AT&T launches $6 million digital literacy initiative in US

US telecoms operator AT&T will contribute up to $6 million towards an initiative to drive digital literacy across the US, aimed at more than 65,000 people.

The commitment, which linked to an existing Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiative announced in 2021 to spend $2 million towards low-cost broadband service offerings between 2021 and 2023, will focus on helping people learn the basics on using computers and mobile devices, as well as navigating the internet and using apps while avoiding scams.

In collaboration with the Public Library Association (PLA) the telecom operator has created a number of online courses. These courses are shared with 160 libraries selected by the PLA across the nation to host both in-person and virtual workshops. The PLA has received around 20% of the total contributions from AT&T to run the cohorts.

As to the relevance of this program, the telco refers to a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) report from January 2021. In it, the FCC reported that despite the rapidly expanding high-speed broadband (minimum 25/3 Mbps) coverage across the country, around a third of the US population with broadband coverage does not use the service. This is likely to be due to lack of digital skills, according to AT&T, as despite efforts to provide affordable services people are not taking advantage of connectivity.

“It will take a collective response to narrow the digital divide” said Charlene Lake, CSO at AT&T. “That’s why AT&T is collaborating with libraries and community centres to bring digital literacy tools and resources to people who are unconnected or newly connected and unable to carry out many of the essential tasks our increasingly digital world requires.”

With staffing and funding as top barriers for libraries to provide technology training “AT&T’s contribution to PLA will boost access to digital literacy skills for the most vulnerable in our communities.” added PLA President Maria McCauley.

The pandemic accelerated the shift towards a digital-first world with many aspects of life including work and study relying on connectivity making digital literacy vital to it all. According to Britannica, the goal of ancient libraries was to collect and learn from knowledge to improve life. As such, it is nice to see this CSR initiative bringing libraries centre and front in the race to accelerate digital literacy.

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