Hawaii Digital Equity Plan Approved by Federal Officials

Posted on Mar 28, 2024 in News

Hawaii Broadband and Digital Equity Office
For Immediate Release: March 28, 2024

Federal approval of the plan will determine potential funding for expanding broadband service to underserved areas

HONOLULU—Federal approval was given this week to the state’s Digital Equity Plan, paving the way for federal funding to provide greater internet access statewide and addressing other diverse digital needs.

Drafted by the Hawaii Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT) Hawaii Broadband and Digital Equity Office (HBDEO), the final version of the Hawaii Digital Equity Plan was submitted last month to the federal National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) for review and approval.

The plan will enable NTIA to determine subsequent federal funding allocations for Hawaii and other U.S. states, directing resources toward specific community programs and projects aimed at closing the digital divide, with particular emphasis on underserved and rural communities. Anticipated federal funding is slated to be made available to each state later this fall, in which HBDEO will prioritize digital equity projects within our state.

The Hawaii plan will serve as a navigational tool for setting policies and programs, allowing communities to identify needs, formulate action plans, and prioritize federal funding for the development of digital equity projects and programs.

The Hawaii Digital Equity Plan provides recommended strategies, objectives, and actions which seek to set a pathway toward a digitally equitable future. Addressing the digital divide, which persists due to inadequate affordable internet services or limited access to laptops and computers, is a pressing community concern in our local community, noted Strategic Broadband Coordinator Chung Chang.

“We are most grateful for the federal approval on Hawaii’s digital equity plan, which allows us to move ahead on initiatives to assist our most vulnerable and underserved populations on this topic,” Chang said.

“Hawaii is taking a major step toward closing the digital divide,” said Angela Thi Bennett, Director of Digital Equity, NTIA. “The state’s digital equity plan will make certain all who call Hawaii home will have the confidence, ability, and pathways to thrive in the digital world.”

According to the digital equity plan, efficient broadband coverage statewide and other factors will assist all populations in three categories:

  • Workforce and economic development: To meet the demands of an evolving global economy, ensuring that employees and work applicants have access to the internet and a computer device and teaching them digital skills necessary for a thriving workforce.
  • Education: Providing all students the opportunity for in-person, online, and hybrid learning by 2030.
  • Health care: Making quality health care accessible for all Hawaii residents via telehealth appointments through affordable and secure broadband service.

The draft Digital Equity Plan was published on September 30, 2023 to invite public comment through October 2023. The plan was developed through data evaluation, community focus groups, interviews, and public outreach sessions. HBDEO collaborated with 39 focus groups statewide to gather input on enhancing and expanding internet service to disadvantaged populations.

To view the Hawaii Digital Equity Plan, please visit broadband.hawaii.gov.

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About Hawaii Broadband and Digital Equity Office (HBDEO):
HBDEO was established within the State of Hawaii Department of Business, Economic
Development and Tourism with a mission to support and coordinate statewide deployment of high-speed internet access (broadband) and to achieve the goals of digital equity and adoption for all residents of Hawaii. HBDEO’s functions include the coordination, implementation, promotion, funding and managing of programs that ensure the equitable distribution of digital technologies and provide pathways to maximize Hawaii’s competitiveness in the digital economy.

About Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT):
DBEDT is Hawaii’s resource center for economic and statistical data, business development opportunities, energy and conservation information, and foreign trade advantages. DBEDT’s mission is to achieve a Hawaii economy that embraces innovation and is globally competitive, dynamic and productive, providing opportunities for all Hawaii’s citizens. Through its attached agencies, the department fosters planned community development, creates affordable workforce housing units in high-quality living environments and promotes innovation sector job growth.

Laci Goshi
Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism
(808) 518-5480