Lessons from the Social Impact Evaluation of Project OVERCOME


The COVID-19 pandemic exposed the gaping digital divide and alarming digital inequities in the United States. The pandemic-era confinement opened the eyes of policymakers as millions experienced social and economic isolation due to the limited or complete absence of Internet connectivity. US Ignite partnered with the National Science Foundation (NSF Award #CNS – 2044448) and Schmidt Futures to design Project OVERCOME and test creative solutions to connect the unconnected.

Project OVERCOME’s design ensured careful consideration of both the technical requirements of broadband access and the community collaboration, outreach, and engagement needed to explore sustainable success. This project provided an opportunity for reliable estimates of the effects of broadband access on education, employment, and access to healthcare. By providing free or low-cost broadband to users as a part of the study and measuring targeted outcomes via a survey, we identified the impact of Project OVERCOME on Internet adoption. This paper reports on the findings of the social impact evaluation data.

Key Findings

  • Increased support from community members and Internet service providers is crucial for improving digital literacy and reaping the benefits of broadband deployment for disadvantaged populations.
  • Providing access to the Internet is not enough to address digital inequality; policymakers must also promote digital literacy and provide resources and support for underserved communities to participate in the economy and shape their communities.
  • The study found that informal help from family and friends is not effective in increasing Internet use, highlighting the importance of systematic help and training provided by organizations.

Additional insights and lessons are available in the full report. Click below to review it now.


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