Skip to main content

Over the next decade, the federal government, states, localities, philanthropies, and private businesses are projected to spend $200 billion on new digital equity programs. In the face of the impending digital revolution, the importance of crafting effective digital equity programs cannot be overstated. 

This surge in investment underscores the complexity often underestimated in establishing these programs, which, without a nuanced understanding, may fall short of their transformative potential. Creating successful digital equity programs goes beyond just choosing the right hardware or software; it’s about designing a blueprint for digital inclusion that addresses the unique needs of communities, aiming for sustainable and impactful change. This commonly starts with the release of a Requests for Proposals (RFP) or Request for Information (RFI).

This is where the perspective from organizations doing the work becomes crucial. Human-I-T, with over a decade of experience in digital inclusion, is at the forefront of turning the tide against the digital divide. Our approach extends far beyond just supplying technology and instead sees us create a robust network of access, education, and support. This ensures that digital tools are more than just gadgets—they become key enablers of opportunity and empowerment.

Table of Contents

The Path to Effective RFPs for Digital Equity Programs

Local governments, in their earnest attempts to bridge the digital divide, frequently begin their journey with an unnecessary handicap. The crux of the issue lies in how these organizations formulate their Requests for Proposals (RFPs) for digital equity programs. A significant, yet often overlooked step, is the integration of Requests for Information (RFIs) prior to finalizing these RFPs. This preliminary stage is vital to gather comprehensive insights and understanding of the multifaceted nature of digital inclusion, an area where many local bodies lack expertise. Consequently, it’s not unusual to encounter RFPs that fail to consider essential elements such as affordable, high-quality internet access, low-cost devices, digital literacy training, and sustained tech support, thereby undermining the very foundation of effective digital inclusion strategies.

Many RFPs demonstrate a reliance on outdated or ineffective models especially for nuanced programs like digital navigation. Instead of articulating a holistic approach, they often default to suggesting that vendors abide by a switchboard operator model, where the operator isn’t part of the solution but simply connects customers to another person who may or may not be able to help them.  This model, while tempting to implement as it comes across as simple, is detrimental to the customer. In this model, recipients are often redirected to a variety of external resources without any cohesive guidance or support.

The lack of continuity in support means that customers frequently encounter inconsistent advice and gaps in the assistance they receive. This is particularly challenging for those who are less tech-savvy or new to digital platforms; the exact people digital navigation programs look to support the most often. The frustration from navigating this disjointed system leads to a significant drop in engagement and participation, ultimately limiting the effectiveness of the program. 

Another critical area where government RFPs aimed at fostering digital equity don’t fully maximize their effectiveness is with regard to technological specifications. The digital inclusion space is dynamic, with evolving needs and solutions. However, RFPs often request devices with specifications that are either unrealistic or not aligned with the actual needs of the people who will be ultimately using the device each day. This misalignment may stem from a lack of expertise in wide-ranging user requirements and current technology trends.  

As we consider the transformative impact of well-structured RFPs, it’s crucial to recognize the role of experienced partners like Human-I-T. Our involvement in this process not only avoids common pitfalls but also elevates the entire digital inclusion initiative to the level where taxpayer dollars can truly make a difference in bridging the digital divide. 

Common Outcomes from Deficient Government RFPs for Digital Equity Initiatives

When local governments issue RFPs fall short of addressing the complexities of digital inclusion, the negative repercussions are significant. Misalignment leads to investments in initiatives that do not yield the desired impact on digital equity resulting in lost funds and opportunities.

For one, inadequately detailed or misdirected RFPs often receive a lukewarm response from potential vendors. This lack of competition can lead to subpar solutions and missed opportunities for innovative approaches.

Additionally, RFPs that fail to capture the full scope of digital inclusion result in programs that don’t fully address the needs of the community. This gap can manifest in insufficient training, inadequate support, or mismatched technology offerings.

Furthermore, let’s not forget that resources – both time and financial – are squandered when RFPs do not align with actual community needs. 

How Human-I-T Has Remedied the Impact of Inadequate RFPs for Digital Equity Initiatives

A local government from one of the largest metro areas in the country recently partnered with our team at Human-I-T to transform their Request for Proposal (RFP) process for a significant technology initiative. This collaboration was driven by our impressive track record of over 11 years in helping government agencies craft and facilitate holistic digital inclusion programs that take a recipient-centric approach to cultivate digitally equitable outcomes in our communities.

Initially, the RFP presented a range of ideas that needed more work to turn it into a more cohesive implementation plan. We were consulted to provide much-needed direction and expertise. We advised on specific device specifications, prioritization of target populations, and the types of organizations that lead to successful collaborations. 

A crucial addition was to mandate that tech support be included as a service offering. This addition enhanced the program by  ensuring the computers’ usability through hands-on case management and needs assessment. Our suggestion to award the RFP to a nonprofit was pivotal. This decision ensured that the focus remained on maximizing community benefit rather than profit, leveraging the trust and relationships already established by community partners.

The impact of Human-I-T’s involvement is evident in the outcomes observed in the community. In the first year of this partnership, over 3,000 devices have been distributed, significantly enhancing the capabilities of residents to take full advantage of opportunities online. This success is not just in the numbers but also in the quality of the experience provided to the recipients. The devices were not only delivered but were accompanied by support and guidance, ensuring a positive and lasting impact on the community.

Human-I-T’s role in this process was not just limited to the planning stages. We also played a critical role in the execution and clean-up phases post-award, demonstrating our comprehensive expertise in both the strategic and operational aspects of digital inclusion projects. Our ability to partner with consultants, benchmark, and forecast effectively has been instrumental in turning a fragmented set of ideas into a high-quality, impactful digital inclusion program.

By focusing on the actual needs of the community and leveraging their expertise in technology and service delivery, we at Human-I-T helped shape an RFP that was realistic, impactful, and aligned with the county’s digital equity goals.

This partnership not only improved the immediate RFP process but also set a precedent for future digital inclusion initiatives, demonstrating the importance of involving experienced organizations like ours in the early stages of program planning. The success of this collaboration highlights the transformative potential of expertly guided digital inclusion efforts.

Human-I-T is Ready to Partner with Local and State Governments on BEAD and DEA RFPs

Partnering with Human-I-T brings distinct advantages to local government agencies in the RFP process, ensuring the development of practical and impactful digital inclusion initiatives. 

Most importantly Human-I-T streamlines the process of preparing and executing RFPs by allowing governments to leverage Human-I-T’s expertise to quickly identify and incorporate essential digital inclusion elements. This efficiency saves time and resources for government agencies.

Additionally, thanks to our long history of successfully driving tangible impacts in our communities, Human-I-T excels in aligning RFPs with specific populations’ goals and objectives. Our approach ensures that the outcomes of digital inclusion initiatives resonate with and effectively address the needs of the population.

This is because Human-I-T’s approach is grounded in data-backed decision making and employs evidence-based consulting. Our insights ensure that our partners’ RFPs are rooted in proven strategies that will drive outsized impact for the target populations.

The success of new digital equity programs lie in the thoughtfulness and thoroughness in shaping their creation. By leaning on Human-I-T’s expertise, government agencies not only enhance the quality and effectiveness of their digital inclusion RFPs but also demonstrate their commitment to innovative, community-centered solutions. These partnerships pave the way for transformative digital equity programs that are well-received and highly impactful. 

For government agencies looking to bridge the digital divide, partnering with Human-I-T isn’t just a smart choice; it’s a strategic step towards cultivating meaningful, lasting digital equity in their communities.

Transform Your Digital Equity Programs with Human-I-T’s Expertise

Are you a local or state government agency preparing for Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) and Digital Equity Act (DEA) funding opportunities? Don’t let the complexities of digital inclusion RFPs hinder your community’s progress. Partner with Human-I-T and leverage our decade-long experience and proven track record in transforming digital equity initiatives.

Our expertise in technology, community needs assessment, and program execution ensures that your digital inclusion efforts are both impactful and sustainable. We understand the unique challenges and opportunities of digital equity programs and are committed to helping you navigate them with ease and efficiency.

Don’t miss the chance to make a real difference in your community. Contact Human-I-T today, and let’s work together to bridge the digital divide with strategic, effective, and community-focused digital equity programs. Fill out the form below and take the first step towards a digitally inclusive future for your community.

Liz Cooper

About Liz Cooper