In an article from the National Digital Inclusion Alliance, digital equity is defined as a condition where all individuals have the information technology capacity needed for full participation in our society (NDIA, 2015). Simply, this means that all people have the opportunity to use technology and the internet to learn, grow, and interact with others. The problems that lead to digital inequality stem from individuals or communities without access to certain technologies – but can also be from these same people not having access to teachers/mentors/lessons on how to actually USE these devices appropriately. On the other hand, the digital divide describes the disparity that exists among individuals and communities around the world with varying degrees of access to digitally mediated information and communication technologies and ability to benefit from digital resources (Pazurek & Feyissa, 2015). In essence, the digital divide stems from digital inequity, where individuals with access to these resources and the knowledge on how to use them have an increasingly large information advantage on the individuals without this access.
One of the biggest obstacles to digital equity is that not everyone can afford or acquire the hardware or online access, but this is not the only obstacle. Another huge roadblock to digital equity is disconnection. This means that even when individuals have online access, technology maintenance restricts the ability for everyone to rely on their devices (Gonzales, Calarco, & Lynch, 2018). When technology maintenance and disconnection comes into play is when we see the technological gap called the digital divide.
There are many ways the digital divide puts certain individuals at a disadvantage, and I am going to use Iberdrola as a resource to outline a few. Lack of internet can cause for lack of communication and isolation. Humans are social beings and isolation can have negative mental effects. Lacking sufficient technology and digital skills can lead to a barrier to studies and knowledge in the educational field. It is unethical to leave certain groups of people in the lurch to learn online without the needed technology. Without digital literacy, individuals have a harder time finding a job and accessing quality employment, thus accentuating social differences (Iberdrola, 2021).
I’ve named a few of the many problems that stem from digital inequity and the digital divide and it is clear there needs to be action taken to help bridge this technological gap. Whether this comes from federal policy or merely a more central focus on digital equity within private business and non-profits, there definitely needs to be a shift in order for all individuals to have a fair shot at achieving their goals.