11/11 – “How to Close the Digital Divide in the U.S.” Deirdre Kelshaw

In “How to Close the Digital Divide in the U.S.” Bhaskar Chakravorti argues that although the U.S. government is attempting to close the gaps in the country’s digital infrastructure with a $65 billion budget, the plan falls short of what is needed to actually solve the problem of the digital divide. 

Bhaskar Chakravorti argues this by explaining that fixing the digital infrastructure alone does not fix the problem of the digital divide — rather, there needs to be improvements within local and national institutions, affordability and access, and the digital proficiency of users. Each of these factors play an important role — however there are great variations across the country when it comes to them. As part of Chakravorti’s research, he separated the digital divide into four different components and scored the 50 states along each of them based on infrastructure, inclusivity, institutions, and digital proficiency. It was interesting to see how each of the states differed in each of these areas. Chakravorti continues by explaining how the digital divide pushes access to essential services out of reach — such as the rising need for telehealth services and online education during the pandemic — and reinforces racial inequality as well. Chakravorti points out that almost half of Americans without at-home internet were in Black or Hispanic households. Unfortunately, it’s predicted that this digital divide will continue these historic disadvantages in the future. However, Chakravorti poses some solutions to this, such as using a “Romer” tax to cover the budget shortfall to fix these areas or recruiting big tech and internet service providers to help close gaps in accessibility.

Reading this article, I realized how much goes into something as simple as having internet access. It feels simple to me because I’ve had it since I could remember. However, it’s clear that this is not the case for everyone, even though it’s so essential to life today in terms of, for example, education or health. As our lifestyles adapt, our policies need to adapt to reflect those changes. I’m glad to see that President Biden is making an attempt to alleviate this problem, however, as explained by Chakravorti, it seems like it will take a lot more work to solve. Should internet access be a human right? I bring this question up primarily because technology seems like an essential part of our lifestyle today, yet not everyone can be afforded the same opportunities.

2 thoughts on “11/11 – “How to Close the Digital Divide in the U.S.” Deirdre Kelshaw

  1. I agree with your statement that internet access seems like a very basic aspect of my day. I find myself annoyed when WiFi is slower than normal, even though I am still able to access everything I need. Your question about internet being a basic human right is tough, mostly because the people who may not have internet access also may not have other basic necessities like enough healthy food or fresh drinking water. Additionally, making internet access a basic human right also implies that everyone has access to technology, which is also not the case in many places.

  2. I did not read this article, and I think you did a great job of summarizing it. I was unaware of the U.S. government’s attempts to close the gap. I am glad to hear that efforts are being made, but it seems to me like Chakravorti raises some extremely valid concerns about the proposed solution. I am also definitely guilty of taking internet access for granted. You raise a great question about whether internet access should be a human right. At this point in our society, I do believe internet access is a human right. In the Tedtalk I watched, the speaker referred to the internet as the “greatest equalizer of our time.” If we are going to solve some of the issues raised by Chakravorti and mentioned in your post, I think a Digital Civil Rights Bill is a necessary step.

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