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Milwaukee organizations team up to give families better computer access, bridge the digital divide

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Posted at 4:40 PM, Jun 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-09 19:47:01-04

MILWAUKEE — 92 refurbished laptops will be given out to families in Milwaukee, all in an effort to help bridge the technology gap that's so prevalent in the community.

"It's a rural problem, it's a suburban problem, it's an urban problem," said David Berka, the project manager for United Way of Greater Milwaukee and Waukesha County.

Recycle, repurpose, rebuild. That's the mission three local groups are working towards in order to tackle the digital inequity they're seeing in Southeast Wisconsin.

"We recognize that even before the pandemic there has been a struggle with some communities having access to technology," said LaDonna Reed, the director of community accountability for Associated Bank.

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On Wednesday, Associated Bank, United Way of Milwaukee, and tech company Digital Bridge, teamed up to give 92 laptops to families in Milwaukee. All for free.

"Making sure that people have access to technology allows them to fully engage in the economy, in the community," said Reed.

But what's interesting is how exactly these computers are made. Mike Meinolf, the chief information officer for Associated Bank, says the company donated all of its old equipment to Digital Bridge, who then refurbished the computers.

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"We're taking equipment that normally would've potentially ended up in a landfill, and giving it a use for second life to those that need it," said Meinolf.

Taking a closer look at the digital divide in Wisconsin: According to the Wisconsin Policy Forum, in Milwaukee, 9% of children live in households with no computer including iPads or smartphones. And throughout the entire state, 13% of black residents have no computers. For Hispanic residents, it's 8.3%. And 8% for white residents.

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"How do you start to help them have access? And that's what's really important because without it you limit opportunity," said Reed.

This is why these organizations are doing everything they can to make sure those who need it have access to computers and other technology in order to close that digital divide.

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