Though this may not be a definitive list, we’ve seen how three primary factors have been at play in our country to force a divide between the haves and have-nots when it comes to digital affluence.
Before we dive in to the 3 factors, you may be wondering why digital inequality even matters. Well, to answer that, just take a moment to reflect on all the ways understanding how to access online forms, government websites, and job-hunting forums help you work and live today. Now, imagine that you never learned how to operate a computer before.
Digital inequality is a health hazard
As more and more things have been moving to digital interfaces, such as healthcare and retirement planning, the need to be digitally savvy—or at least competent—is no longer a luxury reserved for those who can afford it. Having access to a good internet connection and a full keyboard is sadly becoming the new delineator between the middle and lower classes.
But statistics show that almost 80% of Americans have a smartphone, doesn’t that count? Unfortunately, no. A smartphone might be able to access the internet, but many of what makes a healthy digital lifestyle is being able to access full websites—many of which are not optimized for mobile interface. And, let’s be honest; even the savviest of us have a hard time lumbering through a multi-page form on those tiny screens. Indeed, computer knowledge and access are the only ways to truly close the divide that threatens the future health of our nation.
Reason #1 for digital inequality – Affordability
Cost has always been a factor for the adoption of any new technology. And, for the most part, that factor self-regulates the supply and demand of the technology. But, if that technology—such as electricity or telecommunications—becomes a staple in how our country functions, cost suddenly becomes a problematic impediment. Likewise, computers—even at their low, low prices (comparatively)—are still too expensive for many Americans. In fact, the home computer is still considered a luxury item that one purchases with disposable income. And, since a huge segment of the population is lacking disposable income, the single biggest factor limiting access is cost.
Reason #2 for digital inequality – Relevancy
Another factor many Americans are missing out on the digital age is, well, because of their age. Learning how to use a modern computer can be difficult, frustrating, and often humiliating for the older generation. Because of this, many of the aging population simply don’t see the need to gain digital fluency. Their resistance to using electronic devices often has little to do with affordability; it’s all about ignored relevancy.
This is especially important to combat because of how much healthcare is moving toward a digitally-exclusive format. Hospitals, doctors, and even clinics are pushing to move the industry as a whole over to ones and zeros. Though not exclusive to the older generation, Busters and Baby Boomers alike will be facing a future of increasing incapacity through this thinking.
Reason #3 for digital inequality – Support
Or rather, the lack of support is what limits people from gaining access to digital fluency even when they have a computer to work with. The support needed comes in two forms. The first form is with training and trouble-shooting for new users. Even with thousands of YouTube videos about every program that exists, how does a new user first access YouTube to find them? Obviously, there needs to be a more accessible form of support available.
The second form of support that is lacking for those without digital competency is that of software and hardware support. Upgrades, trouble-shooting, and failed components are enough to throw a tenuous user off the road to fluency. Lacking support means that even when computers are available, there is still the potential for them not be used.
What’s the answer to closing this divide?
Of course, relevancy is something that will require education or applicable execution to close that gap (they need to first use it to see that using it is important). Thankfully, however, we have a way to address the other two causes for digital inequality. We call it our GoodTogether program. We take end-of-life devices that have been retired from larger corporations and businesses, refurbish them, wipe them of all data, install new software, warranty them, repackage them, and deliver them to organizations and individuals in need of good-as-new electronic devices.
Our warranty service is available as an answer to the support gap, and the donation piece handles the affordability factor. All of this while allowing businesses to conscientiously dispose of their end-of-life devices. Not to mention that donating devices not only gives tangible benefit to the donor and recipient alike, but it eliminates another device from ending up in the landfill.
Our country is in a crisis as it enters the digital era. But there are ways that you can address this crisis today. Learn more about our GoodTogether program here, and consider how your business might be able to do a good thing with those devices you need to dispose of.