Fortunately, there are many regions around the world that now have the infrastructure necessary for high-speed Internet.
However, even within a region that is well connected to the Internet, we still find differences in which households have access to computers and the Internet. Those differences are often due to socioeconomic factors.
Consider this chart that compares home access to digital technologies across different income groups in the US:
A bar chart titled "% of US adults who say they have the following . . . " and colored bars for three income groups. The bar chart reflects the data in this table:
|Desktop or laptop||54%||83%||94%|
|All of the above||18%||39%||64%|
In the lowest income group, households earning less than $30,000, nearly 50% reported that they did not have a computer or broadband in their home.
Those without home computers have to use a smartphone or public computer lab instead when they want to utilize online services. For example, a 2014 study found that 32% of low-income smartphone owners used their phone to submit job applications, compared with just 7% of higher-income smartphone owners.
The homework gap
This digital divide also affects the next generation of job seekers—students just trying to get their homework done at home. Teachers are increasingly assigning homework with digital tools and students have to find a way to complete those digital assignments. (Are any of you reading this as part of a homework assignment right now?)
Consider these charts about teenagers and homework completion:
3 bar charts that convey the following information:
In low-income households, students are much more likely to complete homework on their phone, use public Wi-Fi to complete it, or be unable to complete it due to lack of a reliable computer or connection. The statistics are similarly low for Black and Hispanic households.
According to a report by the Wall Street Journal, the fast food restaurant McDonald's is a popular place for students to complete their homework assignments, thanks to its free Wi-Fi, many locations, and late hours.
Efforts to bridge the socioeconomic divide
Many organizations are attempting to bridge the divide for low-income individuals, especially students.
Governments: The state government of Maine started a 1-to-1 computing initiative in 2002, giving laptops to every 7th and 8th grader in Maine schools.
Non-profits: ConnectHomeUSA is a project bringing computers, connections, and digital literacy training to people living in subsidized housing. GiveInternet is an international non-profit that raises money to give laptops, Internet connections, and digital training to underserved high school students.
Internet Service Providers (ISPs): For-profit companies are also getting involved in helping to bridge the digital divide. Comcast Internet Essentials offers low-cost Internet connections for eligible low-income households, while Sprint started the 1Million Project Foundation, an effort to give one million high schoolers a wireless Internet connection and computing device.
Want to join the conversation?
- It is important to help more demographics of people have access to the internet, but if 10% of students can't do homework because of a lack of home internet connection, wouldn't the appropriate thing to do be to offer alternative homework? It is important to learn how to use technology, but it is also important that school lessons themselves be accessible.(18 votes)
- The thing is, that not every teacher is the most responsible, so they may just give out the homework. Also, most public schools can barely afford to give every child computers, so it may be more difficult to lend internet hotspots.(2 votes)
- I am a member of a low-income household who has experienced the digital divide firsthand. I currently write this on my Chromebook on a mobile hotspot connection as my family can't afford a broadband Internet connection. It's not impossible to get all the info I need and I find that libraries are critical as a resource of learning for those experiencing the digital divide. Can anyone relate?(7 votes)
- You may want to look into the Affordable Connectivity Program. It is a federal program that provides a discount towards broadband internet for low-income households. In addition, it can provide a one-time discount on the purchase of a computer.(5 votes)
- I don't understand the chart for students and their homework completion.
It says like "have to do homework on cellphone", then it says < $30K and 45%. What?
Where did the 30K dollars come into that specific question? I don't even know what they would imply, the price of the phone along with phone service?
It doesn't say.
I'm confused.(2 votes)
- The < $30K metric carries over from the initial chart comparing home access to digital technologies across different income groups in the US. Therefore, the < $30K under the chart for students and their homework completion represents an income group (< $30K income per year).
The percent values represent "the % of US teens who say that often or sometimes ... X," thus the statistic you are referring to can be interpreted as:
"45% of US teens say that they often or sometimes have to do their homework on a cellphone in the < $30K per year income group."(9 votes)