By Paula Klein
Inthe 1990s when many Americans — and certainly, people around the world — lacked access to the newly emerging internet and related technologies, the term digital divide was coined to describe the gap between those who could connect and those who couldn’t.
In 2017, the gap is as wide as ever.
Although it’s 30 years later and mobile and cellular technologies have exploded, disparities persist. Sparked by new definitions of digital access — broadband versus cellular, urban versus rural –as well as industrial and sociological differences, the term, and the gap, is top of mind. In fact, MIT Technology Review recently pointed out that the U.S. has “a persistent, embarrassing digital divide” that needs to be addressed at the highest levels. Moreover, the article emphasized that, “mobile broadband access isn’t the same as at-home connectivity,” even though some in the FCC and Trump administration are making that case.
Although many Americans take digitization for granted, Pew Research also concluded that “the digital divide persists, even as lower-income Americans make gains in tech adoption.”
Providing mobile-only services is insufficient, Pew argues, because limited access stymies educational as well as economic opportunities, and widens the divide.
Clearly, while digital technology is creating unprecedented wealth for some, it remains concentrated among relatively few people, compared to the broader economic gains driven by previous technological advancements. Part of the problem still lies with basic access to digital technology and the opportunities it affords.