COVID-19 Deepens Digital Divide

COVID-19 Deepens Digital Divide

By Kayde Moore, Head Copy Editor Originally published in Issue 6, Volume 33 of The University Register on November 20, 2020

When COVID-19 struck the world, billions of people were pushed online to be employed, educated and entertained. The internet connected people from all across the globe and offered a virtual look at museums, festivals and events that were usually out of reach. But some people who lack access to technology became more isolated. The were unable to access About half of people do not have access to the internet globally. The countries with the most people without internet are India, China and Pakistan. There is a large rural population in those countries which limits internet access. The countries with the highest percent of their population who go without internet are North Korea (100%), South Sudan (92%) and Eritrea (92%).

Poor countries, where income and infrastructure buriers exist, make up a large portion of the percentage of people who cannot access the internet. But high income countries still experience high levels of inequality. In the U.S. almost 30 million people do not have access to broadband. In urban areas almost everyone can get high speed internet, but in rural areas only 65% of people have access and on reservations it drops to only 60%. Similarly in Australia, 91% of students living in advantaged communities have access to the internet while only 68% of students can access it in disadvantaged communities.

The digital divide is creating problems with education equity in particular. Schools all over are switching to remote instruction or a hybrid of in-person and remote classes. In places where internet access is an issue, families are forced to choose between safety and education. Sometimes students need to sit outside of restaurants to get free wifi.

But no matter the creative solutions, this is a problem that needs to stop. A school district in Fort Worth Texas is trying to make advances for the wellbeing of their students. They are planning on building towers that would be strong enough to give many struggling students free internet for class. The towers will be placed in spots where it would give five of the city’s lowest income neighborhoods access to the internet.

In the past the internet has been a luxury. But in an ever changing world it is becoming a necessity.

Image on top courtesy of New America