Tuesday, March 30, 2004

The most critical digital divide needing closing is the 60.2 percent of adults with a high school diploma and no further education that are not connected to the Internet. This number can be compared to less than 30 percent of people who have attended “some college” but remain among “the unconnected.”

Another way of saying this is that high school graduates who do not go on to some sort of college are unlikely (less than half are) to be connected to the Internet. Of course, as the report illustrates earlier, these educational attainment numbers must be correlated with other demographic statistics, most notably income. Especially since the report goes on to say that of the “unconnected” population, an overwhelming amount “households that were younger than 45 years of age, less educated, or unemployed all identified ‘too expensive’ as the most important reason for non-connectivity.”

I say this “education” gap is the most critical gap with the understanding that education and income are hopelessly intertwined, and therefore both are the most critical gap. However, the education gap is a more appropriate choice because, in my opinion, as a society, we increasingly are marginalizing the groups of people who chose not or cannot afford to “purchase” education beyond a high school level. Even in the classifieds you see an increasing number of advertisements with the phrase “degree required.” Combine that with the fact that over 40 percent of people say they use the internet at work. Finally, consider that fully 25 percent of those people who are online use the internet for “Employment Searches.” When these three factors add up, you can begin to see how getting a job quickly becomes a catch-22 for those who did not attend college. You can’t get a job because you don’t have a degree. Because you don’t haven’t attended college, you probably don’t have the internet to help you look for jobs. You can’t get the internet because you don’t have a job.

Is this gap more critical than the rest, like race, disabled status, or gender? Absolutely. The report consistently iterates: Education, income, and internet use are directly and positively related. An increase in one is likely to correlate with an increase in the rest. Close the education gap, you make long strides toward closing the rest of the gaps.

Paul Medenwaldt

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