(The Center Square) — Maryland is doing its part during National Digital Inclusion Week to close the state’s “digital divide” by distributing approximately 145,000 laptops to qualifying Maryland residents.
Maryland’s Office of Statewide Broadband awarded more than 30,000 HP Chromebooks to the city of Baltimore at a Digital Equity Resource Fair on Monday as part of a larger award of over 91,000 laptops for eligible underserved households across the state. At least 50,000 more devices will be distributed statewide “following a second application round that closed September 29,” according to a press release from the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development. Based on a figure shared in the release, in total, the laptops are valued at nearly $29 million.
Digital Inclusion Week started in 2016 as “Digital Inclusion Day.” Its founder, an Ohio-based nonprofit called the National Digital Inclusion Alliance, expanded the event to a week in 2017 and it’s been celebrated as such ever since.
“Across the state, there are hundreds of thousands of Marylanders whose entire economic future will be either limited – or unlocked – by whether or not they have access to affordable internet,” said MDHCD Secretary Jake Day.
Applicants must be 18 years or older and must supply a photo ID, proof of residence in the awarded jurisdiction and evidence of one of the following: Household income at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines, enrollment in the federal Affordable Connectivity Program or participation in certain government assistance programs. Households are limited to one laptop through the program.
The state’s goal is to “eventually eliminate the number of communities and residents being underserved by the current internet infrastructure.”
The devices are awarded through the Maryland Connected Devices Program, the Office of Statewide Broadband program. Maryland’s fiscal year 2022 supplemental budget no. 5 apportioned $30 million for the program.