• Working and learning online has become a normal part of everyday life as a result of the pandemic.
  • But this shift hasn't helped the close the digital gap in the US, according to recent research.
  • In fact, it has revealed the full impact of tech inequality as children without a home computer or tablet are now also lacking access to school resources and educational opportunities.

Despite the fact entire companies and school systems have had to move online during the pandemic, a new report by Common Sense Media reveals that the digital divide continues to persist in the U.S.

33 percent of American kids living in lower income households do not have access to a family computer - in comparison to only 6 percent of high income families who do not. It’s a similar story for kids with access to tablets, where 60 percent of children from lower income families have access to one, versus 81 percent of children from more affluent families. According to the Pew Research Center, broadband gaps in the U.S. also feed into the problem, and are particularly prevalent in low income households.

digital, COVID-19, EDISON Alliance

EDISON Alliance: What is the Forum doing to close the digital gap?

COVID-19 has exposed digital inequities globally and exacerbated the digital divide. Most of the world lives in areas covered by a mobile broadband network, yet more than one-third (2.9 billion people) are still offline. Cost, not coverage, is the barrier to connectivity.

At The Davos Agenda 2021, the World Economic Forum launched the EDISON Alliance, the first cross-sector alliance to accelerate digital inclusion and connect critical sectors of the economy.

Through the 1 Billion Lives Challenge, the EDISON Alliance aims to improve 1 billion lives globally through affordable and accessible digital solutions across healthcare, financial services and education by 2025.

Read more about the EDISON Alliance’s work in our Impact Story.

With children needing to join classes online throughout the pandemic, as well as to logon to complete their homework, this has moved beyond an issue of access to tech, and also become one of access to education. The digital divide works to deepen inequalities that already exist within communities, threatening to leave kids in poorer households behind, and making it harder for them to catch up.

The Biden administration’s infrastructure bill of 2021 set aside $65 billion for broadband infrastructure deployment. While this is certainly a step in the right direction, according to the Harvard Business Review, it fell far short of what was needed to give high speed internet access to every person in the country. According to Rollcall, The Democrats now hope to pass an even bigger bill to secure this mission.

A chart showing the share of US 8 -18 year olds who have access to tablets and computers in their home in 2021, by household income.
Those with higher household income are more likely to have access to tablets and computers.
Image: Statista/Common Sense Media