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By Lori Trent, Communications & Development Guru

If you are familiar with PAST Foundation, you know that central to our mission is creating and supporting programs that connect business, education, and community to help better prepare students for the future and provide equal access to education for all. In so doing, PAST provides partnership support to organizations who may ultimately become their own non-profit entity. Whether providing administrative and operational support or simply as a fiduciary agent, we offer our expertise for new organizations during their first year or two.

PAST has sponsored a number of programs over the years such as CORI (Central Ohio Robotics Initiative), Small Steps Are Giant Leaps (SSAGL) and NDIA (National Digital Inclusion Alliance). In sitting down with Angela Siefer, Executive Director, NDIA, we asked Angela to describe her journey.

“Referred by a friend, I remember coming to PAST about three years ago to have a discussion with Annalies Corbin, President & CEO of PAST Foundation about how to start a non-profit organization. A group of colleagues and I wanted to provide a much-needed voice for home broadband access, public broadband access, personal devices and local technology training and support programs, but we needed help getting started,” Siefer said. “PAST Foundation provided NDIA with the structure and administrative support in the early years that enabled us to focus on digital inclusion,” she continued.

Digital Inclusion refers to the activities necessary to ensure that all individuals and communities, including the most disadvantaged, have access to and use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). Digital Inclusion includes five elements:

  1. Affordable, robust broadband internet service

  2. Internet-enabled devices that meet the needs of the user

  3. Access to digital literacy training

  4. Quality technical support

  5. Applications and online content designed to enable and encourage self-sufficiency, participation and collaboration

Keeping pace with our ever-changing world, we should all agree that digital inclusion must evolve as technology advances each day.

In 2015 NDIA launched as a program of PAST Foundation with a Directing Council representing digital inclusion programs across the U.S.  PAST Foundation supported NDIA’s efforts to become an independent 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. In October 2017, the NDIA Directing Council transitioned to a Board of Directors.

NDIA is a unified voice for digital inclusion programs with 304 affiliates in 38 states. NDIA works collaboratively to craft, identify and disseminate financial and operational resources for digital inclusion programs while serving as a bridge to policymakers and the general public.

Siefer knew setting up administrative systems would take valuable time needed to immediately impact public policy. “PAST gave NDIA the structural base and administrative support so NDIA could focus on building a digital inclusion peer-to-peer network and educating policy makers.”

NDIA’s income is a mix of  affiliate subscriptions, personal donation, grants and event sponsorships. NDIA hosts an annual digital inclusion summit. This year Net Inclusion 2018 welcomes digital inclusion community practitioners, advocates, academics, Internet service providers, and policymakers to Cleveland, Ohio – April 17-19 to discuss local, state and federal policies and policy innovations impacting digital equity, sources of financial and programmatic support of digital inclusion programs, plus digital inclusion best practices from across the country. The two-prior convenings were in Kansas City in 2016 and St. Paul in 2017.

“I am happy to report that we applied for our own non-profit status, incorporated in the State of Ohio, and are just waiting for approval. PAST and Annalies, in particular, have been instrumental providing guidance and support every step of the way,” Siefer shared. “We were given the opportunity to grown up as an organization with PAST’s help.”


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