Third Annual Digital Equity Challenge to Award $10,000 in Search for Internet Access Solutions

Dylan Zajac, founder of Computers 4 People, was the top winner of the 2023 Digital Equity Challenge. (Courtesy photograph.)

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An estimated one in five Essex County residents lacks access to internet service and computers, along with an understanding of how to use digital devices.

Aiming to solve this disparity, the third annual Digital Equity Challenge invites individuals with ideas that address these issues to enter the annual pitch contest, which will award $10,000 in cash prizes to the most promising solutions. Essex County Community Foundation Director of Strategic Initiatives Kate Machet says there is more work to do.

“We look forward to hearing from this year’s contestants about their visions for increasing access to the digital resources needed to navigate life today.”

Individuals of all ages, including college and high school students, along with business and nonprofit professionals, may apply online by Friday, March 29 to participate. Six finalists, to be announced in April, will be invited to pitch their ideas May 2 at the UMass Lowell Innovation Hub in Haverhill. The winners will share in $10,000 awarded to help make their ideas a reality.

Last year’s top winner, the nonprofit Computers 4 People, refurbishes donated computers to provide to people in need, among other services. Haverhill Promise—a local initiative that helps to ensure elementary students in that city become proficient readers by the third grade—launched and later expanded its kindergarten readiness summer program through funds received as a second-place winner in the 2023 Digital Equity Challenge.

“Due to the program’s success, it garnered even more support through our community partners and Essex County Community Foundation. We scaled up to a year-long program to continue to address the intersection of early learning, family empowerment, grade-level reading, racial equity and digital access, citywide,” says Jessica Kallin, Haverhill Promise executive director.

Other programs funded through the Digital Equity Challenge include an internet connectivity program in Haverhill, a digital literacy program for seniors in Lynn and a countywide device refurbishment program.

“We support entrepreneurs as they launch and grow their businesses,” says UMass Lowell’s Stephanie Guyotte, associate director of the Haverhill iHub. “Creating the Digital Equity Challenge was a natural extension of that work: We’re encouraging the community to use entrepreneurial thinking to develop innovative solutions to the challenges of digital literacy, access and digital equity. After two successful years launching projects, we’re excited to see what is created through the 2024 contest.”

Those interested in learning more may email Guyotte at [email protected] or visit

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