The Digital Divide is Holding Blacks Back, and Brittny Saunders Knows Why
1 year ago
“Creating jobs and thriving local and regional economies requires access to broadband technology.”
As you read this article, it’s easy to take your Internet connection for granted. But for millions of blacks in America, jumping online is no easy task. Just 56% of African Americans have broadband access (versus 67% of whites), and in some areas of the country, the percentage plummets precipitously. We sat down with Brittny Saunders, Senior Advocate for The Center for Social Inclusion, to discuss why blacks are waylaid by the digital divide, and how we can bridge the gap.
Loop 21: How is the digital divide defined in the 21st century?
Brittny Saunders: In the 21st century, the digital divide is not simply a question of access to computer hardware or software or even the ability to gain access to the Internet. It is about whether all Americans have truly high-speed Internet access that is affordable and reliable. America’s economic future depends on our investment in opportunities for everyone and building the systems that support innovation. High-speed Internet, or broadband, has become indispensable for almost every facet of society, getting health care to hard-to-reach places, helping our kids learn, building our small businesses and helping them compete, and ensuring that we all get the information we need to participate in our democracy. Our economic future depends on everyone having access to this vital resource. Low-income communities and communities of color must not be left behind.
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Loop 21: Why are African Americans disproportionately on the disadvantaged side of the divide?
Brittny Saunders: People of color, thanks to a history of housing discrimination and poverty, tend to live in older buildings and communities or, in many cases, in isolated rural communities. Large telecommunications operators avoid investing in these communities because of the cost of upgrading the infrastructure and the impact on their profit margins. Their choices leave communities of color in the digital dark, less able to create and attract jobs, to help their children take advantage of 21st century learning tools, and less able to connect to the rest of the world. A 2010 report by the Center for Social Inclusion, for example, found that in Mississippi, people of color are the majority of residents in zip codes with zero access to high-speed Internet. The state’s 2nd Congressional District has the largest population of people of color and the lowest levels of broadband access.
Loop 21: What are the negative effects of this lack of access?