Closing the Digital Divide and Empowering the Latino Community Through Connectivity

Susan Santana, Vice President, Legislative Strategy, AT&T California
October 10, 2022
Broadband Access and Affordability, Community Impact

Closing the Digital Divide and Empowering the Latino Community Through Connectivity

I was born and raised in Chula Vista, Calif., a US-Mexican border town located in San Diego County, where hard work, the importance of family and celebrating the Latino culture are community values.

My grandparents immigrated to Chula Vista in the late 1940s from Mexico.

My father owned a TV repair shop and my mother worked for a middle school. My parents bestowed upon me the importance of humility and treating every person with respect, regardless of who they were or where they come from.

While our working-class upbringing lacked an abundance of material riches, the love and support that raised my siblings and I was bountiful and the compassion for others in need was ever-present. Like many Latinos, my extended family also played a significant role in my upbringing. My family valued, and was committed to, education, particularly for students from lower income households, where resources are scarce and information is limited.  These qualities have proved immensely helpful in various aspects of my professional life, whether practicing law or lobbying in D.C., or serving as AT&T’s Legislative Affairs VP in California.

My experience at AT&T has allowed me to give back to my community and work with organizations that help students succeed. For example, I currently serve on the board of the Parent Institute for Quality Education (PIQE) in San Diego, which provides critical support to non-English speaking families and their children’s educational success. During the pandemic, PIQE worked to help California families with the transition to distance learning during the COVID-19 crisis.

My work with PIQE, community leaders and elected officials showed me that the learning challenges presented over the last few years are unprecedented and educators and nonprofit organizations have been at the forefront of making sure our students continue to learn.

Still, millions of students struggle with digital learning because they don’t have the high-quality connectivity and devices needed to thrive in this modern world. Through AT&T Connected Learning℠, we’re investing connectivity and technology, digital literacy resources and solutions, to help connect today’s learners to success – in and out of the classroom. It’s part of our $2 billion commitment to help bridge the digital divide and remove barriers to access, affordability and safe adoption of technology.

We’re taking a broad, yet focused approach to tackling the digital divide with programs that make access, affordability and adoption easy.

In total, our digital literacy initiatives aim to help more than 65,000 people learn to use computers and mobile devices, navigate the internet and commonly used apps, and participate safely and responsibly in today’s increasingly connected world. These are crucial skills for people who are new to using the internet and computers.

As part of this effort, we’re also opening Connected Learning Centers (CLCs) across the nation. By the end of 2022, we’ll meet our goal to open 20 Connected Learning Centers, including our fourth in California. We provide technology and digital literacy resources within the centers to help students and families participate in digital engagement. This includes The Achievery, a free digital learning platform created by AT&T, as well as free digital literacy courses created in collaboration with the Public Library Association.

The centers also serve as hubs for digital skills coaching and mentoring, provide connectivity tools such as laptops, hotspots, computer resource rooms and internet. During Hispanic Heritage Month, HACEMOS, AT&T’s Latino Employee Group (EG) dedicated to supporting Hispanic employees and the communities they live in, hosted a digital literacy workshop in Los Angeles at our CLC at the Salvadoran American Leadership Education Fund (SALEF). HACEMOS volunteers provided training on basic internet activities, including how to use a web browser and search engine and how to navigate a website, as well as information on how to recognize a secure website and making passwords strong and memorable.

And our impact is not just in California. Throughout the country we are launching volunteer efforts directly impacting Spanish-speaking communities.

The Hispanic and Latino communities are a vital part of the AT&T workforce, customer base and the communities we serve. Year-round, and especially during Hispanic Heritage Month, we’re committed to listening, understanding and taking action that advocates for and empowers this vibrant community. My abuelos would be proud to know that I work for a company that cares deeply about digital equity and the progress of Latinos in this country, not only through words but through action.