Recently, our colleagues at Government Technology Insider wrote about how digital inclusion is helping to bridge the digital divide for state and local agencies as well as educational institutions. As the past few years have demonstrated, there are serious disparities in access to the internet and technology across the country. To set up more Americans for success in work, school, and life, organizations make sure that underserved communities, especially students, have access to the right tools and connectivity.
Three years after the start of the pandemic, the digital divide remains as relevant as ever. Inequalities in technology were highlighted across state and local governments, K-12 classrooms, and higher education institutions. Today, organizations are committing to digital inclusion initiatives to connect more communities and put technology in more hands.
The Federal Communications Commission estimates that 14.5 million people across the United States live without internet access. This number doesn’t include the number of people dealing with slow internet or spotty connections, as well as those without the proper technological devices to work or study. As Managing Partner of SLED sales at Verizon, Karen Davis sees firsthand the disparity and its impact on underserved communities. In a recent interview with Government Technology Insider, she explained, “We’re out there all day seeing these nonprofit organizations, and it’s really a need right now. We addressed distance learning at the beginning of COVID, with our K-12 students. But outside of that space, we saw that there was a drastic need to address that digital divide.”
To meet various needs, digital inclusion initiatives go beyond internet service to provide people in underserved communities with all the tools they are lacking. “Digital inclusion involves providing the tools to access the internet, like smartphones and tablets” Davis shared. Continuing, “Internet services is a part of it, if there is a need, but the third piece includes security. It’s vital to provide CISOs and IT managers with the security management capabilities to lock systems down or loosen or tighten restrictions as needed. Ultimately, it is about making sure people have everything they need to complete their work or schoolwork.”
Despite challenges, digital inclusion initiatives are setting the precedence for how people with limited resources can access the same connectivity and technology as others. An example of a successful initiative is the opportunity to provide unemployed individuals with internet jetpacks and other resources to prepare for interviews, online applications, and virtual interviews. Similar programs are being offered to Pell Grant students, where they can rent an internet jetpack or other devices from campus libraries. Continuation and growth of such programs are providing bright futures for millions of people in the country.
The power of technology is evident in today’s world, and although more needs to be done, efforts are underway to make it more accessible to all. Providing the tools to enable Americans to work, study, and live better doesn’t just bolster the individuals, but it helps to build a stronger, more capable nation as a whole.
To learn more about digital inclusion, click here.