09/13/18
Editorial Insights
Philanthropy

Despite the rise in smartphones, America’s digital divide has become a national crisis

    

Image ©: Essential Personnel It can be easy to forget that there are people in this country who have never used a mouse, or who don’t know how to access the internet. Especially when we see the numbers of how many Americans have smartphones. But, smartphones are not providing the kind of access people in the community need to catch up with the rest of the world. Even that statement alone should indicate just how necessary technology has become to the American way of life.

The allure of technology

Technology always has a way of changing how people see the world. Before electricity, for instance, the world was plunged into darkness when the sun dropped below the horizon—and no one seemed to mind much. It was just the way things had always been. Fast forward even just a few decades past Edison and Tesla’s feud, and the luxury of electric light (and all the other things we can do with power) has become a necessity.

The same is true for large-screen computing. We are an increasingly digital society racing toward becoming an increasingly digital species. The ease and quality with which we can do even the simplest tasks makes computers hard to set aside. Because of this power of computers, we now have spreadsheets for our pastimes, algorithms for our friendships, and even apps to help us parent; it’s meeting our most basic needs.

Large-screen technology is rapidly becoming the principle way life is being managed. And this includes some very important things such as: applying for jobs, taking classes, and even getting healthcare. Things that could determine the outcome of an individual’s life. But the problem doesn’t stop with the individual; missing these opportunities can seriously debilitate the entire community by extension. Poorer grades can lead to diminishing qualified job applicants which can lead to loss of diversity in the workplace which leads to deficient businesses. And that’s just the start of the kind of problems the digital inequality that’s in this country could create.

But don’t smartphones bridge the gap?

The issue with smartphones—and why having one doesn’t count toward a solution—has everything to do with what a smartphone is used for. Cursory browsing of websites, finding directions, and lurking on social media are all well-and-good for a tiny screen. However, for things like filling out forms, applying for jobs, taking classes, using software programs, downloading documents… it becomes clear how much of what a digital citizen does requires bigger screens and full-sized keyboards.

It is this deeper computing access that many Americans today simply don’t have. And, unfortunately, that kind of computing is largely what makes our modern society run. The jobs that don’t require knowledge of computers are dwindling—or they’re being completely replaced by A.I. workers. Which means those Americans without access now might never be able to find a well-paying job—or any job, for that matter.

Finding the solution from within our own storerooms

Sadly, digital divide is exactly the type of upset that will inevitably tear this country apart. After all, history provides ample evidence that any society with such a disparity between the haves and have-nots dies from both sides. And with the advanced and interconnected world we live in, the kinds of struggles we deal with are probably going to be technological in nature.

In light of this harsh reality, then, addressing digital inequity should be high on the priority list of any business interested in preserving its success for years to come. Thankfully, ESG (environmental, social, and governance) and CRA (community reinvestment act) can go toward meeting the needs of the community in this respect, especially when ITAM is incorporated into the conversation.  

We have found that when corporations donate retired IT assets, the community—as a whole—benefits, as well as the corporation. Individuals who cannot afford devices are able to receive donated IT assets in a safe and secure way. We have seen first-hand how students were able to complete their schooling and organizations were able to offer training through the donations we’ve been able to do here at Sage. And, in every instance, the donating businesses also received tangible benefits.

The solution to digital inequity is not as simple as handing over devices. But having devices to offer is a great first step in changing the face of the future for the better. If you have IT assets collecting dust, then discover what a comprehensive process like our GoodTogether program can offer. Real-world benefits from donations that can eventually enrich the future options for your next few generations of employees.

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