Deputy Secretary Graves Commemorates Dr. King’s Birthday at Digital Equity Roundtable with HBCU Presidents

January 19, 2022

To commemorate the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., U.S. ​ Deputy Secretary of Commerce​ Don Graves, U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen and Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott joined Historically Black College and University (HBCU) presidents and representatives at a roundtable to discuss digital equity on Saturday, January 15, in Baltimore, MD.​ The roundtable focused on closing the digital divide as a part of President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which provides $65 billion dollars to expand broadband to unserved and underserved areas.

“Equity has been a day one priority for this Administration and underpins everything we do at the Commerce Department. A central part of these efforts is achieving digital equity by closing the digital divide,” said Deputy Secretary Graves. “Thanks to President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, we move closer to that ambitious goal by ensuring that every American has access to affordable, high-speed internet. Doing so ensures that we can not only better compete on the world stage, but also ‘make good on the promise of our democracy’ as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. prescribed.”

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law builds upon the work already being carried out by the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) through its Connecting Minority Communities Program and its Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program, as well as various tribal broadband grants being deployed throughout the Department.

HBCU roundtable representatives included Bowie State University Vice President of Information Technology, Maurice Taylor; Coppin State University President, Anthony L. Jenkins, Ph.D.; Morgan State University President, Dr. David Kwabena Wilson; and University of Maryland Eastern Shore Director of Government Relations, Jim Mathias.​ The group applauded the Administration’s commitment to digital equity and spoke about the challenges their institutions and communities face due to the digital divide. U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen and Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott also expressed their commitment to digital inclusion and equity and vowed to continue to work with the Administration to further these efforts throughout Maryland.

Following the digital equity roundtable, Deputy Secretary Graves, along with Representative John Sarbanes and Senators Van Hollen and Cardin, participated in a second roundtable at the Maryland Innovation Center with the Howard County Economic Development Authority, which is currently working on a cybersecurity workforce development project as a finalist EDA’s “Build Back Better Challenge.” The $1 billionBuild Back Better Regional Challenge (BBRC)is the marquee of EDA’s​ American Rescue Plan​ programs that aims to boost economic recovery from the pandemic and rebuild American communities, including those grappling with decades of disinvestment.

Participants at this roundtable highlighted the increasing need for a cybersecurity workforce in Maryland and the pipeline they aim to build, which they hope will remove barriers to access to this critical field, among others, and to create a more diverse field overall.

“The Economic Development Administration’s Build Back Better Regional Challenge has made geographic diversity and equity a top priority,” said Graves. “These investments, made available by EDA through President Biden’s American Rescue Plan, will not only spur regional economic development in these communities– but will also create the economic infrastructure and ecosystem our country needs to ensure its global competitiveness and create jobs of the future.”

The Department of Commerce notes that the Deputy Secretary is not a part of the competitive merit review process that will take place related to the BBBRC.View all posts →

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