Every day the Internet helps millions of businesses, and organizations succeed, shares billions of ideas and creative works with audiences around the world, and empowers people to make decisions or begin journeys that can change their lives. Think about it: this article has the potential to reach hundreds upon thousands of people in seconds the moment we click the ‘”Publish” button. All thanks to the social and professional reach that is attainable from the Internet and world wide web. Unfortunately, not everyone is able to access the Internet on a regular basis. Millions of Americans struggle daily to find a reliable or consistent source of Internet access. This situation is commonly known as the digital divide.
Language barriers, income levels, and regional location are all factors in the creation of digital divides. It’s important to know what causes a digital divide, and equally important to know how we can work to bridge those divides. We cannot fix the past, but we are capable of working together to make a greater, more connected future with equal access to the Internet for all.
What Is the Digital Divide?
The best way to describe the term is an uneven distribution and/or use of technologies that provide access to the Internet among certain groups. These groups can be defined (and are usually) based on social, economic, or geographical status. For example, in America people who are considered to be middle-class or higher are more likely to have consistent access to the Internet than those who are living within the poverty line.
The higher a person’s income is the more likely they can afford the technology and services that give them access to the Internet i.e., smartphones, laptops, desktops, tablets, ISPs (Internet Service Providers), and cellular providers. People who live near or below the poverty line have increased difficulty purchasing all, if any, of these type of tech or services for accessing the Internet which creates uneven distribution.
The Consequences of a Digital Divide
The Internet is an integral tool for many businesses, organizations and institutions. So it’s no surprise those who are on the deprived of consistent internet access are experiencing difficulties within their day to day lives.
Education: According to a Pew Research Center report, about one-in-five teens are unable to efficiently complete their homework due to the absence of Internet access in certain homes. As more and more schools add a digital aspect to their curriculum, it can leave kids who are on the negative end of the digital divide feeling left out and at an academic disadvantage to their peers. Even worse, it leaves many children feeling like they can’t even try to complete certain projects. Disillusioned with their education, these kids are at risk of leaving the public education entirely.
Employment: Another Pew Research Center study shows the majority of today’s job seekers do so online. Those who struggle to find adequate Internet access are at a tremendous disadvantage to those who can surf the web with ease. Candidates who lack consistent internet access most likely also lack crucial online skills to land certain jobs.
Economy: Consistent Internet is practically necessary for any business to thrive in today’s economy. Some of the most effective B2B or B2C strategies today are completed via the web. Small, old-fashioned businesses that are caught up in the digital divide due to their lack of internet access risk losing their clientele to competitors who are internet savvy. Even worse, these small companies could be risking their entire business.
Finding a Solution with Smart WiFi
It’s good to talk about a digital divide that is still evident in many areas in our country. Bringing certain matters to light allows for changes and action to take place. That is exactly what one local business is doing for it’s community in St. Petersburg, Florida.
In October of 2018, we began working with The EDGE District, a downtown district in St. Petersburg, on a plan to create a district-wide WiFi network. The EDGE WiFi network will provide seamless WiFi connectivity as residents and visitors move through the vibrant downtown district, as well as promote and connect local businesses. The EDGE, which is part of Main Street America, benefits by promoting district businesses and through its access to analytical data of its residents and visitors.
WiFi guests are easily authenticated to the web with the help of our Marketing4WiFi platform. WiFi users gain access by providing some type of social account such as an email or social profile i.e. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. This gives the people of St. Pete a great resource to utilize free WiFi while giving EDGE District businesses a great resource to market back and re-engage with guests.
Our CEO Todd Myers was eager to help The EDGE District start this program.Todd has studied extensively on the topic of digital divide and knows how it not only negatively affects individuals, but its possible impact on business owners.
Todd saw the opportunity to solve two challenges at once by helping The EDGE District create their WiFi program. The initiative has two primary objectives
- Close the digital divide for residents of St. Petersburg who lack adequate internet access by creating a free resource within the city.
- Help local businesses grow and thrive by including them in a WiFi marketing solution.
If you’d like to learn more about how WiFi can help you grow your business and support your community without sacrificing your backend security, we invite you to download a free copy of our guide for business owners, Turn Up Revenue & Engagement with Guest WiFi.