Visa, nonprofit to give laptops, digital training to 1,000 Atlantans

A group of panelists speaks to guests during the Visa Digital Empower Program event in downtown Atlanta on Tuesday, June 28, 2022. The program will provide 1,000 laptops to individuals and small businesses to help with digital access equity. Miguel Martinez / Miguel.martinezjimenez@ajc.com

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A group of panelists speaks to guests during the Visa Digital Empower Program event in downtown Atlanta on Tuesday, June 28, 2022. The program will provide 1,000 laptops to individuals and small businesses to help with digital access equity. Miguel Martinez / Miguel.martinezjimenez@ajc.com

The venture is part of an effort to bridge inequities in internet, digital access

Jocquell McDaniels never had a laptop of his own until Tuesday.

The 34-year-old Clarkston resident received his device as part of a new “digital empowerment” program by payment processing giant Visa and California-based nonprofit Human-I-T. McDaniels learned about the initiative through Fathers Incorporated, a nonprofit that provides resources to Black fathers.

“They said they were giving away free computers, and financial literacy as well as computer literacy, and so I feel like everyone can use more of that,” said McDaniels, who has a 12-year-old son.

Through the program this summer, more than 1,000 residents and small businesses will receive laptops, digital skills training and one year of tech services from Human-I-T, Visa CEO Al Kelly said at a launch event Tuesday.

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Visa CEO Alfred F Kelly Jr welcomes Gov. Brian Kemp during the Visa Digital Empower Program event in Atlanta on Tuesday, June 28, 2022. The program will provide 1,000 laptops to individuals and small businesses to help with digital access equity. Miguel Martinez / Miguel.martinezjimenez@ajc.com

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Visa CEO Alfred F Kelly Jr welcomes Gov. Brian Kemp during the Visa Digital Empower Program event in Atlanta on Tuesday, June 28, 2022. The program will provide 1,000 laptops to individuals and small businesses to help with digital access equity. Miguel Martinez / Miguel.martinezjimenez@ajc.com

Credit: Miguel Martinez

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Visa CEO Alfred F Kelly Jr welcomes Gov. Brian Kemp during the Visa Digital Empower Program event in Atlanta on Tuesday, June 28, 2022. The program will provide 1,000 laptops to individuals and small businesses to help with digital access equity. Miguel Martinez / Miguel.martinezjimenez@ajc.com

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Credit: Miguel Martinez

More than 15% of Atlanta households do not have access to a computer, said Michelle Gethers, Visa’s chief diversity officer.

Kelly said Visa plans to grow its program in cities across the globe. Atlanta follows Pueblo, Colorado, as the second locale in Visa’s program.

Visa executives were joined at a downtown event Tuesday by Gov. Brian Kemp. The governor heralded the program as one that will help the participants learn financial and digital skills and potentially create new businesses.

“This is a great gift, one that not only benefits individuals and neighborhoods, but it will benefit our entire state,” Kemp said.

Several large companies have announced plans to address digital inequity in Georgia in recent years. In April, AT&T opened its first of three Connected Learning Centers with 25 desktop computers and other resources. In 2021, Verizon partnered with the Georgia Department of Education to provide wireless broadband and voice services to underserved communities.

Nationally, racial disparities in computer ownership remain. According to a 2021 Pew study, 80% of white adults said they have a computer at home, but only 69% and 67% of Black and Hispanic adults said they do, respectively.

Across Georgia, broadband internet access remains an issue exacerbated by race, income and location. More than 1 million Georgians lack reliable high-speed internet, and nearly 70% of them live in rural areas.

“The government and the private sector must work together to address this digital divide,” Kelly said.