Internet for All Now -- A 21st Century Civil Right
“The Digital Divide is just another manifestation of the Economic Divide and the Opportunity Divide.” That profound observation by OCCUR Executive Director David Glover (whom we remember in this Annual Report along with other inspiring Digital Pioneers) is a sobering reminder that the quest to close the Digital Divide has to be an integral part of a deep commitment to tackle poverty and empower all Californians.
While the state has made significant progress in increasing home broadband use from 55% to 75% of all households, the sad news is that 25%—a full quarter of our population—remain stuck on the wrong side of the Digital Divide. These households are mostly in urban poor neighborhoods or remote rural areas. The last two statewide Annual Surveys have confirmed that these residents are up against the “wall of poverty”—inter-related factors and forces that constitute a huge barrier to overcome and escape—resulting in low-income households being left behind at an accelerating pace. Low-income families without home broadband (which requires a computing device and Digital Literacy) can’t apply for most jobs, take an online course to improve workforce skills, bank online, access online public services, or communicate with their child’s school. And, students without high-speed Internet access at home can’t complete homework, do research for assignments, or apply for college. Thus, the Digital Divide in our communities also contributes to the Achievement Gap in our schools.
That is why the California Emerging Technology Fund is so focused on driving to results with accountability. It is why CETF developed and launched School2Home, and why CETF has a strategic approach to reshaping public policy to incorporate technology into the solutions to all major societal challenges—education, workforce training, healthcare, infrastructure, economic development—concepts referred to as Digital Inclusion and Neighborhood Transformation.
It also is why CETF has urged federal and state regulators to seize the opportunity presented by pending corporate consolidations to ensure a widely-available affordable broadband rate that will enable all low-income households to be connected and empower all residents to participate in the Digital Economy. Internet For All Now is the public awareness and education mobilization that is being advanced by CETF and has been joined by more than 120 civic leadership and community organizations. Every elected official and policymaker—federal, state, local—must rise to the occasion and embrace Internet For All Now—it is a 21st Century Civil Right.
Sunne Wright McPeak