Microsoft And Land O’Lakes Are Teaming Up To Provide Internet Access To Rural Communities

The CEO’s of Microsoft and Land O’Lakes are trying to bridge the gap among Americans with internet access and those without it.

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America has its fair share of inequality among the many systems that work to benefit individuals of a certain socioeconomic status. One of those inequalities that’s often overlooked regards those who are able to access the internet and those who can’t. Especially during a global health crisis/pandemic, there has never been a more imperative time for every single citizen on the planet to have access to the information that’s being released every hour of every day regarding Covid-19. 

In many rural areas of America specifically, many residents find themselves struggling to either work from home, attend online classes, or access important health care information. Now, a new initiative from Microsoft and Land O’Lakes farming cooperative is aiming to combat this issue by providing broadband internet access to rural communities throughout the country.

Land O’Lakes has farms in 19 states, so the two companies are starting there to provide free WiFi and other digital skills training programs to rural communities that are lacking the resources for fast and reliable internet access. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella recently spoke with the media about this collaboration and how excited both companies are to provide this service that most of us don’t think twice about having. 

“Rural communities today are going to thrive if the entire community is able to get the education, upskilling, health, ecommerce and other facilities directly reaching them where they are. That’s why broadband is such a fundamental right.”

About 15% of American households don’t have access to the internet or a stable internet plan. For low-income households that percentage is doubled when compared to the national average. Microsoft and Land O’Lakes have been planning a much larger scale collaboration as well that this project is falling under. The two companies have been working to give farmers access to real-time agricultural/climate data to help them make important decisions regarding their farming. This data will also allow farmers to better implement sustainable practices within their farming. 

The overall goal is to help America’s farms better respond to disruptions in their work. These disruptions are brought on by major issues such as climate change, trading, and the Covid-19 pandemic especially. Beth Ford is the CEO of Land O’Lakes and she also recently spoke with the media about her excitement for this collaboration as it gets brought to life in the coming weeks/months. 

“Vibrancy of our rural communities in partnership with a safe, affordable food supply and then creating jobs is critical. It’s a national security issue,” she claimed as she further explained that inequality in America is a major issue that’s been occurring for centuries, but also being brought into the light more than usual lately. The Black Lives Matter protests, for example, are calling upon major corporations to further do their part to benefit the communities they claim to serve as well, a call that Land O’Lakes and Microsoft were happy to answer.

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“Technology is an enabler to close the healthcare gap … It is critical for the stabilization and the vibrancy of these communities that are critical to the United States and to our farm system and our food system.”

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Ford went on to discuss that Land O’Lakes is based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where just six weeks ago George Floyd was murdered at the hands of the police, sparking an international movement for racial equality and justice among Black Americans. The movement has called out corporations on their lack of Black employees in leadership positions and the inability for Black people to move up that success ladder within these companies. 

Ford specifically claimed that “the disparate outcomes for the Black community in Minneapolis is just unacceptable, we have to listen, we have to listen to the issues.” Land O’Lakes specifically has implemented unconscious bias training for their employees as a means of “being transparent about [their] diverse populations” within their many branches of employment. 

On Land O’Lakes 16-person executive team two are Black, and five are women. At Microsoft, Nadella claims that “representation needs to be reflected all the way to the top.” In Microsoft’s 16-person executive team three individuals are people of color (Nadella himself is Indian), however there are no Black individuals on the team and two women. 

When confronted about these big claims for change not being reflected in the actual executive teams running these companies, both Nadella and Ford said they’re working to ensure these equality efforts extend beyond just numbers in the office. Nadella specifically emphasized his desire to create a true culture of inclusion in every aspect of how Microsoft runs. 

The broadband internet project should begin being implemented within Land O’Lakes farms in the coming week, according to Ford, but both companies racial equality efforts will be long-lasting and constant.

Eric Mastrota

Contributing Editor

Eric Mastrota graduated with a degree in English, Creative Writing, and Journalism. His goal is to create content that readers find entertaining, informative and most importantly, beneficial.