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THE DIGITAL DIVIDE

Technology has changed the way we communicate, learn, and conduct business. As we become more reliant on Internet to get jobs and manage personal accounts, 1 out of every 5 Americans are left behind without Internet access. This number is even higher among the populations that HUD primarily serves, including families earning less than $25,000 per year, individuals without high school degrees, and communities of color. According to the Federal Communications Commission, less than half of our nation’s poorest families have a wired Internet subscription at home and over 60 million Americans lack basic digital literacy.

Despite this gap, children and young adults increasingly need the Internet to complete homework, college and student loan applications, and job applications.

 

JOBS

The Internet is a medium in which employees, job-seekers, and students can learn new skills, communicate, obtain certification, and complete work assignments. Having Internet access at home enables individuals to apply for jobs, research opportunities, and work flexibly from home.

  • The rate for Americans looking for jobs on the Internet grew from 19 percent in 2013 to 27 percent in 2015.
  • 60 to 70 percent of all active job openings in any month are now posted online.
  • Nearly 8 in 10 middle-skill jobs require digital skills, representing 32 percent of all labor market demand in the nation.

ACCESS TO SERVICES

Government and nonprofit services are moving toward digital applications and benefits. Individuals use the Internet participate access the news and civically engage with issues of their community. Additionally, with online banking platforms growing in popularity, full access to banking and financial planning is stinted when home Internet access is lacking.

  • 61% of Internet users bank online.
  • Many federal and state agencies administer telehealth services to constituents.
  • State agencies provide online platforms for services like Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Children’s Health Insurance Program, or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

EDUCATION

Roughly one-third of households whose incomes fall below $50,000 and with children ages 6 to 17 do not have a high-speed Internet connection at home. However, only 8.4% of households with annual incomes over $50,000 are unconnected.

Low-income homes with children are four times more likely to be without high-speed Internet, disabling students from reaching their full potential. The inability to complete homework assignments or engage in the digital world -- known as the “homework gap” -- compromises the classroom and a child’s potential.

Sources:

 
A family shares what Internet access and a computer means to their family at an event in Los Angeles, CA.
 

BARRIERS TO ADOPTION
Source: Broadband Adoption Toolkit, NTIA, May 2013

Cost: Many families can't afford the cost of buying or maintaining a computer. Others find it difficult to navigate confusing broadband packages or figure out a plan that works for their limited budgets.

Skills: Over 60 million Americans lack the digital literacy skills to take advantage of the resources and services found on the Internet. While they may own computers or enjoy access to broadband, they're not comfortable or confident users of the web.

Relevance: Many families are used to getting by without the Internet. Often, they're unaware of the life-changing opportunities that are available online.

Perception: Many families see the Internet as an unknown and dangerous place that can threaten their privacy, their financial security, and the safety of their children.