Contest with $10,000 in Cash Prizes Seeks Contestants that Aim to Improve Digital Access in Essex County

Tuesday March 21, 2023

One in five Essex County households lacks a basic computer and a similar number of residents (160,000) live without fixed broadband, according to a 2020 Essex County Community Foundation report.
Individuals with ideas to improve digital access for Essex County residents are encouraged to apply for the Digital Equity Challenge.
Now in its second year, the contest seeks innovations that address racial inequities in digital access, increase access to digital devices and promote growing digital literacy.
“Our goal is to support innovative and community-based solutions that address the very real and multifaceted issue of digital inequity,” said Kate Machet, director of strategic initiatives and government relations for the foundation, a leading sponsor of the challenge. “A lack of access to devices, broadband internet and digital literacy training affects the everyday lives of so many people. We saw from last year’s challenge there are solutions right here in our own communities and we look forward to hearing the proposals from this year’s contestants.”
Additional sponsors of the Digital Equity Challenge include the UMass Lowell Innovation Hub Haverhill; the UMass Lowell student entrepreneurship DifferenceMaker program; EforAll Merrimack Valley, a community entrepreneurship initiative; and Pentucket Bank.
The competition identifies outstanding projects, solutions, business models and ventures that can level the playing field to ensure digital access for every member of the Essex County community. Applicants of all ages, including college and high school students, along with business and nonprofit professionals are invited to participate. Individuals interested in entering the contest may do so on UMass Lowell’s Digital Equity Challenge webpage. The entry deadline is 5 p.m., Friday, March 31.
“The Digital Equity Challenge allows us to use entrepreneurial thinking to solve real-world challenges right now,” said Stephanie Guyotte, associate director of Innovation Hub Haverhill. “When we harness these ideas, we uncover new solutions that will immediately help our communities. We’re excited to launch this challenge with our partners and look forward to working with the applicants to turn their ideas and projects into strong ventures.”
Individuals with the top innovations will be invited to pitch them to a panel of expert judges at a Wednesday, April 26, event at the UMass Lowell iHub Haverhill. A total of $10,000 in cash prizes will be awarded to contest winners to launch their idea. Winners will also receive support, opportunities to collaborate and resources from UMass Lowell, Essex County Community Foundation’s Digital Equity Initiative, and EForAll.
“EforAll /EparaTodos Merrimack Valley is proud to partner with the UMass Lowell Innovation Hub to bring the second Digital Equity Challenge to the community. It is an opportunity to hear innovative ideas and solutions from entrepreneurs, organizations and students. The challenge will bring awareness to racial inequities in digital access and improve digital literacy in our communities,” said EforAll Merrimack Valley Executive Director Sophan Smith, a UMass Lowell graduate.
Last year, the contest named first- through third-place winners who presented ideas for more affordable internet in Haverhill, digital literacy classes and computers for teenagers in Lawrence and an intergenerational computer literacy program for senior citizens in Lynn.
To learn more, please contact Stephanie Guyotte at 978-934-5560, or visit

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