More and more of our daily tasks are being done online. From applying to jobs to paying bills to even getting a college degree, the need for reliable, high-speed internet and the digital skills necessary to navigate it is only growing. It’s estimated that 9 out of 10 jobs in the future will require internet access and digital skills.
With the digital divide, “there are really three main areas that lead to inequity. So it is affordability, it is access, and then there’s the issue of adoption. And with adoption, it is how do you see value in that connectivity?” Mylayna Albright, Assistant Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility at AT&T, explains.
Yet, with the growing need to be more digitally savvy, not everyone has been able to get online at the same rate. Households with higher levels of income and education are more likely to have an internet subscription.
Affordability is a significant factor when deciding whether to have an at-home internet connection. Nearly two-thirds of unconnected households have access to at-home broadband but are offline because they cannot afford to connect.
Another barrier to entry is not having access to devices like a laptop and being dependent on a smartphone for internet access. This especially poses a problem with students. “It’s difficult to do most work that students need to do away from the classroom on a cell phone,” Albright says.
Adoption matters as much as access and affordability. Families need to understand the value of having high-speed internet at home. They need to be digitally literate, meaning having basic computer skills, so they are comfortable navigating the internet. Making digital skills training widely available is a key to narrowing the digital divide and opening opportunities.
These challenges are why AT&T has a companywide $2 billion commitment to help close the digital divide. AT&T is working to help more people get online by participating in the federal Affordable Connectivity Program, expanding its network, and opening AT&T Connected Learning Centers to provide communities with free access to the internet, distributing devices, and developing and hosting digital literacy trainings across the country.