The term ‘digital divide’ has become popular with the recent developments in the information and technology sector. According to McGrath (2011), the term basically refers to the gap that exists between those individuals who can readily access information and communication technologies and those who are unable to do this. Individuals who enjoy ICT also have the skills needed to put it into use.
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On their part, those who have no access to this technology may lack the expertise needed to exploit it (Government Technology, 2011). A major digital divide in Washington, D.C. area involves access to broadband technology. It is noted that the adoption of this element differs between the various segments and communities in the city (Government Technology, 2011).
According to Shelton (2014), the rate of broadband utilization in this region stood at 65.3% in 2009. However, in spite of this impressive figure, some communities seem to be alienated from this technology (Shelton, 2014). For example, the rate of utilization varies significantly between the eight wards in Washington, D.C. Wards 8, 7, and 5 are less affluent compared to the rest.
In these areas, the rate of broadband use is below 40%. The percentage is the threshold used by the federal government to define underserved communities (Prieger, 2006). Affluent neighborhoods, on the other hand, record adoption rates of 80% or more.
Digital Divide in the Context of Access to Broadband: Macro-Analysis
According to Kvasny (2004), the digital gap brings to fore a number of factors related to technology. For example, it involves access to areas where broadband is available. Such locations include libraries, schools, and homes. Another factor is the frequency of internet and computer use in these areas (Kvasny, 2004).
According to Prieger (2003), the latest dimension of the digital divide is about high-speed internet service, which is also referred to as broadband. Bridging this gap in Washington, D.C, will involve ensuring that people have access to the internet and computers. Also, it will include equipping these individuals with the skills required to exploit this technology. High-speed broadband internet should be made available at homes, workplaces, and public venues.
According to Shelton (2014), the current trend in Washington, D.C. is an indication of the widening gap between the communities living in this area. It is important to note that the situation is not confined to this area. On the contrary, the disparities are reported in other parts of the United States of America. Shelton (2014) argues that the availability of broadband internet is no longer an option.
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It is a necessity, especially in relation to the underserved communities. That is the reason why the current situation is a major source of concern for the government and other stakeholders. For example, the Hispanic and African-American communities lag behind their Caucasian counterparts with regards to the exploitation of broadband. The difference between the two groups ranges from 10 to 20 percent (Shelton, 2014).
It is apparent that the digital divide between the communities living in Washington, D.C in relation to the adoption of broadband internet is a major problem. The gap between the whites and other races, which are largely regarded as underserved, is growing by the day.
Consequently, it is important to come up with a mechanism to address this problem. Failure to resolve the issue means that the underserved communities, which include low-income families, will be unable to benefit from technology.
Access to Broadband in Washington, D.C.: Micro-Analysis
Disparities involving access to broadband have major impacts not only on the Washington, D.C. community but also on people living in other parts of the U.S. According to Prieger (2003), individuals can enjoy this technology through a cable modem or Digital Subscriber Line for residences and businesses. It allows users to receive and send large volumes of data. The development ‘relaxes’ or minimizes the constraints associated with the ‘World Wide Waits.’
As already indicated, access to broadband (and to technology at large) is no longer a matter of choice. Low-income families in Washington, D.C require this technology for several purposes. For example, they can use it to work from home, meaning that they do not have to use their meager resources to travel to the office.
According to Government Technology (2011), the job market in the U.S will significantly change in the next 10 years. For example, 80% of all jobs will require ‘digital fluency’ (Government Technology, 2011). In addition, 80% of Fortune 500 companies will only accept online job applications (Government Technology, 2011). Other activities, such as the provision of financial aid and registration for classes, have gone digital.
The digital split between low and high-income families in Washington, D.C is a reality. Access to technology varies between these two groups. Technological advances and applications are on the rise today.
In light of this development, inequalities about the availability of broadband internet in Washington, D.C. require to be addressed urgently. If the issue is not resolved, the underserved communities in this district will continue to lag behind economically and technologically.
Government Technology. (2011). Digital divide still present in Washington, D.C., broadband map shows. Retrieved from http://www.govtech.com/e-government/Digital-Divide-Still-Present-in-Washington-DC.html
Kvasny, L. (2004). Virtual inequality: Beyond the Digital Divide, by Karen Mossberger, Caroline J. Tolbert, and Mary Stansbury. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2003. Xvi + 192 pp. $19.95/£14.25 (paper). ISBN: 0-87840-999-8. The Information Society, 20(1), 409-410.
McGrath, M. (2011). Zeroing the divide: Promoting broadband use and media savvy in underserved communities. National Civic Review, 100(3), 24-28.
Prieger, J. (2003). The supply side of the digital divide: Is there availability in the broadband internet access market. Economic Inquiry, 41(2), 346-368.
Shelton, H. (2014). Guest: How to bridge the digital divide for low-income families. Retrieved from http://seattletimes.com/html/opinion/2021940987_hilaryosheltonopedbroadbandaccess30xml.html