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The digital divide grows deeper and wider every day, but never so fast as it has in the last 18 months due to widespread, global lockdowns. The Federal Communications Commission estimates that 19 million Americans – 6% of the population – lack access to fixed broadband, while over 100 million Americans that do have access, don’t subscribe to the service. Solutions to bridge the gap are vital to overcome systemic inequities already setting global populations on starkly different paths.

Being digitally connected affords us opportunities to meaningfully participate in work, civic engagement, education, and wellness, but there is a large gap between those who do and don’t have access and subscribe to broadband internet. A combined approach to solutions includes building infrastructure and capacity, creating affordable devices and internet access, developing human capacity, up and reskilling, and facilitating foundational learning.

digital divide

Explore the key learnings from the Digital Divide chapter:

  • The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic created a surge in internet traffic and a years’ worth of capacity growth in just one week, but simultaneously revealed a lack of rural infrastructure, adoption rates, affordability, and digital literacy, key pillars that need to be addressed in order to see widespread uptake of digital connectivity. 

  • There is strong value in multi-stakeholder partnerships. Public-private collaborations can ensure best in class products, technology, and processes are easily made available to bridge the divide and address digital literacy. 

  • Private sector organizations, especially service providers, can address the affordability issue by partnering with local community-based organizations to develop unique solutions to reach the last mile of connectivity. 

  • There is a need for significant federal investment in broadband to improve federal broadband mapping, increase rural infrastructure and affordability, and create better coordination between federal and state agencies to work together on the digital divide issue.

Learn more about how technology is transforming the digital divide by downloading the full report or visit the main report page.