While broadband access is more prevalent among residents in the San Francisco Bay Area than most other cities in California, over 891,122 Bay Area residents still remain without Internet access (California’s Digital Divide, August 2012).
It is hard to imagine that there would be such disparity in an area universally referred to as the “Tech Capital of the World.” Nationally, the rates of Whites (68%) with a home Internet connection compared to Black non-Hispanics (50%) and Hispanics (45%) reveal how access to broadband is another manifestation of the opportunity divide in America, disproportionately impacting low-income and minority Americans. (NTIA: Digital Nation Study 2011).
The digital divide has never been more costly to Americans than it is today. Those who lack access are rapidly being left behind in a digital economy, where access to jobs, education, healthcare advances and civic engagement opportunities are often exclusively found online. Today more than 80 percent of Fortune 500 companies—including Walmart and Target— post job openings online only and require an online application. Our children in public schools are also feeling the pain of digital inequities – 76% of teachers report assigning online homework, but increasingly find themselves in the difficult position of leaving behind students without Internet at home or holding back the other “connected” students. (Pew Research Center, 2013)
Despite the growing gap between digital “haves” and “have-nots,” we now enjoy, as a nation, nearly ubiquitous coverage, dropping costs, and unprecedented alignment of public-private opinion on the importance of digital inclusion. Simply put, the digital divide in California, and across America, is solvable – but a solution will require bold action and collective will. Through partnerships with providers like FreedomPop and Comcast Internet Essentials, Connect2Compete is answering the call by connecting 300,000 Bay Area residents living in low-income zip codes with programs that offer free and low-cost Internet and computers as well as free digital skills training. EveryoneOn, our national bi-lingual Ad Council campaign, is building awareness and connecting new users to free resources and training in their communities.
Please share this message with fellow church members and neighbors; technology has the power to improve our lives, but it usually takes trusted friends or family to help us take the first step. Together we can create a more just and prosperous future for all Americans – let’s get “EveryoneOn!”
To learn more about reduced price home Internet options, visit www.Connect2Compete.org. For information on free training and resources, visit www.EveryoneOn.org. Classes and free tutoring are offered at locations including the Oakland Public Library, EastBay Works Oakland Training Center, and area Career Link Centers, as examples.
Zach Leverenz is the CEO of Connect2Compete (C2C), a national nonprofit that aims to eliminate the digital divide by making high-speed, low-cost Internet, computers, and free digital literacy accessible to all unconnected Americans. C2C aims to leverage the democratizing power of the Internet to provide opportunity to all Americans – regardless of age, race, geography, income, or education level. Zach serves on the Board of Directors at MEET, a MIT-based technology and social justice organization. * This article appears as a sponsored feature to Faithinthebay.com