AT&T is contributing $6 million to bring bilingual, in-personal digital literacy workshops to more than 400 libraries and community centers across the country, including nine New Jersey libraries, to help people learn how to use computers, mobile devices and internet resources.
The goal is to help people participate in today’s increasingly connected world learn how to use apps essential to managing personal finances, applying for jobs, obtaining an education, accessing telehealth services and other everyday activities. The online courses are developed in collaboration with the Public Library Association.
The $6 million contribution is part of AT&T’s $2 billion commitment to from 2021 to 2023 to help bridge the digital divide. The FCC estimates more than 30% of the U.S. population does not have fixed broadband service even though it is available in their area. Some who have access to affordable service do not take advantage of connectivity because they lack the tools and resources to navigate the web safely and responsibly.
The workshops will utilize online digital literacy courses available through AT&T ScreenReady and PLA Digital Learn. Created in collaboration with the Public Library Association (PLA), the courses teach skills ranging from basic technology to avoiding scams.
PLA selected 160 libraries that will receive contributions to host digital literacy workshops. Two national digital equity nonprofit organizations – Digitunity and Connected Nation – will work with their network members to host workshops at community centers across the country.
The nine New Jersey libraries selected by the PLA for this initiative include Long Branch Free Public Library; Montclair Public Library; Paramus Public Library; Parsippany-Troy Hills Public Library; Piscataway Public Library; Somerville Branch of the Somerset Public Library System; South Orange Public Library; Wharton Public Library; and Woodbury Public Library.
“It will take a collective response to narrow the digital divide,” said Charlene Lake, chief sustainability officer, senior vice president, AT&T corporate responsibility, ESG. “That’s why AT&T is collaborating with libraries and community centers 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.”
“A 2020 PLA survey found that about 88% of public libraries provide some form of digital literacy support, but only 42% offer formal classes. Staffing and funding were the top barriers to providing technology training,” said PLA President Maria McCauley. “AT&T’s contribution to PLA will boost access to digital literacy skills for the most vulnerable in our communities.”