Access to reliable internet service has become a hot button issue across the United States. As of last March, over 14 million Americans lacked any internet connectivity whatsoever. 25 million more lacked the high-speed connection necessary for video chatting and streaming.
Anyone who’s ever taken classes or worked remotely knows how important each of those functions becomes in an online setting.
This digital divide in education between those who have internet access and those who don’t will have severe ramifications over the next few years. Below, we examine the dire consequences of and a potential solution to this issue.
Why the Digital Divide in Education Matters
We’ve tried for many years to pretend that all students have equal access to education and opportunity. Despite many attempts by social workers and activists to open our eyes to the vast inequalities in educational outcomes due to sex, race, poverty levels, and disabilities, we’ve remained willfully ignorant. It took the coronavirus crisis for us to see, for once and for all, the massive gaps between the haves and have-nots.
Students without access to a computer and consistent internet service cannot attend school from home. This requires them to travel to public spaces that have computers, a WiFi router system, and space to house them in the midst of a global pandemic. This places not only the lives of the students, but their parents and grandparents in danger as well.
Compound this with the fact that many places which offer free internet and computer access have limited hours. Even those who can find workarounds will suffer from lower grades due to missing assignments. This will leave hundreds of thousands, if not millions of students behind their peers academically.
Solutions to the Digital Divide in Education
It’s easy to point out the horrendous impact of the educational digital divide. It’s much harder to find solutions for such a broad, systemic issue.
For many years, internet access was treated as a luxury good, unnecessary to the functions of day-to-day life. This way of thinking was outmoded even a decade ago. It’s time that we cast it off. One potential solution to the digital divide is to make internet access a utility like water and electricity.
Offer internet providers a tax break to run their connective cables out through rural areas. Incentivize them to bring business there. Then, tap into the absolute glut of basic laptops and 2-in-1s that we cannot possibly consume. Offer subsidies for the most poverty-stricken populations. Combine each of these solutions, and much of the divide begins to close.
Staying Up to Date
Bridging the digital divide in education is going to be an arduous task. One that simply cannot be solved on a personal level. It will require firm action from the top of the government down to implement a proper fix. If you want to stay up to date on the latest news regarding potential solutions and the latest in the coronavirus crisis, browse through our blog daily to keep informed!