Connected Nation

New national research points to opportunities and action steps to shrink the Digital Divide

October 09, 2023 Jessica Denson Season 4 Episode 24
New national research points to opportunities and action steps to shrink the Digital Divide
Connected Nation
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Connected Nation
New national research points to opportunities and action steps to shrink the Digital Divide
Oct 09, 2023 Season 4 Episode 24
Jessica Denson

On this episode of Connected Nation, we discuss new research that focuses on who is directly impacted by the Digital Divide and WHY they are still not getting online – even if offered financial assistance. 

Learn what the new data shows about the challenges, opportunities, and attitudes for closing the digital equity gap. Plus, we’ll discuss what those findings mean for shifting how organizations and government agencies approach the problem moving forward.

Related links:
Mind the Gap: Closing the Digital Divide through affordability, access, and adoption
AT&T Connected Learning 
AT&T ScreenReady
National PTA: Ready, Tech, Go!

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

On this episode of Connected Nation, we discuss new research that focuses on who is directly impacted by the Digital Divide and WHY they are still not getting online – even if offered financial assistance. 

Learn what the new data shows about the challenges, opportunities, and attitudes for closing the digital equity gap. Plus, we’ll discuss what those findings mean for shifting how organizations and government agencies approach the problem moving forward.

Related links:
Mind the Gap: Closing the Digital Divide through affordability, access, and adoption
AT&T Connected Learning 
AT&T ScreenReady
National PTA: Ready, Tech, Go!

Jessica Denson, Host (00:07):

This is Connected Nation, an award-winning podcast focused on all things broadband from closing the digital divide to improving your internet speeds. We talk technology topics that impact all of us, our families, and our neighborhoods.


Today, we discuss new research that focuses on who is directly impacted by the digital divide and why they are still not getting online, even if offered financial assistance. Learn what the data shows about the challenges, opportunities, and attitudes for closing the digital equity gap, and we'll discuss what those findings means for shifting how we approach the problem moving forward.


I'm Jessica Denson, and this is Connected Nation. I'm Jessica Denson, and today my guests are Mylayna Albright, who is the Assistant Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility for , and Chris McGovern, who serves as the director of research development for Connected Nation. Welcome.

Mylayna Albright, AT&T  (01:03):

Hey there.

Chris McGovern, Connected Nation  (01:03):

Thanks for having us.

Jessica Denson, Host (01:05):

Happy to talk to you both about this new research that's coming out. Super excited. Chris, if it's all right with you ladies first, Milena, we'll go first. I'd like to hear a little bit about your background mile, Elena. So let's begin with you, your role as assistant Vice president of corporate responsibility for at t. You've been with the company for more than 15 years, and that's a mouthful of a position. I love to see it, love to see women in big roles in companies. Share what brought you to at and t and define what your current role means for those of us who aren't in that world right now.

Mylayna Albright, AT&T  (01:43):

Sure. And just hearing you say that, I can't believe it's been 15 years, almost 15 years at this point, but it was actually my reputation for building relationships that led me to at t I refer to myself as a recovering attorney, and it was through my legal work that I first engaged with at t. I was actually outside counsel for local municipality and at t had some work that required my involvement.


So during that time, my contacts at at and t appreciated the relationships that I had locally and statewide, and about a year after that interaction, they called to ask if I'd be interested in applying for a role that they had opened in their external affairs department. So I actually came in to at and t doing external affairs, which is more local state type government relations work. But when I joined at t, I joined with a desire to serve and to connect people, and that's really what we do best. We know that when we help connect people to technology, it can be a bridge opportunity. It just helps people tap into the supports and resources that they need.


So in my current role, I lead our community and social investment team. My team is responsible for managing our education, philanthropic giving, which is now focused around helping to narrow the digital divide through our Connected Learning initiative. So we strategize and design programming to support communities nationwide.

Jessica Denson, Host (03:09):

I love to hear that - and I think the audience could agree when corporate entities are doing good in the world, so it must be really rewarding to be able to directly see the impact of this giving. What is this type of work and what kinds of things you're doing? I know you said at t did social impact work. Can you expand upon that and why it's important to you?

Mylayna Albright, AT&T  (03:32):

Sure. So my role in corporate responsibility since I've started has really aligned around education and helping to put our philanthropic dollars behind programming that helps change communities as far as it relates to education. So right now think of K through 12 students, their parents, caregivers, teachers, and really just identifying ways to make a difference through our philanthropy dollars, through helping to bring more devices to families that need them most.


And all of our programming is free of charge developing programs with nonprofit partners who are able to help us develop programs around digital literacy or even with digital learning, with helping to bring digital navigators. So really just using the money of at t to going to communities, doing what we know that they need the most.

Jessica Denson, Host (04:29):

Yeah, the pandemic really changed the conversation. It went from many of us providers included having to explain why it mattered that people had access to this. Why is the Digital divide, we talk about that and I've read some of your stuff that you've written that it's extremely important to you. Why do you think it's important that we close it?

Mylayna Albright, AT&T  (04:51):

Well, I mean, it's important that we close it first and foremost, you mentioned the pandemic. Let me back up a little bit because many people think the digital divide didn't start until the pandemic and it occurred well before that. So I really wanted to take a minute to acknowledge the longstanding relationship that at and t has had with Connected Nation Connect, because Connected Nation has always understood that the Digital Divide was an issue that needed to be addressed.


 When we got to the pandemic, at that point in time, we had a different program where we were working to serve the needs of students around high school success and workforce readiness. But just before the pandemic started, we were watching the news, seeing the writing on the wall, and we knew that we had to do more to help serve the students that were likely going to be sent home.


And at that point we thought, oh, it'll be a city here, a city there, never imagining what we were in for. So at that time, connected Nation was probably one of the first organizations that we'd worked with that we went to try to identify how do we really change our scope of work and Connected Nation was there. The reason why it's important is because the digital divide is something that is going to occur well after the pandemic students, once they leave school and don't have connection, that puts them at a disadvantage. So being able to serve underrepresented students and families with the resources that they need is very important and really hits at the purpose and core of connectivity, which is all about.

Jessica Denson, Host (06:25):

Yes, you guys have done great things, and I appreciate that and applaud that the things that at t Impact have done. I will also say I like to use the example of Imagine trying to apply for a job or write a report as a student just on your phone and not having access at home or going to a McDonald's to have to do that. I've heard the McDonald's example time and time again now, but we were seeing that as you said, long before the pandemic, and there's still going to be issues with it long after.


So we applaud this work, and that's the reason I definitely wanted to mention all of that. Before we get into this research today, Chris, turning now to you, you've also held your position at Connected Nation for some time. Share some of your background and explain really what a director of research development means. I mean, I think all of us kind of understand that there's some data involved, but what exactly is it that you focus on and do with Connected Nation?

Chris McGovern, Connected Nation  (07:24):

Yeah. Well, I've been in the nonprofit world for about 25 years now, and around 16 of those have been here with Connected Nation. It's really an organization that has been working for a long time to try and as you were discussed, close that digital divide. So I was with Connected Nation back when broadband was measured in kilobits instead of megabits or gigabits. But yeah, with Connected Nation, our research department works really hard to help identify some of the issues beyond access because our mapping team does a great job at tracking broadband availability and where people can subscribe. But even in those areas, there are people who aren't getting connected for a variety of reasons, whether it's digital skills, whether it's affordability, and those are sort of the issues that we work with here in the research department.

Jessica Denson, Host (08:45):

Are there any topics of late, I know besides the one we're about to speak about with telehealth or telework or anything that you're exploring or that you've found this year that is pretty interesting to you in your mind?

Chris McGovern, Connected Nation  (08:58):

Oh, sure. As we look at closing the digital divide and as we'll be chatting about later, the Affordable Connectivity Program, those are challenges that are really being fought out in Congress and amongst policymakers right now. It's very timely. Telehealth is a quickly evolving area where during the C Ovid 19 pandemic, there were more opportunities for people to use telehealth. Some of those have been pulled back, and so to some extent it's going to be more challenging to access Telehealth care. So that's something we're looking into. And the other area that we're looking at at least through the end of this year is workforce readiness. The ability to go online and use the internet to gain access is very important, but that's not going to be the final step. We have to get people trained and get them the skills needed to use the types of software that employers are looking for. And so that's something else that we're looking at here going forward.

Jessica Denson, Host (10:39):

Can't wait to find out what you learn on that point. You do a lot of the research, Chris, but then at t you do a lot of the real world hard on the ground work in the digital inclusion space. And you mentioned the Connected Learning program. Do you want to share some of the highlights of that program that people may not realize they're actually working in their communities right now?

Mylayna Albright, AT&T  (11:03):

Absolutely. And just to give you a bit of background, Connected Learning is our commitment to help bridge a digital divide for students, caregivers, and families, which I've mentioned before, but through technology and connectivity as well as educational resources, digital literacy, particularly for those in underserved communities. So we have a goal to provide 1 million people in need with digital resources through at t Connected Learning by 2025. But I have a few good examples of how we're working in this space. And so first, a key part of the Connected Learning Initiative are our at t Connected Learning centers or CLCs as we refer to them. And these are resources located within local nonprofits in cities like Dallas, Detroit, Miami, Houston, and on tribal lands in California. These are already adept at supporting underserved populations within their community, including some of our nation's most vulnerable students and families.


And we currently have 27 CLCs open across the country. We've designed these centers to help tackle the digital divide by providing free access to a range of digital resources for students and families all under one roof. So thanks to our partners at Dell and Worldwide Technologies, we're able to provide students with computers and high-speed internet to empower digital learning and literacy. We plan to launch more than 50 total centers across the country by mid 2024, and many of those will be located within Boys and Girls Clubs and also within some Urban League centers. Another example, we are working with device refurbishers like human it and get large screen devices in the hands of people who need the most at no cost to the recipient. And so families also get access to ongoing tech support and digital literacy skill building for the whole family. So that way we're not just dumping a computer off and not giving them the resources that they need to see the value in that connection or in that device, but really to think about it holistically.


Third, with the Public Library Association, we're developing resources and workshops to help improve digital skills and help people learn to navigate the internet safely and responsibly. In today's increasingly connected world, those resources are targeted more towards parents and caregivers. As we know during the pandemic, there were many parents and caregivers who just didn't have the basic skills that they need. So although students can take part of this, typically students are digitally native and can do this work, but the work with Public Library Association really gives that additional support. And then finally, we've also created the Achiever, which is an innovative and free educational platform that offers standards aligned curriculum and entertaining videos for through 12 students that they can use everywhere they learn, whether it's at home in the community or in their classrooms to identify content that just helps enhance their learning.

Jessica Denson, Host (14:07):

I'll include links to those different projects and programs in the description, this podcast for our audience. But just to note, I think it's very valid to say that you guys are looking at this from all different directions, from the learning from the need for devices, from the different cities that need help, and why Tribal lands, the public library, the ry, all of these different ways, which is something that Connect Nation does talk about a lot, the importance of that we can't just connect people. We have to tackle this issue on all kinds of ways. And in partnership, which brings me to our current partnership with the new research report that we did with at t focusing on examining the real world challenges and opportunities to connecting people. It's titled Mind the Gap, closing the Digital Divide Through Affordability, access and Adoption. The report was just released in the last few weeks. My question to you first, Milena, before we get to some more of the data with Chris is why did at t think it was important to explore this particular issue?

Mylayna Albright, AT&T  (15:14):

First of all, connected Nation has a very strong reputation in this space through the programmatic work that they're doing and other research that they've done in the past. So we thought it was important to get firsthand information on challenges and opportunities that people are facing as it relates to the digital divide. And as our daily lives become increasingly more reliant on technology, each of us needs to be equipped with digital skills and resources to take advantage of opportunities today, as well as in the future. Too many people in our most vulnerable neighborhoods aren't taking advantage of what the internet offers. So think of opportunities like applying for jobs or seeking education. And we just thought that this research would help us understand why through the Connected Learning Initiative, we still need a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities our country faces as we work to close the digital divide. That's why we wanted to collaborate with Connected Nation to explore attitudes towards home broadband service and the Affordable Connectivity Program or a C P, which provides affordable internet access to millions of low-income households nationwide.

Jessica Denson, Host (16:21):

And Chris, how about on your side? Let's start to break down the research a little bit. Can you talk about the approach that we took to this research that Connected agent and at t took as in how it was done, that piece of it?

Chris McGovern, Connected Nation  (16:35):

Sure. So we wanted to get some information from more of a quantitative standpoint, looking at surveys as well as the qualitative. We wanted to hear people's stories and actually talk with them face-to-face about their internet usage, about their attitudes towards broadband, a real host of issues around there. So what we did was we conducted a total of just over 1700 telephone surveys to households via landlines and cell phones.

Jessica Denson, Host (17:22):


Chris McGovern, Connected Nation  (17:23):

We targeted five metro areas around the country. And there was Charlotte, there was Milwaukee, there was Cleveland, San Francisco, and then the Dallas, Dallas-Fort Worth area. And we wanted to look at cities because a lot of times in rural communities, you get a lack of availability as a much larger issue. And the fact that not only availability in general, but also availability through providers who are participating in the A C P. So in these five metro areas, we knew that there were providers who were offering services through the A C P. And so we targeted those areas around the country with, I said with the phone surveys as well as in-person focus groups, in order to get those real time stories, we spoke to groups that ranged between seven and 10 people in each of these cities. We did two focus groups in each metro area. So we ended up meeting with pretty close to 90 people through these focus groups and got to hear their stories about their internet service, how they were using it, what their thoughts were and their information about the A C P and what they knew about it.

Jessica Denson, Host (19:11):

And what did the research reveal about the digital divide for you? What did you learn?

Chris McGovern, Connected Nation  (19:17):

Well, we had a good size portion of individuals that lived in low income households. For this study, low income is considered anybody or any household that would qualify for the A C P based on their income level, their annual income. And we found that more than a quarter of those households, about 27% said that they didn't subscribe to the internet at all. And that's across our five cities. So in areas where median incomes were lower, we found that percentage to be higher compared to those cities where the incomes were higher like in San Francisco. But we found that of those households that don't subscribe to the internet, about one in 11 said it was an issue of the monthly cost. The top reason that that was given, it revolved around either accessing the internet, internet at friend or well someplace else, maybe a maybe family member, maybe school or work. So they were using the internet, but they were doing so someplace other than their home, or they were using their cell phone, their smartphone as a substitute for a home internet connection. So it was that type of situation like you described earlier, Jessica, where people were trying to use their smartphones to do things like do schoolwork or try and work from home or apply for jobs, a full host of things that they're relying on their smartphone for.

Jessica Denson, Host (21:25):

Yeah, I couldn't imagine trying to write a report or something. I'll have nightmares about that sometimes. Back in school, my reports do. I only have a phone. You've mentioned the A C P, which I think you said was the Afford Affordable Connectivity Program funds discounts on services, and at t participates in this program, Milena, why is that important, do you think, for at t to do so?

Mylayna Albright, AT&T  (21:53):

Well, one thing we know is that cost is a major factor in keeping people from subscribing to home internet, or at least the perception of what the cost is. So continuing to provide and expand our low cost broadband programs is essential to bridging the digital divide. We continue to help make low cost internet service available for qualifying low income households with our access from at t program. At t also participates in the A C P, which provides a benefit for eligible households towards their internet or wireless service. So by combining the federal a c P benefit with one of the access from plans, eligible households can take advantage of free internet.

Jessica Denson, Host (22:34):

Yeah, and I know you mentioned that Connect Nation worked with at t before the pandemic and access with at t. That was something we helped get the word out about and worked with a lot of nonprofits on. According to the Federal Communications Commission, which oversees this program, the Affordable Connectivity Program or a C P, there are millions who are not taking part in the program who could benefit. And you both mentioned it that there's an issue of some people stay with cost, but there's another piece of this research that you really examined Chris, and can you share what you found why people are maybe not choosing to use the ACP at this point?

Chris McGovern, Connected Nation  (23:17):

Sure. So we spoke with, of those 1700 and some households, we spoke with some folks who were eligible to participate based on their household income. And when we asked them about the affordable connectivity program, about a little bit over a third said that they weren't familiar with the program, whether it was, they had not heard about it from their provider, from friends, family, they just weren't aware that the A C P or programs like that existed amongst those that knew about it but still didn't participate. About 30% of that group said that they didn't subscribe because they didn't really think they would be eligible. There were some concerns that we heard about through focus groups about maybe they might want some more information than they were comfortable giving, whatever that may be. And so I said about 30% said that they hadn't even looked into it because they didn't, they assumed that they were not eligible.

Jessica Denson, Host (24:57):

And what are some things that stand out for you, Mylayna, in this? What does this mean for at t's approach? Why was this so important to understand and really know this data

Mylayna Albright, AT&T  (25:09):

Well, understanding that a C P can help lower monthly internet costs for family in need, yet less than two out of three low income respondents knew about the program that made it important. The Connected Nation research also showed us that one third of low income households were aware of a c P, but still chose not to participate. And these reasons varied from eligibility concerns to confusion about enrolling. And if anyone has gone through the process of enrolling in a C p at, especially at the very beginning, it was very confusing. You really had to log on to understand what the requirements were. If you qualified, you had to know what documentation that you needed to have in front of you when you sat down. So there were many pretty fundamental issues with even getting enrolled. So when it comes to learning about a C P and navigating other areas of the online world, we've come to learn that through one-on-one community-based support. Like with Connected Nation, we can better address families' concerns and questions head on. So these findings are enlightening and will help inform our work moving forward. But most importantly, they'll help us connect more communities across the country to the benefits of the internet

Jessica Denson, Host (26:24):

At the very base. You can't fix something or help somebody unless you know what the problem is. So I love that we're actually finding out the data and learning what people on the ground are thinking about this. So I'll pose this question to both of you. First, you Chris, a c p. One of the top concerns was eligibility as Mylayna, and you both mentioned briefly here, does that demonstrate a need for a shift, a better advertising, doing things a little differently? Did anybody that you talked to speak about that?

Chris McGovern, Connected Nation  (26:56):

Sure. That's been an issue that has been recognized, like Milena said, really from the beginning where people have concerns about if they're connected to the internet, they like their, what they have. And so they had some concerns about making switches that could really affect a large portion of their lives. If they switch and they don't like their new service, it's going to be a big pain for them to switch everything back. There were some real issues that were expressed about that. I know that there has been some promotion for the A C P through nonprofits or other trusted community organizations that has helped sort of bridge that gap. And a lot of that gap is really an issue of perception in that when we spoke with a c P participants, about four out of five people said that they were satisfied with the signup process. So the large majority of those who are in the program, they felt pretty good about the process itself. But there's that perception on the other side of concerns about whether, like I said, whether they'd have to provide more information than they'd want to, or whether they would have to jump through a bunch of hoops only to have the price decrease taken away from them in six months or a year or so. I think a lot of it comes down to perception

Jessica Denson, Host (29:09):

And Mylayna, from your point of view, what can we do to help people understand they're eligible for this?

Mylayna Albright, AT&T  (29:15):

A lot of it comes down to making the information accessible and reaching community members through organizations that individuals trust. I think that's a theme that we keep hearing from Chris and myself. So at t recently launched a free online course with the Public Library Association to educate parents, caregivers, and families about a c p. And this course is designed to be relatable and accessible and provides an in-depth overview of the A C P programs, the documents that are needed to apply the process of applying and how to use the benefit. We're also supporting one-on-one community-based trusted guides through our digital navigators program. And these community experts address these concerns head on and provide personalized support. Our goal is to teach people to get online, use computers, build digital skills, and connect the tools and services they need. So again, they see value in that connectivity and want to stay connected. And we're just hopeful that these types of tailored support will help demystify the process of getting online and help connect more households to all the opportunities being connected can provide.

Jessica Denson, Host (30:26):

And Chris, from your point of view, did your team learn anything about what people are, how they're using the internet if they do subscribe to the A C P?

Chris McGovern, Connected Nation  (30:34):

We did. Yeah. That's one of the concerns that some people have expressed about the program, that we might be providing these federal funds to help people do things that maybe aren't necessarily all that valuable. And so we asked a c p users about how members of their household are using their internet or going online through their smartphones. And what we found is that the vast majority of them are using those services for reasons that are really valuable, whether it's participating in video meetings or doing homework or research for school, or taking classes online or working from home, even. All of these things are tools that are now available to these households that may not have been possible beforehand.

Jessica Denson, Host (31:49):

It's not just cab videos is what you're saying.

Chris McGovern, Connected Nation  (31:51):

It's not just cat videos. Exactly.

Jessica Denson, Host (31:54):

I had to mention that we've talked a couple of times, we've mentioned it, I mentioned it about how difficult it must be to try to use a cell phone to do schoolwork or a apply for a job or many other things that we do now in our modern society even access government services. With the work you do, Milena across the country, are you seeing that families and individuals do struggle with that?

Mylayna Albright, AT&T  (32:20):

Oh, absolutely. I mean, reliable, affordable internet connectivity is an essential tool for education, healthcare, employment, just to name a few people, use the internet to complete school assignments for work, to apply for jobs, researching health information and just staying in touch with family and friends and of trying to do some of this on a cell phone makes it even more difficult. I've had conversations with people when it came down to do I spend the extra money for an at-home connection, internet connection versus just having my phone? They chose the phone a lot of times, but to do something like writing, I don't even know if they still write term papers. I'm really dating myself. But to do any sort me too of research to write, they find that when they actually put it into practice, it's much more difficult. And so this is why we provide access to large screen devices that are connected. It helps make connecting easier. And we learned from those who do have connectivity about what they gain from the internet. So in the research when Affordable Connectivity program participants were asked whether they use their internet to support work and educational tasks, nearly 94% said they use the internet to work from home. Over 88% use their connection to take online classes while more than 81% use it to do homework or research for school. So it's no surprise that when families have connectivity, it unlocks new educational and economic opportunities.

Jessica Denson, Host (33:50):

From your point of view, do you feel providers, not just at t, but providers, large and small, and even government agencies leaders, can they leverage this data, this research that has been done on why people are opting out of or are using it, the A C P? Can those groups also use this to create positive change?

Mylayna Albright, AT&T  (34:15):

Absolutely. I mean, just having the knowledge and the data is very helpful, but collaboration is critical. So bridging the digital divide will require businesses, nonprofits, and governments to come together to help overcome barriers and bring high quality connectivity to millions of people that need it most. This research provides valuable new insights into those individuals who are still a part of the digital divide and what is keeping them from getting connected. And the hope is that we can all leverage this information to provide targeted support and connect more people to the benefits of the internet.

Jessica Denson, Host (34:50):

And Chris, from your side of things, do you think more research needs to be done into this topic, or is there something else in the arena of the digital divide that we really need to focus on right now?

Chris McGovern, Connected Nation  (35:01):

Well, there's definitely a need for information getting out there both on the programs themselves as well as the ways that they're being promoted. In this particular research. Like I said, we looked at five metro areas across the country, but there's a whole lot of land in between those five cities that we should be looking at and making sure that connectivity is available and affordable for everybody. And so that will include expanding the research to look at the small areas, the rural communities. There's a lot of information that can still be gained, but we're hoping that this is a good first step and that it will be useful to both policymakers and providers as they look to close that digital divide.

Jessica Denson, Host (36:10):

Just as a note for the audience, I will be putting a link, Sarah links from the things that we've talked about throughout this podcast and the description of this podcast, including a link directly to the research so that you could dive into it as well. So before we close, let's look ahead a little bit. Mylene, let's start with you. What else is at and t working on in the corporate responsibility area that you can share at this point?

Mylayna Albright, AT&T  (36:36):

Well, even with access to affordable broadband service, many individuals and families still don't take advantage of connectivity because they lack skills. They lack the knowledge or competence to navigate the safely and responsibly. So I'm particularly proud of the work that my team is doing to provide free digital literacy resources for parents, caregivers, and families. I mentioned this a little bit earlier in the interview about our efforts with the Public Library Association. This collaboration has produced several courses that teach many of the digital basics like how to sign up for and use email, or how to use video conferencing. And these are skills that many of us just take for granted. We've also collaborated with Connected Nation to launch a program called Teens Teach Tech, which is a digital literacy program that focuses on empowering teens to learn leadership skills and share their technical expertise with older adults and members of the community.


And then finally, through Screen Ready, we provide tips, tools, and resources to help parents and caregivers manage their family's online experience, practice healthy digital habits, and participate safely and responsibly in today's connected world. We've also teamed up with the American Academy of Pediatrics to bring the award-winning family media tools, which includes a family media plan and phone ready quiz to encourage safe and responsible internet media and technology use for families. And then we're also working with National P T A to deliver a program called Ready Tech Go, and this is a workshop series for parents and caregivers to encourage them to promote healthy digital habits, especially in underserved communities.

Jessica Denson, Host (38:18):

I'm kind of blown away. I don't know how you manage all these different programs, Marlena, I can't imagine your team must be fantastic. Chris, are there other research projects your team has done this year or that you're looking at now that you can share with us or that you're excited about?

Chris McGovern, Connected Nation  (38:36):

Oh, sure, sure. We've been working really all year with the Sioux Tribe of Chippewa Indians in the upper peninsula of Michigan, looking at their telehealth usage and access, that is something that's going to be coming to fruition before the end of this year. We're also working with some other communities specifically targeting that telehealth issue. That's one of the things that I think that the work that we do, as well as the work that Milena has been describing, it really focuses on reaching people where they're at. And so if somebody needs help turning their computer on, that's just as legitimate as somebody who is trying to learn how to use like a high tech drafting tool online. It's a matter of working with communities and identifying or working with issues that they have identified and helping them address those issues. And so there's definitely a demand for research that goes into both the national and the community level.

Jessica Denson, Host (40:14):

And for you, Mylene, are there any other upcoming projects or areas of focus that at t in general is excited about for 2024? I can't believe I'm saying 2024, though.

Mylayna Albright, AT&T  (40:25):

The year is flying by. Oh my gosh. But we're already in our strategic planning phases and we have a lot in store. So at t continues our focus on driving awareness of the challenges caused by the digital divide and remains committed to bridge that gap for students, caregivers, and families, particularly those in underserved communities. I think I mentioned it earlier, we plan to open more than 50 connected learning centers by the middle of next year, and this includes four new centers just coming in the next two weeks. We open two on Friday, and we open two next week, and we're excited to introduce more digital navigators within several of our centers. We're going to expand our collaborations to bring more education and online opportunities to young people who don't currently have access. We recently joined with three leading education organizations, campfire City Year, and think together to bring the achiever platform to even more students through afterschool programs and underserved communities across the United States.

Jessica Denson, Host (41:26):

I'm really excited to see what you do in 2024. Your whole team is already taking on so much. We appreciate that. So my final question, and I can't keep you both all day. We'll start with you, Chris, to answer, but in a perfect world, what do you think this research about affordability, accessibility, and adoption will lead to in your opinion, in your mind? Chris, you go first then Milena, if you would send us out with the final word.

Mylayna Albright, AT&T  (41:53):


Chris McGovern, Connected Nation  (41:55):

Well, honestly, I think that this research and the research that we're doing in communities across the country are really going to help bring the services and the assistance to communities where they need it. Like I had said earlier, we've worked with hundreds of communities and everyone is unique. Everyone has their own issues that they are facing that need to be addressed in order to close the digital divide. There's not going to be one size fits all answer. So the impetus to get in there to work with communities to address the issues that they're aware of, as well as possibly helping them identify some issues that they may not have seen doing this work to help communities develop their own strategies, I think that that's going to be something that's going to go through 2024 and beyond.

Jessica Denson, Host (43:14):

And for you, Marlena,

Mylayna Albright, AT&T  (43:17):

Well, these findings are enlightening and will inform our work going forward. They help us learn about the barriers to internet adoption so that we can better tailor support that addresses them, and they help showcase what individuals value most about their home internet. My team is working now on our 2024 planning, and this information, along with other research and data is very valuable to make sure that we're giving the community exactly what it needs most.

Jessica Denson, Host (43:43):

Alright, well we'll leave it there. I really appreciate both of you taking part today. Thank you so much.

Mylayna Albright, AT&T  (43:49):

Thanks for having me. Thank you

Jessica Denson, Host (43:57):

Again. We've been talking with Milena Albright, who is the Assistant Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility for at t and with Chris McGovern, who serves as the director of research development for Connected Nation about new research, examining the challenges and opportunities to closing the digital divide. 

As I said earlier, I'll include links to the report as well as other major projects that at and t is working on in the description of this podcast. 

I'm Jessica Denson. Thanks for listening to Connected Nation. If you like our show and want to know more about us, head to connect to or look for the latest episodes of Connected Nation on iTunes, iHeartRadio, Google Podcast, Pandora, or Spotify.


Meet Mylayna Albright
Mylayna's work for AT&T
Meet Chris McGovern
Chris' role in leading Connected Nation's research work
About AT&T's Connected Learning program(s)
Why AT&T is working with Connected Nation
How this research project was done
The findings: What the research revealed
Why some people are choosing NOT to use the ACP
Helping people understand the ACP
Why it's important to connect more people
Other AT&T programs that help communities
What's next for Connected Nation's research team
What AT&T is working on for 2024