Celebrate Mediocrity?

A colleague sent me a PR Newswire release about a new study funded by the U.S. Department of Education under the auspices of a grant to the Ready to Learn Partnership (RTLP), which painted an upbeat picture on the state of technology adoption by lower income households. The headline read:

“New Study Funded by U.S. Department of Education Shows Digital Divide Is No Longer as Prevalent”

And the body of the release stated:

“This new research suggests that given the proliferation of media across the socioeconomic spectrum, although significant differences do exist by income level, a stark digital divide no longer captures the relationship between income and technology ownership and that technology is integrated into children’s lives, regardless of their families’ income.”

So, the positive news is that”significant” differences do exist by income level but they are no longer “stark.” How comforting.

The actual report had this to say in the summary section:

“Regardless of how one assesses the current state, it is clear that, given the proliferation and increased affordability of media technologies,
the metaphor of the “digital divide” no longer adequately characterizes the complex relationship between income and ownership of media technology. The current state is perhaps best described as a “digital continuum.”

I took a look at the supporting stats in the study and it showed clearly that in households earning $75,000 per year, 97% have a computer in contrast to 37% in households earning less than $25,000 per year. That’s a 60% spread.

The study also showed that household internet access connection differed by type (dial-up vs broadband).

For those of us tracking broadband deployment, we can easily extrapolate these numbers to see that overall, 16% of lower income (<$25k/annum) households have broadband access in contrast to 77% in higher income (>%75k/annum) households. That’s a 61% spread.

So maybe that’s not “stark.” But it certainly seems severe and for children living on the wrong side of that 60% or 61% spread, it certainly seems unfair.

But mostly it’s tragic because it’s totally unnecessary. The technology, capital, talent and experience necessary to help make that gap a historical footnote is poised and ready to act — the only missing ingredient is a tiny bit of cooperation from our government.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: