Why (and how) do we need to close the digital divide?

There is a new Digit Divide report out of Purdue University (Digital Divide in the US) authored by Roberto Gallardo, Ph.D., Lionel J. Beaulieu, Ph.D. and Indraneel Kumar, Ph.D. Folks who attended the Fall Broadband Conference will recognize Roberto’s as the keynote speaker – where we got a little glimpse at this report and a very solid explanation of the DDI (Digital Divide Index), which the team uses to measure broadband availability as well as socioeconomic indicators that characterize the digital divide. They use that to compare communities on either sides of the digital divide and the impact that lack of technology and technology-savvy as had on the communities.

As the authors comment – the digital divide is the most critical issue of the 21st century – so this report sets out to talk about why it’s so critical and how we can close the divide.

Why do we need to close the digital divide?

  • Job and establishment growth between 2010 and 2015 was substantially lower in counties with the highest digital divide; establishments with paid employees declined in counties with the highest digital divide while establishments with no employees barely grew.
  • Digital economy industries—one of the fastest growing group of industries in the nation—and associated jobs increased overall and across all DDI quartiles between 2010 and 2015.
  • Digital economy establishments—of which 57 percent were nonemployers—increased in the nation and across all digital divide categories. In fact, the largest percent change in digital economy establishments between 2010 and 2015 took place in counties with the highest digital divide.

It’s worth noting and demonstrating with the table below that while there may have been growth in digital economy industries and establishments in all areas – the areas with higher digital divides saw less growth that the areas that were better connected.

Investment in infrastructure and digital inclusion efforts reaps benefits in the forms of greater industry and establishments.

So – how can we make that happen? The authors offer a couple of suggestions…

  • Economic and community development efforts need to be refined to target and support digital economy entrepreneurs that are emerging throughout the nation. Robust strategies should not only focus on updating broadband infrastructure, but also on increasing awareness and digital literacy knowledge to effectively leverage and maximize these technologies.
  • Collaboration among key local and regional assets—schools, libraries, nonprofits, Extension Services, local economic development organizations, regional planning commissions, think tanks, faith-based among others—should be strengthened. This will ensure that local and regional resources will be working in tandem to tackle the digital divide problem in high need areas of the country.

Wondering where your county sits on the DDI scale? Roberto was kind enough last fall to run reports for us for all of Minnesota Counties. So you can see for yourself!

This entry was posted in Digital Divide, economic development, MN, Research by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

I have a Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science. I have been interested or involved in providing access to information through the Internet since 1994, when I worked for Minnesota’s first Internet service provider. I am pleased to be a part of the Blandin on Broadband Team. I also work with MN Coalition on Government Information, Minnesota Rural Partners, and the American Society for Information Science and Technology.

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