The Atlanta Journal Constitution posted this commentary piece by Tauheedah Baker-Jones, chief equity and social justice officer on its “Get Schooled” blog on Monday, March 15, 2021 with the headline “Technology is not a luxury; it’s now an education necessity.”
As medical research reveals how the coronavirus disproportionally affected people of lower socioeconomic status, the pandemic also laid bare other inequities, specifically the uneven distribution of technology and access to information, a situation known as the Digital Divide.
This divide significantly affects our state. A current broadband map reveals that even today more than a million Georgians lack access to reliable high-speed internet service. Additionally, Pew research conducted in the immediate aftermath of COVID-19 shows that more than half (59%) of low-income households (income less than $25,000/year) faced obstacles with digital learning either from lack of devices or insufficient connectivity.
But such a divide existed long before the COVID-19 pandemic hit America and the world a year ago. For decades, a chasm stretched between the information haves – those with access to personal computers, mobile tablets, high-speed access – with the information have-nots – those who do not possess these technologies.
Causes of this Digital Divide can be attributed to socio-economic, socio-cultural, education level, and environmental factors. In part, for many in communities of color, access to technology was perceived as a luxury; thus, many families did not see any immediate benefit to owning a computer, laptop, or tablet. Moreover, smart phones provided access to the internet, so many of these families did not seek other broadband and internet services. Food, clothes, rent, and health care stood as the real necessities.
In a highly technological world, this lack of access to information poses substantial impacts on educational outcomes. And when COVID-19 shifted this technology from luxury to a basic need, many families and communities could not afford or procure devices and access.
As the high-tech hub of the South and the birthplace of the Civil Rights movement, Atlanta can and should be the leader in this change.
To read the full commentary, please visit the “Get Schooled” blog of The Atlanta Journal Constitution.