The Latest

THE LATEST

THE LATEST THINKING

THE LATEST THINKING

The opinions of THE LATEST’s guest contributors are their own.

It's Time To Cross The Digital Divide

Jessica Dine

Posted on October 1, 2021 00:09

1 user

Without equal access to the internet, our increasingly technology-dependent society can never be truly fair.

Technology has long been integrating itself into the architecture of our world. For years, increasing reliance on technology was a matter of convenience, with the increasing prevalence of smartphones, constant additions to the Internet of Things, and the simplicity of conducting affairs from home. But what the COVID-19 pandemic did was prove that, if we need to, we can live our lives almost entirely online. 

Despite a significant surge in internet usage during the height of the pandemic, our internet held up well with minimal interruptions in speed. This was made possible by the sophistication of US broadband, the infrastructure on which the internet runs. 

But as a nation, what our broadband has in durability it lacks in equitability. While around 73% of US homes have access to at-home internet, discrepancies fall along all-too-familiar lines — racial and socioeconomic status are today almost as good a predictor of broadband access as they once were for educational outcomes (and they still do that, too). 

A 2020 Consumer Reports study found that 80% of Americans believe broadband is an essential good. Public utility status would afford the Federal Communications Commission the power to regulate broadband as an essential utility, which could help ensure more affordable, equitable broadband access for a majority of the population. 

However it's done, it’s past time to bridge the digital divide. We cannot approach equality in technology while there’s no equal access to it to begin with. We cannot achieve any semblance of meaningful discourse when not everybody’s voices can be heard. And we cannot credibly call ourselves a democracy as the digital world encroaches on our physical world and leaves some Americans entirely out of the digital public sphere. 

There is no longer a meaningful distinction between our online and offline lives. Aspects of both have become inexorably interconnected as services such as education and healthcare move increasingly online, and the importance of equal access to the internet has become paramount.

Advances in technology have been touted as enablers of a lot of widespread virtues — a more impartial society, more connected individuals and shared knowledge. The results, of course, have been mixed. Algorithms can propagate bias rather than mitigating it, increased dependence on technology only widens the divide between the haves and have-nots, and our data privacy has been decimated while we’re still trying to figure out whether we care. 

There’s a lot that could be said about the way modern technology manifests itself, and about the difference between technological ideals and reality. But underlying it all is the internet that makes it all possible. Without that, there’s no debate. Without equal access to the internet, there’s no hope for equality to be found in any of the advances that stem from it. 

If we’re serious about wanting to forge a better society through technology, crossing the digital divide is the first step.

Jessica Dine

Posted on October 1, 2021 00:09

Comments

comments powered by Disqus
Source: Toledo Blade

COLUMBUS — Arguing that the ongoing pandemic has spotlighted the digital divide, the Ohio Senate on Wednesday voted unanimously...

THE LATEST THINKING

Video Site Tour

The Latest
The Latest

Subscribe to THE LATEST Newsletter.

The Latest
The Latest

Share this TLT through...

The Latest