There’s never been any shortage of “Digital Divides” for us to talk about. The haves versus the have nots, the young versus the old, the tech natives versus the technology-as-a-second-language folks.
But even if your patrons have the internet and know not to call it “The YouTube,” there’s another digital divide in America that can be just as limiting as not having a connection at all: how teens, and adults, are getting online.
Access to Broadband
The FCC reports that 94% of Americans have access to high speed internet, a huge increase from the 15% who answered the same way in 2003. But that still leaves 6% of Americans– over 19 million people– without access to high speed internet. Concentrated mainly in rural and tribal lands, the populations who can’t access the higher level functions of the internet are arguably the most in need. And in places where broadband is available, over 100 million Americans still do not subscribe to it.
The Introduction of Smartphones
At the same time, smartphone usage is growing among teenagers, giving kids who have never owned a computer a way to access the internet that’s personal and reliable. A recent Pew Center report found that 37% of teenagers own smartphones. For many, these phones have become their primary way of accessing and sharing information– from social networking to texting to accessing library resources.
The widespread use and availability of smartphones to these teens is a great advancement, and an important step in the battle to make the internet accessible to all. But smartphones, for as great as they are, are not a digital panacea. And that’s where libraries (and you) come in.