We need to work on access and adoption to close digital divide

Governing reports on lessons learned during the pandemic and how we can help with the recently promised federal funding…

Now, with the economy seemingly on the rebound from the most severe economic effects of the pandemic, it’s easy to assume that the overlapping interest will grow between those who have long advocated for increased broadband access and those newer to the issue — and that this increased access will create even more economic growth. The Richmond Federal Reserve found that “the long-run benefits of broadband access could grow exponentially, given the potential for innovation and productivity gains it provides.” A Purdue University study estimated that for every dollar invested in broadband deployment and adoption in Indiana, nearly four dollars went back into the state’s economy.
But these outcomes aren’t guaranteed. In fact, one in three workers still lack foundational digital skills: Nearly 90 percent of executives and managers report that they see employee skills gaps now or expect them in the next five years, but only about one-third of their organizations have active efforts to retrain employees. And a recent McKinsey study found that the pandemic opened the door to fundamental shifts in the health-care marketplace — with up to $250 billion of U.S. health-care spending potentially moving to a form of virtual care — but warned that it’s “not a foregone conclusion” that the shifts will happen without the industry changing its methods of providing care.
One thing is certain: The shifts — whether training clinicians on new technology, wiring households to fiber or retraining workers — won’t happen without partnerships. That’s why the timing of the state five-year action plans is so critical. Research from The Pew Charitable Trusts has found that states have already used planning processes to evaluate need, drive stakeholder engagement and map out a plan for achieving broadband expansion goals.

Now is the time for businesses, research organizations, community partners and others to participate in the continuing state planning efforts, helping to shape state strategies for using federal dollars and developing plans that meet the needs of the state and its communities in ways such as sharing information on skills gaps in the labor force, identifying evidence-based solutions for increasing telehealth usage, or elevating how living on a fixed income may influence aging Americans’ ability to access digital resources.

Minnesota is in a strong position but we need to be working together.

This entry was posted in Building Broadband Tools, Funding by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

Librarian who follows rural broadband in MN and good uses of new technology (blandinonbroadband.org), hosts a radio show on MN music (mostlyminnesota.com), supports people experiencing homelessness in Minnesota (elimstrongtowershelters.org) and helps with social justice issues through Women’s March MN.

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