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SF: Addressing the Digital Divide on the Metro Level

November 22, 2000

Organizations in the San Francisco Bay Area will spend more than $20 million this year to bridge the digital divide, according to Who's Funding the Digital Connect?, a report released this month by the San Francisco Foundation. More than 54 organizations will provide computer access and/or training to more than 75,000 low income and underserved individuals in one of the most technology-savvy regions in the country, according to the study.

The study provides a base inventory of the digital divide programs and services provided in the area, the sources and stability of funding, and critical gaps in both service delivery and funding. The San Francisco Foundation will use the information as a component of Digital Connect, a larger strategy to eliminate barriers to technology for low income, under-represented, and underserved communities.

Key findings include:

  • Fifty percent of the funding came from government sources and 35 percent from foundations. 
  • Foundations provided twice as many grants as government sources, but the average grant amount was only one-third the size of government grants.
  • Only 9 percent of the funding came from corporations and corporate foundations; however, corporations provided more than $3.2 million worth of in-kind services to local digital divide programs. Corporations also were less likely to support personnel costs than government or foundation sources of funding.
  • Administrative overhead, competitive salaries, hardware upgrades, and life-skills support services for clients are the most difficult activities to fund, according to survey respondents.
  • Three-quarters of the grants were for a single fiscal year. Seventy-one percent were project specific.

The structure of the grants, limited time frame, and use restrictions force the nonprofit organizations to spend considerable time seeking sources of funding and less on program and service delivery. The study found that two-thirds of the organizations target their computer assistance programs and services to youth. Most organizations offered other services to their target clients in addition to digital divide programs.

The report, which includes contact information for each of the Bay Area organizations, involved in addressing the divide, can be found at: http://www.sff.org