Equipping the Peach State with the Digital Tools and Skills to Thrive

Venessa Harrison – President, AT&T Southeast Coastal States
November 15, 2023
Broadband Access and Affordability

Equipping the Peach State with the Digital Tools and Skills to Thrive

When I started as a telephone operator for AT&T in North Carolina, I hoped that I would eventually find myself a role working in Georgia. Thirty years later, I am fortunate enough to find myself in the place I dreamed of working. With an extensive career at AT&T, I know this company invests in the communities we serve as much as it invests in its networks.

Last month, our AT&T team spent time in Fort Valley, Georgia – the Peach Capitol of the Peach State – where we participated in an event that embodies our investment in communities. Alongside Fort Valley State University and the Fort Valley Youth Center of Excellence, we had the pleasure of giving away laptops to local K-12 students. A device they can use for years to come, the students now have an important tool to complete homework, apply for colleges, develop essential job skills and explore career opportunities.

“We are grateful for AT&T’s investment in Peach County and in the lives of our youth…this donation of digital devices is helping remove the digital equity barrier and giving our youth access to 21st century technology that will accelerate learning opportunities,” said Martin Moseley, Chairman of the Peach County Board of Commissioners.

Hosting events like the one in Fort Valley is an important part of our effort to provide resources directly to residents so they have what they need to be connected in today’s world.

  • Through our partnerships with Compudopt, Digitunity and Human-I-T, we’ve distributed 2,300 computers in places like Albany, Hancock County, Glascock County and more.
  • In August, we distributed 1,000 backpacks along with digital learning tools to Georgia students in Augusta and Atlanta.

These efforts show that collaborating with local partners is a simple, yet effective formula to connect more people with digital resources – but device distributions are just one part of it. We continue to invest in communities in a variety of ways to connect more Georgians.

Working within community hubs.

As community cornerstones, public libraries aren’t just buildings with books; they are places where dreams are fueled, skills are honed and the future is shaped. To build on what they have to offer, we are working with the Public Library Association (PLA) to bring in-person digital literacy workshops to public libraries across the country – including 10 here in Georgia.

Today, Georgians can visit these libraries to get trainings utilizing our online courses available through AT&T ScreenReady and PLA Digital Learn covering topics from technology basics to online safety. For those who need support, these trainings offer a place where they can learn from someone in their community who can help them reach their fullest potential online.

Hand in hand with community organizations.

Local community organizations are another trusted ally that can help us connect more people with more resources. Working with local community organizations, we’ve opened four AT&T Connected Learning Centers® in Augusta and Atlanta providing students and families free access to technology resources and digital literacy trainings.

When I attended the opening of our centers at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Augusta and RISE Augusta, I saw students light up when they walked in the room knowing they would now have a dedicated place to connect to the internet, learn and explore online.

And outside of our Connected Learning Centers, we’re also engaging with nonprofit organizations and educational institutions to help K-12 students, residents and families gain access to technology and skills-based training to set them up for success.

  • Supporting the YWCA of Greater Atlanta’s Digital Skills Academy to provide digital literacy programming and skills development for Atlanta women.
  • Providing technology to middle and high school lower income students in the Boys & Girls Club of Athens’ YouthForce workforce development program.
  • Creating digital literacy programming and digital tools for entrepreneurs of the Russell Innovation Center for Entrepreneurs to advance their goals.
  • Creating digital learning facilities within the Community Services Center at Café Momentum which will begin operations in 2024.
  • Providing digital devices and connecting students, families, caregivers and schools to technology‐based learning through Inspiredu’s Family Learning Program.
  • Supporting CSRA Alliance for Fort Gordon’s Summer CyberPatriot Camps for local middle school and high school students that equips them with digital literacy skills including online safety and the basics of cybersecurity.

Over the years, I’ve learned that you can’t create viable solutions if you don’t know what problem you are facing. As we work towards creating equitable opportunity in the communities we serve, it is vital to engage the organizations who know their neighbors and their needs best. Working together in this way, we can bring solutions that resonate and reach more individuals – ultimately setting them up with the tools they need to succeed.

Promoting Affordable Options.

We also know one of the best ways we can get people connected is by offering affordable solutions for households juggling monthly bills. By combining our low-cost $30 Access from AT&T plan1, and a $30 benefit from the federal government’s Affordable Connectivity Program, eligible households can get the free internet2 they need to fit internet service into their budget.

Knowing just how much of a difference affordable internet can be in getting people to adopt the internet, we have been raising awareness for these programs at our digital literacy events. From our event in Fort Valley, to the workshops we hold at public libraries, our AT&T team is there to make people aware of this benefit and help sign eligible individuals up so they can take advantage of free or low-cost internet service.

The Bottom Line.

There is a lot of activity as states across the country prepare for Broadband, Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) Program funding for broadband deployment. While we have every reason to be excited, we also have every reason to get ready for that moment ahead of time – because the better equipped Georgians are today, the greater the impact the deployments will have tomorrow.

1 Plans up to 100Mbps and includes unlimited data. Limited availability/areas.

2 Free internet subject to household’s continued ACP eligibility and application of the ACP benefit to Access from AT&T plans. Limit of one ACP benefit per household.