential services, such as homelessness prevention, job training, and access to benefits for immigrants and refugees, faltered without connectivity. In response to this crisis, the California Community Foundation (CCF) swiftly initiated the Digital Equity Initiative in 2021. Powered by a substantial bequest from a forward-thinking donor, this initiative was more than timely—it was a critical lifeline.

The Digital Equity Initiative represents our commitment to systemic change, ensuring no one is left behind in the digital age. By collaborating with community partners, grantees, and equity advocates, CCF is not just responding to a need but is spearheading a movement to ensure equitable access to technology across all demographics and communities.

The Digital Equity Initiative supports a cross-sectoral coalition of over seventy members known as Digital Equity LA (DELA). With CCF’s support, DELA has grown from an idea to a powerful force for change. This collaborative effort has empowered organizations like Destination Crenshaw and Communities in Schools of Los Angeles (CISLA) to implement impactful projects that address digital inequities in underserved communities.

“The historically, proudly, Black Crenshaw community has been neglected and disinvested for decades, leaving us with infrastructure that happens to us rather than with or for us – like the Metro line – and with some of the highest levels of dysconnectivity in the State,” noted Jason Foster, Destination Crenshaw President and COO. “With the support and partnership of CCF’s Digital Equity Initiative and the DELA coalition, we are taking concrete steps to right these systemic wrongs in ways that deliver lasting value to our community and its longtime residents and champions.” Destination Crenshaw, a grantee of CCF’s Digital Equity Initiative and DELA member, is spearheading the development of the “Destination Crenshaw Digital Equity Zone”, a public-private partnership to develop a fiber network serving over 15,000 residents and businesses in the largest Black business corridor in the western United States.

“At Communities in Schools of Los Angeles (CISLA ), we surround students with a community of support, empowering them to stay in school and achieve in life. Through our engagement with DELA, we engage our students and families in solutions, going beyond identifying and documenting a real, persistent, and systemic barrier to opportunity to speak truth to power, demanding specific, actionable, and urgent long-term solutions,” said Elmer Roldan, Executive Director of CISLA. “We are able to do this thanks to the leadership and guidance of CCF and our partners in the DELA coalition who harness deep expertise and commitment to digital equity.”

In addition to the grassroots efforts, the DELA coalition has achieved notable victories:

​​Join us in our mission to empower underserved communities and advance digital equity across Los Angeles County. Thanks to the generosity of an anonymous CCF donor until June 30th, your contributions to help advance this work will be matched dollar for dollar, doubling our impact. To make a secure, tax-deductible donation online, click on the button below. You may also send checks payable to the California Community Foundation, noting that the donation is for the Digital Equity Initiative.

For more information regarding the CCF Digital Equity Initiative and DELA, reach out to Shayna Englin at shayna@digitalequityla.org.

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