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Making Connections: The Key to Digital Inclusion Opportunity in Birmingham

Updated: May 13




Since its inception, the Loyalty Foundation’s ethos has been about confronting blockades by working around them, finding gaps and identifying the pockets of digital need in hidden, isolated corners where too many forgotten children in underserved communities are losing their battle in the fight for digital equity and equal opportunity.

Often, Loyalty acts as a disruptor working around barriers to bring relief in the form of device donations and tech education delivery. Loyalty donations are personal, meaningful efforts that deliver for communities that have been missed by governments and large-scale efforts, leaving behind kids who arguably need the help most.

While Loyalty thrives in this environment and has stepped up to meet the challenge, sometimes it isn’t necessary to go rogue or alone. There are times when the individual effort can grow larger, its impact amplified by the support of other passionate, digital inclusion warriors who want to fight the good fight together. Frequently, those allies are small, community-based grass-roots organizations but on occasion, Loyalty has found, or been found by, allies with significant fire power. Such was the case in Birmingham, Alabama when Loyalty was introduced to DC BLOX, it’s CEO Jeff Uphues, and Jefferson County, Alabama Commissioner Sheila Tyson.

DC BLOX, a multi-tenant data center provider in the Northeast and now a Loyalty Foundation corporate partner, is one of those rare businesses who don’t just talk corporate social responsibility, they walk it. With a mutual desire to close the digital divide as the goal, and Birmingham, Alabama as the target, DC BLOX brought Loyalty to the government. Where so often one finds a bulwark of bureaucracy and a mountain of red tape, instead Loyalty met Sheila Tyson, an intensely involved legislator and Birmingham native. Tyson has long been a force for good in her community using her position and experience as a business accountant, former president of the West End community and the Birmingham Citizens Advisory Board, to find ways to make a real difference.

Tyson and her equally dedicated Commissioner’s Office team, honed in on the area of need identifying students who’d been struggling with online learning due to lack of access to computer devices. Loyalty, with a matching program from DC BLOX, acquired and donated the devices needed as a first step in the longer commitment all have made to work together to upgrade tech education for Birmingham’s underserved students. The public-private-corporate partnership device distribution and education collaboration effort earned a passing grade from Nexstar Media channel CBS42’s Jack Royer who contributed the story to the media group’s Covid-19 Pass/Fail series.

While the immersive, on site, tech education portion of the program is temporarily on hold due to Covid-19 gathering restrictions, Sheila Tyson then brought Alabama Power to the table extending the partnership even further. The local utility company just awarded one of its Foundation Grants to the Loyalty Foundation, the funds from which will be directed to the purchase and distribution of additional devices and the expansion of the planned tech education initiatives.

In just a short period of time, in the midst of the challenges brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic, Loyalty’s disruptive nature inspired the rapid launch the Devices4All program and has been integral in its ability to reach communities across the country, providing devices and/or education programs to the children in those gaps. We still love being disruptive and agile, and will not stop maneuvering deftly between the barriers of bureaucracy, but our Birmingham experience is a model for a collaborative approach. The bridge needed to cross Birmingham’s very wide digital divide is strongest when supported with the combined strength of its collaborations.