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Capital Region Nonprofits Awarded Prestigious Grants from Schmidt Futures, Will Provide Nearly $500K in Support to Programs Bridging the Digital Divide

CanCode Communities receives $250K, Friends & Foundation of Albany Public Library receives $130K, and United Way of the Greater Capital Region receives $30K through the New York Digital Inclusion Fund

Grants to support research, design and formation of innovative partnership models and coalitions that address digital inclusion barriers with solutions across New York 

Albany, NY – A trio of Capital Region nonprofit organizations, supported by a host of educational, workforce development, and community partners, today announced their selection as recipients of prestigious grants from Schmidt Futures, a philanthropic initiative founded by Eric and Wendy Schmidt, to support their work aimed at bridging the digital divide. Awarded through the New York Digital Inclusion Fund and administered by the National Digital Inclusion Alliance, the grants to CanCode Communities, Friends & Foundation of Albany Public Library, and United Way of the Greater Capital Region will provide nearly $500,000 in support to programs that enhance digital equity across New York.

CanCode Communities and Friends & Foundation of Albany Public Library (FFAPL) are among five inaugural grantees within the Digital Inclusion Innovation Cohort. CanCode Communities will receive $250,000, and FFAPL will receive $130,000, in support of innovative initiatives over the next 24 months that advance digital equity. 

“We are honored to be among the first recipients of these prestigious grants from Schmidt Futures, and we thank them, along with the New York Digital Inclusion Fund and National Digital Inclusion Alliance, for their leadership and commitment to creating and advancing digital equity,” said Annmarie Lanesey, Founder and CEO of CanCode Communities. “This is a significant investment that will rapidly expand the educational and career opportunities we provide to underserved individuals, and further build a diverse and inclusive tech workforce that serves the needs of employers and strengthens communities across New York state.”  

“FFAPL has been working since September 2020 to support the APL in expanding their broadband coverage beyond the walls of the library with our #KeepAlbanyConnected campaign. The APL-AHA Digital Inclusion Partnership will dramatically expand what has been offered so far,” said DTrae Carter, President of Friends & Foundation of Albany Public Library. “We are already getting to work to ensure that this service can continue until 2030. The assistance this grant provides to our Albany community will be especially valuable as we strive to bridge the digital divide.” 

“When the pandemic forced education online in 2020, Albany Public Library brought free public WiFi to four Albany Housing Authority campuses that helped students access daily lessons and complete homework assignments. Twenty percent of Albany Housing residents use the free WiFi service at those locations,” said Melanie Metzger, Interim Director of the Albany Public Library. “We are thrilled to expand that service to even more residents who will be able to access WiFi from a number of spots, including indoor and outdoor locations, on Albany Housing campuses. This project is one way that Albany Public Library is helping bridge the digital divide in our community.” 

United Way of the Greater Capital Region is among 10 initial grantees within the Digital Inclusion Coalition Planning Cohort, and will receive $30,000 to establish a new coalition to address this critical community issue. Partners already committed to support this effort include CanCode Communities, Capital Region BOCES, Upper Hudson Library System, and the Workforce Development Institute.

“A strength of United Way of the Greater Capital Region is bringing people together to tackle the Capital Region’s most deeply-entrenched issues,” said Peter Gannon, President & CEO of United Way of the Greater Capital Region. “All of the partners who have already signed onto be a part of the Capital Region Digital Inclusion Coalition are doing great work to address the digital divide – we are excited to see what we can accomplish as we all come together. The timing of the investment by Schmidt Futures could not be better; the pandemic proved that equitable access to the internet and devices will continue to be vital.”

The New York Digital Inclusion Fund supports the research, design and formation of innovative partnership models, and new and existing coalitions, that address digital inclusion barriers with solutions across New York state. It is managed by NDIA and supported by Schmidt Futures. NDIA will provide grantees with training and technical support, and share lessons learned, best practices, and guidance as they carry out their digital inclusion work.

“Combining coalition and digital inclusion funding, organizations will be able to build partnerships to accelerate digital equity across New York and create models that serve as a resource for programs across the country,” said Angela Siefer, Executive Director of NDIA. “We are proud to partner with Schmidt Futures and hope this work serves as a beacon for others to step forward and invest in digital inclusion in more states.”

“Building on the efforts and recommendations of the Reimagine New York Commission, this funding will catalyze an entire ecosystem of regional digital inclusion partners to collaborate to address the digital equity divide,” said Elizabeth Young McNally, executive vice president at Schmidt Futures. “We are excited about the potential synergy between the work of our grantees and the digital equity programs within Governor Hochul’s ConnectALL initiative.”

Senator Neil Breslin said, “Critical to having a talent-rich tech sector is bridging the digital divide, while also making sure we are creating economic opportunity across all communities. I applaud Schmidt Futures for partnering with CanCode Communities, Friends & Foundation of Albany Public Library and the United Way of the Greater Capital Region for their efforts in helping to bridge this divide right here in the Capital Region.”

“Just 42% of all Americans have a ‘moderately good’ grasp or understanding of digital literacy and skills,” said Assemblymember Patricia Fahy. “That statistic is even more pronounced in communities that don’t have traditional pathways or opportunities within the digital technology sector. Today’s grant awardees are three organizations that work diligently to address the digital divide here in the Capital Region, and I congratulate United Way, the Friends & Foundation of the Albany Public Library, and CanCode Communities on their selection. Partnerships such as these are exactly how we bridge the digital divide and expand access to careers and opportunities for all New Yorkers.”

Assemblymember John T. McDonald III, RPh, said, “Congratulations to CanCode Communities, Friends & Foundation of Albany Public Library, and United Way of the Greater Capital Region on receiving these grants to continue and build upon their work toward digital equity. We live in a world where digital access is a necessity and I appreciate all of the efforts to ensure that everyone has access to these resources.”

“One of the greatest lessons we’ve learned from the COVID pandemic is how crucial it is to bridge the digital divide and to ensure there is digital equity throughout our communities. We also know that coding and STEM are keys to future success for so many of our young people. That is why I have made universal broadband in Albany County a top priority, while working to expand the county’s recreational programming to include E-Sports and STEM offerings as well,” said Albany County Executive Daniel P. McCoy. “However, nothing great can be done alone, and this generous grant funding from Eric and Wendy Schmidt for our nonprofit partners will help break down barriers and promote educational access.”

Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan said, “Making digital resources available to everyone is a powerful economic development tool that supports education, healthcare, government, and bridges the digital divide among low-income residents with a goal of ensuring that all people have access to the online services that are necessary to succeed. CanCode Communities, Friends & Foundation of Albany Public Library, and United Way of the Greater Capital Region are three Albany based non-profits that work diligently to connect all people to digital services and programming and therefore are ideal recipients of prestigious grants from Schmidt Futures.  I want to thank Eric and Wendy Schmidt, founders of Schmidt Futures, for their philanthropic efforts and bringing awareness to the need to bridge the digital divide and for providing this local funding for a future that offers all people access to digital services.”

Capital Region Programs funded by Schmidt Futures Grants

CanCode Communities will use the $250,000 in support to further expand its computer coding and digital literacy programs, which train non-traditional talent for software career opportunities and build an inclusive tech talent pipeline.  Launched in 2016 as AlbanyCanCode, CanCode Communities now includes 8 entities and boasts more than 300 graduates who, on average, have received annual salary increases exceeding $18,000. The grant will enable further growth in the Mohawk Valley, Western New York and New York City, with plans to serve nearly 200 additional students over the next two years – 70% from diverse and underrepresented populations – and build out employer networks to support tech career opportunities. 

Friends & Foundation of Albany Public Library will use the $130,000 in support to provide high-speed internet access, Chromebooks, and digital literacy education to Albany Housing Authority residents. This project will be an ambitious expansion of the pilot APL-AHA partnership that began in 2019, which to date has provided free APL Wi-Fi at four outdoor locations at AHA campuses. The expansion will provide access to 14 indoor and outdoor locations on 10 AHA campuses; 60 laptops to give to qualifying residents; and 40 laptops for community spaces, available during set borrowing hours. In addition, three program partners – Boys & Girls Club of the Capital Area, Excelsior College, and Lifepath – will provide outreach and educational opportunities for AHA residents during the grant period. 

United Way of the Greater Capital Region will use the $30,000 in support to establish an advisory group of regional stakeholders, including community members, public and private partners, municipal leaders and educational entities, to form a common understanding of the root causes of digital inequities, and identify how they manifest differently in various contexts and communities. The aim is to identify a collaborative approach to addressing and solving the key factors associated with digital inequity in the Capital Region. 

For more information about the grantee projects and details on the upcoming 2022 Digital Inclusion Innovation funding opportunity, please visit digitalinclusion.org/nydifund.

Perspectives from our Partners

“The Albany Housing Authority is excited about the partnership we’ve forged with the Albany Public Library to improve access to high-speed internet through our Digital Inclusion Partnership. The generous grant provided by Schmidt Futures will strengthen our vision to promote equity and opportunity for our communities and establish a guaranteed commitment to furthering the education and resources of our residents.  It is one simple way that we can lift up those who need a hand. In today’s society, access to Wi-Fi should be viewed as a right, not a privilege—and we are thrilled to be working with the many organizations in New York State who continue to encourage and fight for this standard,” said Chiquita D’Arbeau, Executive Director of the Albany Housing Authority.

Joseph P. Dragone, Ph.D., Senior Executive Officer at Capital Region BOCES, said, “Capital Region BOCES is proud to join this coalition to help support digital inclusion throughout the Capital Region and New York state. Supporting technology access, resources and training is an important part of our work, and we look forward to this new partnership to further digital inclusivity.”

Lois Johnson, Director of Workforce Strategies at Workforce Development Institute, said, “The Workforce Development Institute is very pleased to be part of the Capital Region Digital Equity Coalition and congratulates CanCode Communities, Albany Public Library, and the United Way of the Greater Capital Region on these prestigious grant awards from Schmidt Futures. As an early investor in CanCode Communities, WDI is fully committed to supporting this significant opportunity to further expand efforts to address the many barriers that keep many New Yorkers from full inclusion in the digital and tech economy.”

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About CanCode Communities

A 501(c)3 nonprofit founded in 2016, CanCode Communities develops non-traditional talent and advocates for a vibrant, inclusive tech talent pipeline.  The organization designs and delivers workforce training courses, hands-on K-12 coding programs, and community code literacy workshops in alignment with the needs of employers, educators, talent and the community in general. Its mission is to shift mindset about who can work in technology, remove cultural and economic barriers to joining the tech workforce, and establish and promote pathways to tech careers throughout the region. For more, visit www.cancode.org 

About Friends & Foundation of Albany Public Library

The Friends & Foundation of the Albany Public Library provide critical financial support to the Albany Public Library to help provide education, literacy, career development, cultural enrichment, and a lifelong love for learning in the Capital Region. For more, visit https://ffapl.org

About Albany Public Library

Albany Public Library (APL) educates, entertains, and empowers our community. APL operates seven award-winning branches serving the residents of Albany. The Arbor Hill/West Hill, Bach, Delaware, Howe, Pine Hills, and Washington Ave. branches are open for in-building services. North Albany is currently closed for renovation. The people of Albany rely on APL for WiFi access and public computers; research and reference assistance from professional staff; books, movies, and music in a variety of formats; meeting rooms and study spaces; and educational and entertaining programs and events. For more, visit www.albanypubliclibrary.org.

About United Way of the Greater Capital Region

United Way of the Greater Capital Region is an organization that fights for the health, education, and financial stability of every person in every community. It unites donors, volunteers, and community organizations in a common mission to strengthen our community and improve social conditions in the Capital Region and beyond. Learn more at www.unitedwaygcr.org or www.Facebook.com/UnitedWayGCR

About Schmidt Futures

Schmidt Futures bets early on exceptional people making the world better. Founded by Eric and Wendy Schmidt, Schmidt Futures is a philanthropic initiative that brings talented people together in networks to prove out their ideas and solve hard problems in science and society. To learn more about our method and the diverse types of capital and tools that we deploy, visit www.schmidtfutures.com

Contact:
Steve Janack
Principal, The Janack Group
(518) 810-8050 | steve@thejanackgroup.com

 

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