The pandemic threw the digital divide into stark relief as one of society’s greatest challenges. For those with broadband access, the transition to remote working and learning was at least possible, if not easy. Yet 30% of American children can’t connect, as we heard at July’s Techonomy Virtual conference, in a session with longtime government tech-policy expert Larry Irving and FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel (below). Without internet access, kids can’t learn and adults can’t shop, look for work, or reach doctors. The problem is worse for minority communities.
This issue emerged again and again in our sessions in 2020, and will be a major focus for us in 2021. We even plan a multi-day event in March called Digitally Divided. In all the videos below, leading experts discussed the many consequences of unequal access to broadband, as well as strategies we can employ to fix this scandal, both in the U.S. and around the world. The deputy executive director of UNICEF calls it a global emergency and is partnering with Ericsson on an initiative that could be a global game-changer. Tuft’s Bhaskar Chakravorti argues that connecting everyone in the country should be Biden’s top tech priority. Silicon Harlem’s Clayton Banks works with local stakeholders on community-based solutions. David Heller of construction giant The NRP Group and Brett Lindsey of broadband service provider Everstream discussed the urgency of getting internet service into public housing. It’s a multi-faceted crisis.