The Minneapolis Star Tribune ran an article today on the digital divide in the city…
Up to 25 percent of households in the poorest and most minority-concentrated regions of Minneapolis don’t have any Internet connections at home — not through smartphones, Wi-fi, home computers or anything. However, most other areas of the city have much lower percentages, often as low as five percent.
This disparity has been unchanged, despite improvements in Internet access in other parts of the city in recent years. Citywide, about 9 percent of households don’t have any Internet access and about 15 percent don’t have Internet-connected computers at home, according to the 2014 Minneapolis Community Technology Survey.
Widespread access to technology means the digital divide is more about who has the tools to fully function in today’s society, says Jennifer Nelson, director of State Library Services with the Minnesota Department of Education, adding that “the gaps are narrowing but getting deeper.”
State Librarian Jen Nelson hit the nail on the head – the gaps are getting deeper. The comments to the article are interesting – lots of people think it’s a matter of choice and that it’s up to the citizen to get Internet access. But Internet access means a device and monthly payments, which can be beyond the budget for some people. There are programs (PCs for People distributes computers. Both CenturyLink and Comcast have low income packages. And at the article points out US Internet has free WiFi access). Maybe it’s a matter of connecting citizens to the right programs – which would be a great benefit to the city because households without access will cost the city when it comes time to providing services to citizens on the wrong end of the divide.