National broadband expert and independent consultant John Horrigan suggested in a Board of Experts of a recent California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF) meeting that the public and private sector stop using the phrase “digital divide,” arguing that the issue is less about access to hardware and more about the skills to use them.
“Fewer people are not online than a half dozen years ago,” Horrigan said in a follow-up interview with Techwire. “That doesn’t mean efforts to bring the ‘not online’ into the columns of Internet users should stop. But focusing on the ‘online/not online’ issue as the main digital equity problem obscures a larger and looming one — differences in levels of digital skills for the online and offline population.”
Instead, Horrigan prefers the term “digital readiness.”
“The emerging challenge is about who’s ready and not ready to be online,” Horrigan said. “We need to build a user’s digital skills and trust, and we must cultivate ‘digital readiness’ and capacity for all users to go online.
Since 1998, the percentage of Americans using the Internet has jumped from 36 percent to 85 percent in 2013; 70 percent of Americans have broadband in their homes and 56 percent use smartphones.
However, according to data from the CETF, certain groups still have relatively low levels of broadband and smartphone adoption, including blacks, Latinos, those with high school degrees or less and senior citizens.
There are multiple barriers that affect how many Americans get online, including cost, relevance in their lives and digital literacy. Since cost is not the only issue keeping people from using broadband and smartphones, Horrigan said that using cost incentives as the only way to help people adopt broadband is too little.
“’Digital Readiness’ refers to helping people to acquire skills to use online applications that are going to become more consequential (e.g., telemedicine, education) but also (with the advent of the ‘Internet of things’) more daunting for some people,” Horrigan said. “Higher levels of Digital Readiness can accelerate the uptake of new application.”
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Via Chuck Sherwood, Senior Associate, TeleDimensions, Inc, Bonnie Bracey Sutton