EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — Microsoft announced earlier this week that El Paso was selected to participate in its Airband Initiative to help bridge the digital divide.
The Airband Initiative works to combat some of the largest broadband gaps in the country among racial and ethnic minority lines. El Paso is one such region, with about 380,000 residents who are unable to access internet at broadband speeds.
“It’s our belief that it’s more important now than ever to make sure that communities that are traditionally marginalized are not further left behind,” Vickie Robinson, general manager of the Microsoft Airband Initiative told KTSM 9 News. “And we believe that broadband is a good tool to enable us to be in those communities and start to close these gaps.”
The digital divide disproportionately affects Black communities, as well as Hispanics, which compounds existing challenges when it comes to accessing education, health care and economic opportunities.
Microsoft’s Airband Initiative is partnering with PlanITROI to donate refurbished devices to Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center-El Paso as part of its Promotores program. The program works by connecting underserved neighborhoods to vital social services, while also providing digital literacy education.
Additionally, Microsoft’s TechSpark program will be providing free and low-cost refurbished devices that will be donated to Workforce Solutions Borderplex. The devices will then be matched with people who are completing digital skill credentialing and who will receive internet enrollment assistance.
The Microsoft Airband Initiative will also be working with EveryoneOn to offer bilingual internet enrollment assistance, as well as digital skilling to help El Pasoans achieve better-paying jobs in the digital economy.
“So what we’ll be doing as part of our work in the City of El Paso is providing access to affordable broadband,” Robinson said. “We’re really excited to work with local leaders to see what else we can do to address these long-term inequities.”