Digital gaps are across our communities. When broadband, smartphones, computers are are available, there is a digital divide for not only students, but parents and elderly populations. How do they learn to apply computer hardware and software for today’s real-world needs.
Digital Literacy Education
The top skills need for using a computer and the internet today include:
Searching the web
Virtually printing without a printer
Sharing online content
Conferencing online with video or audio only
Providing internet access and equipment is only a portion of the real infrastructure needed for those below the digital divide.
30% of the parents in homes that tried online learning said that it was somewhat or very difficult to use technology and the Internet needed to take classes from home.
Low-income homes were twice as prone to struggling with the technology, with 36% of low-income homes reporting the problem.
Can broadband can deliver health and equity to all communities?
Broadband is so influential on our society that we can now call ‘dependable high-speed internet’ as an essential infrastructure service.
Broadband’s applications are so far-reaching that these physical networks directly and indirectly affect a wide range of conditions that impact health and life outcomes, known as social determinants of health (SDOH) or conditions in the places where people live, learn, work, and play that affect a wide range of health and quality-of life-risks and outcomes (CDC-Center for Disease Control and Prevention).
If broadband is essential infrastructure, then regulation and public policy should support every American community having equitable access to broadband and the skills necessary to use it.
Why Broadband Matters
For most Americans, broadband is commonplace in professional, personal, and social interactions. Yet even with this ubiquity, the extent of broadband’s health and equity benefits aren’t fully understood. In part, this is because broadband’s physical networks do not directly impact health and equity outcomes in the way other infrastructure systems do. Instead, broadband serves as a platform on which a range of different applications operate and impact individuals. Just having an internet connection does not boost someone’s health outcomes—but using the internet to access remote health care providers, services, and information can serve as a conduit to improved physical and mental health.
Because broadband’s applications are so wide ranging, it can deliver services that touch every social determinant of health. From economic stability, to education, to social supports, to civic agency, broadband and the digital services it enables are today intrinsically tied to collective health and equity outcomes.
In terms of economic outcomes, broadband delivers benefits to both individuals and communities. Broadband makes:
Job seekers – easier to search for jobs, apply for them, and to keep looking for longer.
In turn, businesses reap benefits from e-recruiting, which makes it less expensive to access a larger pool of candidates.
Digitally fluent workforce – brings productivity gains to firms, who can then reward employees with higher wages.
Macro economic lens – based on higher levels of broadband adoption lead to economic growth, higher incomes, and lower unemployment.
Broadband also plays an important role in improving social outcomes:
Broadband democratizes access – to education, offering a wide supply of free and open education platforms, courses, and resources.
Help people foster social supports – stay in contact with a broader social network. For traditionally marginalized groups who are prone to social isolation, access to the internet allows them to connect to others anonymously.
Telehealth – the use of telecommunications to deliver health services and education—can directly improve health outcomes, especially for those who otherwise lack access to medical providers.
Broadband is the Country’s Most Inequitable Infrastructure
The 2020 state of American broadband access, adoption, and use is one of disparate outcomes. According to the 2018 American Community Survey (ACS),
85% of households have subscriptions to some form of “broadband” internet service.
~10% have cellular-only access to the internet
99.6% of households have complete plumbing.
100% of households with access to electricity.
Additionally, the less population-dense an area is; the greater the digital divide due to the costs of connecting and providing service.
How do we become more digitally-prosperous?
Broadband’s ability to reach and positively impact households depends on three critical inputs:
What are the Attitudes & Behaviors Around the Internet?
How has COVID-19 impacted digital activity? What are the key global findings?
Many people will continue to stay online.
The internet has been more educational.
As online populations grow, so do data project concerns around privacy and security.
Lack of understanding and knowledge about digital literacy remain high.
Dating sports classes, and banking moved to the online world in greater numbers.
Portrait of a Digital Citizen
Dictionary.com defines digital citizenship as “a person who develops the skills and knowledge to effectively use the internet and other digital technology, especially in order to participate responsibly in social and civic activities.”
At the core of digital citizenship, privacy is a top and growing topic.
What is are the projected peak bandwidth requirements for a household of 4 through 2030?
A family of 4 should ask how to they use the internet:
How many and when are the internet devices connected?
Tablets, smartphones, desktop, laptops, IoT devices (Internet of Things) like a Ring doorbell with video.
Live streaming events?
Who uses the internet at home?
Work from home adults
Business – entrepreneurial
What types of applications use the internet?
YouTube / Vimeo
Data file exchanges for employment
Internet Speed Test
Learn more about speed tests and periodically run a speedtest on your computer devices; especially the laptop, tablet, and smartphones.
Cellular 4G / 5 G speed test
WiFi speed test at home vs at work through wired networks
Be aware of the time of day that you are running a speed test as the evening will generally see slower speeds than the rest of the day because of other that maybe on your network locally or in your internet service provider coverage area.
The WNC Broadband Leadership team is receptive to your feedback.
As a digital literacy instructor, I commonly get students that don’t understand the big-tech silos and the applications or apps that are associated with each of them, so I’ve authored a new acronym GAMY which could be expanded to GAAFMY:
Yahoo / Verizon
The primary significance is that each big-tech silos needs a security-key to get into their silo. A security-key is a unique combination of an email, username, password, phone number, location, and possibly other multifactor authentications. If you are a Google Business listing, you would also receive a snail-mail post card sent to your physical address; which is yet another piece of security-key data.
Each laptop, desktop, smartphone, tablet, IoT, smart TV, smart car or other computer device; individually requires device sign-in security. This device is yet another unique identifier to our profile. When individuals need to change a password, email, or device for an GAMY app; each device must be changed. Ouch!
BTS – Big Tech Silo
These security identifiers are data points held and managed by each big-tech silo (BTS). Is it safe to say, BTS know more about us than our own government? Our government most commonly knows us with only a combination of a name, address, email, phone, social security number.
BTS are the highly profitable growth superstars. Do they keep the best interest of all users when it comes to digital policy making?
Government vs BTS
As users, we really have little recourse to most BTS applications, but to accept their user license agreement or ULA. As individuals, we grant a lot of permission to the will of the BTS. So, who is our advocate of the software and hardware that uses broadband to transport digital information?
So if the Amazon superstar silo says they want new laws, who becomes the effective consumer advocate?
WNC Broadband project is your advocate for high-speed internet to use these big tech services.
Who is your big tech silo advocate as a consumer? Especially when is comes to GAMY policy and procedures?
Is our advocate the United States government?
Can policy makers be influenced BTS, including big tech Amazon; without the best interest of the consumer?