Closing the Digital Divide Means More Than Just Getting Connected

digital literacy

A new report shows that convincing unconnected low-income families to become broadband subscribers requires much more than just offering discounted internet service. It also requires digital literacy training that encourages Americans to become life-long digital citizens. In fact, the Technology Policy Institute's report, "Reaching the Unconnected," cites Comcast's broadband adoption program, Internet Essentials, as a great example of a program that is providing this motivation by creating a seamless learning integration into the digital world for first-time internet subscribers. 

Internet Essentials, which has reached more than eight million low-income individuals, seniors, and people with disabilities since the start of the program in 2011, offers a $9.95 monthly service, subsidized computers for less than $150, and free digital literacy training online, in person, and in print to encourage broadband adoption. The report examines survey results of participants in the program, and reveals that many of IE's subscribers have specific goals when it comes to their online activities, as well as interest in receiving training that will further empower them as internet users.

Many of the respondents reported high percentages of benefits that the program has given their children and families in the following areas:

  • 92% said their children at least occasionally use the internet to get online
  • 79% said the internet helps parents be more responsive to the goings on in their child's school
  • 71% said someone in the home uses the internet for schoolwork
  • 53% said the internet helps them better manage their family's schedule and activities

IE participants also expressed interest in receiving additional training that would help them navigate other areas of their lives, such as learning about internet safety and helping them to obtain job skills:

  • 66% said they are interested in learning how to protect their privacy and security online
  • 52% reported interest in online training to improve workforce skills

The good news is that programs like Internet Essentials are clearly making a difference in people's lives, and going the extra mile to ensure that new subscribers receive the assistance they need to maximize their internet experience. No matter what a person's motivation may be to get online, broadband adoption programs are steadily eliminating the barriers that stand in the way of the last percentage of people without home internet service, or the skills necessary to succeed in the digital era.