Helping Bridge the Digital Divide in the Pacific Northwest

Carl Gipson and Amir Johnson
October 31, 2022
Broadband Access and Affordability


Helping Bridge the Digital Divide in the Pacific Northwest

Digital literacy education is key to narrowing the digital divide. Today, of the estimated 15–16 million K-12 learners who have insufficient broadband access or access to devices to support learning at home, approximately 6 million face adoption barriers apart from availability and affordability. . These numbers represent a nationwide need to equip the communities we serve with the necessary resources to succeed online.

Across Oregon and Washington, our teams are working in their communities to help connect even more of their neighbors. Addressing the digital divide requires an array of specialized approaches to meet the specific needs of each community. Through device distributions, donations and volunteerism, our teams are working to help close the divide throughout the Pacific Northwest.

Device Distributions

The digital divide in the Pacific Northwest manifests in-part due to a lack of access to large screen devices. In fact, in the US 41% of adults with lower incomes do not have a desktop or laptop computer. Whether it’s being unable to afford a computer or another barrier, not having a large screen device means children and families are unable to keep up with the tasks and schoolwork required of them.

Over the course of the year, our teams have put on events to help meet the existing technological needs in the Portland, Tacoma and Seattle communities.

  • Our Portland team worked with the Oregon Community Foundation’s Black Student Success Network to contribute 160 laptops to underserved Black students and families ahead of the upcoming school year.
  • In Seattle, the team met an immediate need for children of Ukrainian refugees by providing 150 devices through Digitunity and a local organization, InterConnection.
  • Additionally, AT&T employees worked to activate and connect 45 devices for unhoused neighbors at an Empowerment Event hosted by the Tacoma Rescue Mission.

Contributions

A crucial aspect of supporting the communities where we live and work is listening to the specific needs within a community. Often, these needs are best identified from those emerged in the work and best supported with donations or financial assistance. This year, our teams across the Pacific Northwest contributed to dozens of community organizations. Recent examples include:

  • In Portland, AT&T contributed $20,000 to the Black Parent Initiative in support of their K-8 programs. These year-round programs provide Black students with tutoring, access to technology and digital literacy skills.
  • Additionally, AT&T contributed $20,000 to the Portland Boys and Girls Club in support of after-school programming that provides technology to youth in under-served communities.
  • An AT&T Foundation grant and an AT&T contribution amounted to $27,500 to the Girl Scouts of Western Washington, supporting a program that addresses the digital divide through a collaboration with DigiPen Institute of Technology by providing technology, women role models and mentoring so Girl Scouts can gain hands-on interface training using media technology and internet tools that aren’t available at home or in school.
  • AT&T contributed $6,355 to the Seattle Police Foundation to support their provision of laptops to immigrant communities and technology for their youth programs.

Volunteerism

There are countless organizations throughout the Pacific Northwest that are dedicated to helping bridge the digital divide. As these groups work to reach people in their communities, they often need dedicated volunteers to help drive home their mission. Our AT&T teams were able to serve a number of organizations that focused on bridging the digital divide and ensuring success for children gearing up for back-to-school.

The team supported Portland-based organization Free Geek in their mission to enable digital access in Oregon through sponsoring and volunteering at their annual fundraiser. AT&T members served the community by providing much needed hands to set up for their event. Additionally, our Washington team volunteered with Treehouse in Vancouver and Spokane in their annual drive to provide backpacks and other back-to-school essentials to high school students experiencing foster care.

AT&T is working throughout the Pacific Northwest to keep our commitment to help bridge the digital divide. As community needs arise, our teams will continue to work with local organizations to help provide the solutions they need.

To learn more about how we are meeting customers where they are to help bridge the digital divide, read about our recent Bridge to Possibility: Closing the digital divide, together campaign.