Providing fast and reliable broadband is only a first step; as policymakers need to think holistically about how to achieve widespread and inclusive technology use—enhancing not just infrastructure, but the digital human capital to use it in both urban and rural communities.
Making new investments can generate significant benefits for local economies, according to our recent research. In what economist Enrico Moretti has called the human capital century, individual and community fortunes are driven by human capital, which is often defined as educational attainment. We argue that broadband use is a form of digital human capital. Like education, broadband use can facilitate access to information and the development of skills. As with other forms of human capital, broadband use can also be expected to affect outcomes for the broader community, with multipliers and spillover effects for labor markets and local institutions, and richer information networks to encourage innovation.
A good reminder as we start serious investment in technology – the technology is only as good, or ubiquitous, as the people who know how and can afford to use it.