Together with a donation from T-Mobile, Mobile County officials are extending hundreds of internet-ready tablet computers to children served by the Mobile Housing Board.
T-Mobile has already donated roughly 10,000 tablets to children of low-income households throughout the country, which is part of its commitment to the Connect Home initiative started by the Obama administration and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in 2015.
In Mobile, the telecommunications company agreed to donate 226 tablet computers to MHB, but Mobile County Commission President Merceria Ludgood helped make the most of that donation through a $30,000 allocation to MHB from her district’s educational funds.
Those dollars will serve as the local government match for two Choice Neighborhoods Planning grants, which will provide internet service for the tablets.“High-speed internet is no longer a luxury, but a critical service that must be affordable to all families,” Matt Beagle, a T-Mobile Digital Inclusion Specialist, said. “This is a tool that has the ability to break generational poverty through digital literacy and education. It will move the needle.”
According to MHB Chairwoman Kimberly Williams Pettway, the tablets will be given to families who relocated from Roger Williams Homes, families with elementary-age children in Thomas James Place and will be distributed through training sessions conducted by the Mobile Public Library.
Each tablet computer will also come preloaded with Big Universe — a digital library featuring more than 10,000 eBooks — as well as other applications recommended by the Mobile County Public School System.
The purpose of the joint initiative is to help “bridge the digital divide” between children with access to internet-ready devices and those without it. Like Beagle, Pettway said having access to computers and the internet is “virtually a requirement for many aspects of life today.”
As for her contribution to the program, Ludgood said she wanted to make sure those dollars went to something educational.
She said the Connected Home Initiative has been shown to not only “improve access to high-quality education programs” but also to “improve academic outcomes for children.”