Bridging the Digital Divide in Mobile County

T-Mobile donated 226 smart tablet computers to Mobile Housing Board for distribution to families in two of the agency’s affordable housing developments.

In addition to the tablet computers, the 226 families received a year of free internet service, thanks to Mobile County Commissioner Merceria Ludgood, who allocated $30,000 to the Mobile Housing Board for Choice Neighborhoods Planning. That Educational Fund Project (EFP) money was used as matching Choice Neighborhoods Planning Grant money.

The tablet computers were distributed at training sessions conducted by the Mobile Public Library (MPL) and Mobile Housing Board (MHB), with assistance from the Mobile County Public School System (MCPSS).

The tablets were preloaded with Big Universe and other applications and links provided or recommended by MCPSS, MPL and MHB. Big Universe is a digital library featuring 10,000 eBooks for all subjects and tools for writing.

“High-speed internet is no longer a luxury, but a critical service that must be affordable to all families,” said Matt Beagle, T-Mobile Digital Inclusion Specialist. “This is a tool that has the ability to break generational poverty through digital literacy and education. It will move the needle,” Beagle added.

“On behalf of Mobile Housing Board, I would like to thank T-Mobile for providing 226 smart tablets for families served by Mobile Housing Board (MHB),” said MHB Chair Kimberly Williams Pettway. “We owe an even bigger debt of gratitude to the Mobile County Commission for providing the $30,000 cash contribution that Mobile Housing Board was required to obtain from a local government entity when the agency applied for two Choice Neighborhoods Planning Grants,” Pettway said.

“Choice Neighborhoods planning includes identifying ways to revitalize neighborhoods by improving quality of life for families,” Pettway said. “Access to computers and the internet is virtually a requirement for many aspects of life today. We are delighted that families who relocated from Roger Williams Homes and families with elementary school-age children in Thomas James Place are receiving smart tablets through this partnership."

“This program is designed to improve access to high quality education programs to improve academic outcomes for children in these families,” Commissioner Ludgood explained.

According to Beagle, T-Mobile is committed to the Connect Home initiative started by the Obama Administration and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. T-Mobile has presented approximately 10,000 tablets and high-speed internet access to families in need at housing authorities across the nation. They plan to further expand the program in 2017.

MPL Director R. Scott Kinney said one of the services that MPL offers is various types of computer training. “Therefore, the MPL staff is pleased to teach Mobile Housing Board residents how to use their new smart tablets at training sessions that are being held this week at the Ben May Library downtown and at other branches of the Library as needed,” Kinney said.

MCPSS Superintendent Martha Peek said, “Keeping children connected is crucial for their education. Too many children lose access to the internet when the school day ends, which limits their ability to complete homework and communicate with teachers. We are thrilled to be part of the ConnectHome partnership that is helping to fill that void,” Mrs. Peek said.