AT&T gives $1 million to send digital ambassadors to help get online

AT&T is donating $1 million to help 10,000 Dallas-Fort Worth residents get online over the next two years.

This effort aims to bridge the gap between those who have access to digital technology and those who don’t, also known as the digital divide. At least 75,000 households across Dallas County will lack reliable access to the Internet in 2020, according to the Internet for All Alliance.

In total, Dallas-based AT&T previously said it would spend $2 billion between 2021 and 2023 to help bridge the gap.

The new initiative is led by the Dallas Innovation Coalition, an alliance founded in 2015 with stakeholders from the City of Dallas and other organizations to help Dallas develop into a global smart city.

The $1 million will pay for digital ambassadors to help communities connect to the Internet and learn how to use it for tasks such as paying bills, applying for jobs, and helping children with their homework.

This is the first program of its kind, said Jennifer Sanders, CEO and co-founder of the Dallas Innovation Alliance, based on conversations with 20 of the alliance’s peers across the country.

“We could have all the infrastructure in the world, but if people don’t know how to get to it, or they can’t afford it, we haven’t solved the problem,” Sanders said. “And so we’re very grateful to be able to implement a program like this that we think actually fills one of the most complex communication gaps.”

The program will include four components, including a technical support line, call center, website with self-service, and community link sites. While plans are still being developed, Sanders said the program will be marketed via word of mouth and opening hours in residential communities.

Sanders said the program wants to help people get their lives back by taking advantage of Internet resources.

“If you don’t know you can pay your water bill online, you might take half a day off from work and queue up at City Hall,” she said.

Mylayna Albright, assistant vice president for corporate social responsibility at AT&T, said the COVID-19 pandemic has “amplified” the digital divide as millions of students turn to online learning. She said some parents did not have the skills to help their children keep up with their online studies.

“We will continue to work to help provide opportunities that give students and families the opportunity to participate fully in an increasingly connected world,” Albright said. “This is perhaps one of the biggest commitments AT&T has made.”

AT&T debuted among three “connected learning centers” in Dallas with plans to open 20 centers nationwide

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