Tackling Digital Poverty: How to Beat The Digital Divide
Digital poverty. Sounds unusual, right? In this day of automated machine learning, everyone has access to the Internet, a phone, and a laptop and knows the basics of digital literacy, right? Please confirm this is true—we hear you cry out.
There exists a clear digital divide between the richest and poorest members of society, even in the United States, the 8th wealthiest country in the world. This divide was accentuated in the last two years when many of us started managing a business or working from home, and kids were suddenly stuck trying to figure out how video conferencing works as well as algebra.
So How Can We Beat The Digital Divide?
In New Mexico, 22.1% of households don’t have Internet access at home. It begs the question of how those kids managed to keep up at school in the past two years.
One of the most cost-effective things is to offer people free digital literacy education. This could be offered in schools, libraries, and other community centers. The Scouts, a worldwide organization, now has a Digital Citizen badge kids can earn, where they learn things like how to create a secure password.
Libraries are great for people to access computers and the Internet and are often where lifelong learning courses are delivered. While we might not be able to easily add to the school curriculum, after-school clubs can offer added formative learning about machine data analytics and its applications in today’s businesses and scientific research. Digital literacy should be taught in schools, however.
The next thing we can do is find hardware donation programs to acquire the equipment necessary to participate in the digital world. Some organizations accept broken or malfunctioning computers and refurbish them to redistribute them to people who need them.
Libraries also usually have computers people can use, but people need access to their laptops and phones. Communities can also fundraise to pay for laptops both in-person and online if there isn’t any government assistance.
Consistent access to reliable WiFi is not a foregone conclusion, even if it seems like everyone is always on social media. Teaching people how to tether to their phone data and helping them access affordable and unlimited data plans or a cloud telephone system are some ways we can use phones to bridge the divide. However, this presupposes that everyone has a phone.
Better signposting of free WiFi (and the addition of widely available, high-speed WiFi) would democratize Internet access further. Some communities will also share WiFi across different homes. But free Internet for all is needed for an even playing field and better infrastructure for communities where Internet signal is still lacking, and prices are high.
Internet Access Is a Necessity
Access to the Internet, phones, and laptops is no longer a luxury but an absolute necessity to stay connected and informed in the world. Every household needs access to computers, phones, and reliable Internet access to enjoy the same access to education and opportunities as everyone else.
Senior Director, Marketing Strategy, Dialpad
Jessica Day is the Senior Director for Marketing Strategy at Dialpad, a modern business VoIP telephone system that takes every kind of conversation to the next level—turning conversations into opportunities. Jessica is an expert in collaborating with multifunctional teams to execute and optimize marketing efforts for both company and client campaigns. Here is her LinkedIn.