Possession and Its Effects on the Digital Divide

Brittany Luster


Digital Divide- Possession

Due to lack of possession and access to technology, people that cannot afford internet access or computers are being left behind in the work fields, because knowledge workers have become increasingly dependent on digital technologies for their work. The digital divide has been completely dominated by the lack of availability of the hardware and technology to all demographics (Van Dijk). People that do not have the funds available to buy digital devices, such as computers do not have very many options offered to them in order to be accommodated with the digital devices necessary to join the majority that have access and ease with which to surf the web. These people have limited resources available to them. School computer labs and public libraries being two of the resources, but even libraries are being affected in this tough economy.

Factors Contributing to the Digital Divide

Many factors contribute to the possession of technology, such as: Income, education, occupation, age, gender, race and geographic location. This was made clear by statistics found by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) “Use of computers and the Internet is higher among whites than among black and Hispanic minority children, and the use runs parallel to the family income and education” (Lewis).The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) ordered more than 50,000 households to partake in a telecommunications survey, and the outcomes were: over time all demographic groups have increased their adoption of internet services at home (Mehlman). Other factors that affect Internet use are: those who are younger, Asians and Whites, the more highly- educated, married couples and the employed tend to have higher rates of internet use at home. Therefore, people with low incomes, seniors, minorities, the less-educated, non-family households, and the non-employed tend to participate in less home Internet use (Mehlman).

Factors Contributing to Lack of Household Internet Use

Even though the need for the Internet in American life is growing at a rapid rate, more than 30 percent of people do not have Internet access at home (Mehlman). Overall, the two most important reasons given by survey respondents for not having broadband access at home included “don’t need it” and “too expensive.” Inadequacy or no computer is also a major reason given for no home internet connection. In rural America, lack of availability is the primal and more reoccurring reason for not possessing a computer than in urban areas (Mehlman). Data has shown that most of these gaps of possession have increased during the 1980s and 1990s (Van Dijk). People without means of access to technology subsequently have to eat the dust of other competitors for jobs in the work field because most jobs require digital literacy and being able to use technology efficiently. Therefore, technologically challenged people have a very hard time finding jobs (Haan).

Digital Divide and Poverty

As individuals, companies and the government continue to move online, those that have access to only the very standard internet (such as dial-up), but cannot afford high-speed internet access or it is not available in their area cannot keep up in the technological world. Forty percent of Americans do not have high-speed internet access at home; the majority of whom are impoverished (Greenwell). For the rural areas, they may not even have the option to access broadband. About 14 million people do not have access to high-speed internet providers (Greenwell). Recently, a conference was held in which Bill Gates was one of the speakers was devoted to finding approaches to close the unequal access to computers and other technologies. The premise of the conference was that closing the technology gap would lift people out of poverty, while creating a large business opportunity for the high technology industry (Lewis). Technology being granted to all demographics would lift people out of poverty because it would allow them access to a better education and to what is going on in the world; therefore, allowing them endless information. When one does not have computers and digital devices, their range of information narrows vastly; with technology one can broaden their educational horizon.

Breaking the Cycle

Technological available to all and education on how to use the digital devices would predictably put an end to the vicious cycle of the digital divide and poverty. The poverty cycle at hand is: Children born into families that are poor do not have access to technology or computers. This lack of access impairs their education because they are unable to expand their horizons into the technology world and learn about the world as a whole. Without receiving the proper technological education, they cannot obtain a high ranking job because most careers depend upon technology, even McDonalds workers have to use technology. Applying for jobs often requires filling out a form online. When a company has a job opening, often the employer or clientele will e-mail notifications. For kids in school, assignments often are on the web, and papers must be typed. A computer is required for all of these activities. Therefore, possession of a computer becomes an expectation of the child. Individuals seeking employment that do not have home computer access require accommodations being fulfilled in order to simply fill-out online applications.

Help Bridging the Digital Divide


Public Libraries

Public libraries do a nice job serving those without home internet access, but some find it more of a challenge to find the time to spend at a public facility, rather than having the convenience of access in your own home (Greenwell). “A release by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation states that 44 percent of those living below the poverty level access e-mail and the Web via their local public library” (Toor). Libraries are not just for the impoverished who cannot afford internet access. One can access research databases through the public library that would without the library be unattainable and unaffordable. “The Digital Divide Basics Fact Sheet shows that there are an estimated 429 million people (only 6% of the world’s entire population) online globally. 41% of the global online population takes place in the United States and Canada. This proves that if one lives in the United States and does not have digital technology and computer access, they have a large disadvantage and untimely being pushed aside in a competitive world, because the vast majority uses these devices. In 2005, a poll was taken and it was found that 3 out of 4, or 75% of people in the United States own a computer” (Jenkins).

Demographics and the Digital Divide

Location has a lot to do with ownership of digital devices. According to the United Nations Development Program a computer costs the average American about one month's paycheck. However, for the average citizen living in Bangladesh they must pay the equivalent of about 96 month’s worth of income (Kappelman). This proves why 41% of the global online population comes from the United States, while one-third of Europeans have Internet access, and less than 3% of the 500 million people in Latin American and the Caribbean have ownership of computers. For the 25% less fortunate people in the United States that do not have the luxury of possessing a computer, libraries provide the basic internet to those who need it for free (Kappelman).

The Recession and the Digital Divide

Libraries play a crucial role today. Unfortunately, library funding is taking a hard hit. In July, the Charlotte, N.C., library adopted a new budget that slashed nearly 30 percent of its funding and about 300 employees. In New York, libraries narrowly escaped an $82 million budget cut, thanks to public outcry. The Milwaukee library system adopted austerity measures; only to find itself penalized for cutting too far. The Free Library of Philadelphia only avoided a total shutdown through an act of the Pennsylvania State Senate (Graham). Without libraries, impoverished children and adults have nowhere to turn for computer and internet access. A survey revealed that librarians know the role they play in closing the digital divide and they want to help. Therefore, librarians have come together and raised their voice on the topic of budget cuts, and other people join for the cause. In Brooklyn, librarians hosted a 24-hour readathon to raise public awareness regarding lack of funds and to protest for fewer cuts. The ALA is offering advice to libraries on how to effectively advocate for themselves and raise money through nongovernmental channels (Graham). Without funding, libraries cannot continue this work. They cannot provide resources and help enhance impoverished children’s literacy skills without the funding needed. They cannot provide computers and Internet access so that impoverished children can continue to grow their knowledge base and succeed in society. Even before budget cuts, libraries cannot fill their communities’ current needs. Slashing budgets will only widen the digital divide for poor children.

School Computer Labs

Schools computer labs have proven to be a great tool in bridging the digital divide. “According to a report from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the latest current population survey shows that 91% of children ages 3 through grade 12 use computers, and about 59% use the Internet. Even 23% of children in nursery schools use the Internet” (Lewis). This enables youth to become familiar with the internet and learn how to operate the computer. “The NCES report says that schools bridge "the digital divide" because so many disadvantaged students have access to computers and the Internet only through their schools (60% of those in poverty and 63% of those whose parents have not earned a high school diploma). Less than a third of students at the other end of the socioeconomic spectrum depend on school access to computer technology” (Lewis). This proves that computer labs are heavily depended on, and without them many students would not have the means to getting online.


Therefore, were computers and technology available to everyone, children would get ahead in school and all citizens would be granted the opportunity to acquire better employment. Even if children have not had personal possession of a computer, the access to a public library computer, that is better than nothing. Federal and State government keep cutting budgets and overlooking the lives being affected. Some people in the current economy depend very heavily on libraries. With these budget cuts and shutting down of libraries the options these people have are running very slim. The digital divide epidemic could be put to an end if everyone possessed a computer and necessary digital devices. Short of that, funding for libraries is imperative in order to provide the needed materials to the public for free. Access to online information is a very empowering tool, both economically and politically (Kappelman). Internet and computers are more necessary than ever. The Internet is used for seeking employment, education, health care, managing finances, shopping, and even meeting new friends and finding new relationships; our world uses the internet for virtually everything. All should be able to embark and surf the web with ease and have the security of knowing they can turn to their computer at any time. Due to lack of funds, this vicious cycle just continues. The Internet plays a vital role in the U.S. economy. The nation’s Internet access adoption rates are skyrocketing (Strickling), but still more than 30 percent of people do not have Internet access at home. The two major factors affecting internet use in the United States: 1. Affordability
2. Lack of a computer and lack of availability in rural areas. Internet access can sharpen the focus of public decision-making which can lead to help and bridge this technological divide, boost economic growth and create jobs. (Strickling). This proves that everyone having internet access and/or a computer would not only be beneficial to that individual lacking technological access, but would strength the economy as a whole.

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#1. Sternal John, Economic Rebound for Small Business, Understanding Marketing, http://www.understandingmarketing.com/2009/10/30/rebound/

#2 Computers, Bloomington Public Library, http://www.bloomingtonlibrary.org/use/computers/