Tuesday, March 30, 2004

The digital divide that I think is most significant is the divide among students, albeit college, high school or elementary. Among 18-24 year olds, 85% of those in college use Internet daily while only 52% of non-students use the Internet daily. Another interesting statistic is that among children (up to age 17), there are drastic differences in home Internet use between the upper and lower income. For those in homes with a household income of $75,000+, Internet use at home is 83%. In homes with a household income of $15,000 and lower, only a mere 21% have Internet use at home.

This is especially significant because it increases the gap in education between upper and lower income individuals. It is primarily middle and upper class individuals that are able to attend college and they are further advantaged by having exposure and thus use of the Internet. This gap begins early on between the classes as elementary, middle and high school students in lower income homes have a 60% less chance of having Internet access at home. They are then disadvantaged when it comes to school projects, research and other learning experiences. This lesser education will carry over into less lower class individuals in college and the cycle will continue. This problem needs to be addressed at the lowest levels to ensure this does not continue.

This is a difficult problem to address and there is no easy solution. Students from low-income families need to be continually exposed to computers and the Internet at school, as this is where they are most likely getting exposure. Community centers and libraries in these neighborhoods should encourage their free Internet use for student use. When new computers are purchased and/or donated to these public institutions, old computers can be given away or sold at reduced rates to low income families so children can be exposed at home, as well as at school.

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