AT&T grants aim to bridge digital divide among Milwaukee communities

NOW: AT&T grants aim to bridge digital divide among Milwaukee communities

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- The city of Milwaukee is partnering with the world's largest telecommunication company to address the digital challenges for young people in Milwaukee.

AT&T joined Mayor Cavalier Johnson Monday, Nov. 14 in announcing a big grant to bridge the digital divide for Black and Hmong youth.

"Today I am proud to announce $50,000 from the AT&T Foundation in grants," said Dextra Hadnot, director of internal affairs for AT&T Wisconsin. 

Monday, inside the offices of the Hmong American Friendship Foundation, new opportunities are becoming a click away.

"It's not just for Facebook. This is for access, for access to do school projects, this is providing opportunities for people to apply to go to work," said Mayor Cavalier Johnson.

These opportunities are often stunted for people of color by the lack of access to the internet.

"More opportunities to help not only within the school, but within the community, for just not for students, but people of color, period," said Shirron Jude, director of programming for the Greater Milwaukee Urban League.

AT&T is providing big dollars to two Milwaukee nonprofits -- the Hmong American Friendship Foundation and the Greater Milwaukee Urban League. Each community business is receiving $25,000 in grant funding. The grants will provide educational programs aimed digital literacy, something community leaders say is vital in Black and brown communities. 

"How do I do a research paper? How do I really look up things in the internet? So this contribution is going to help us continue to bridge that gap and move those students forward."

According to the Wisconsin Policy Forum, the racial divide is evident, with 13.6% of Black residents and 11% of Hispanic residents lacking broadband access. It's something community leaders say can often create roadblocks.

"A lot of time reading, writing, is really important. If you don't know how to read and access, it's really hard to get the resources, and having this kind of bridging the gap of resources will definitely help our community quite a bit," said Lo Neng Kiatoukaysy, executive director of the Hmong American Friendship Foundation. 

This initiative of bridging the digital divide is part of AT&T's $2 billion commitment over the next two years, with city leaders saying more work needs to be done. 

"It's important that we continue on with efforts like this and others, to make sure folks who live in those challenged neighborhoods have access to the internet."

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