One of every five households in Essex County, Mass., does not have a computer or access to an Internet connection, a digital divide that has been unmasked by the pandemic, according to a new report.
(TNS) — One out of every five households in
The study, commissioned by the
"Now just may be our best opportunity to address the digital divide in Essex Country," said
Beth Francis, ECCF's president and chief executive officer, said the foundation's efforts to help out during the pandemic illuminated the problem of the lack of online access. The report, conducted by the
The report examined
The report, called Striving for Digital Equity, found that nearly 80% of
Nine of the 10 neighborhoods with the lowest rates of broadband access and computer ownership are in
Latino residents are twice as likely to lack broadband access compared to their white, non-Latino neighbors, according to the report.
The report said cities and towns in
"If you have a great computer and solid, reliable broadband access but don't have a room where you can close the door, it's hard to make the best of the digital world," Evan Horowitz, the director of the
Horowitz said language is another dimension of the digital divide, because many of the resources are available only in English.
Older residents could also benefit from better access, especially with the shift to telemedicine during the pandemic, the report said.
The report mentioned a variety of possible approaches to closing the gap, some of which are being used elsewhere. Those include cities and towns providing universal broadband and expanded public Wi-Fi hotspots; negotiating reduced rates with internet providers for schools and older people; creating a "digital equity fund" with public money and private philanthropy to provide computers for every family; using large community spaces to provide free internet access; and establishing a county-wide "digital service corps" of young people to help train seniors.
"We need a balance of local and regional efforts, as well as bold long-term initiatives and short-term interventions," Lloyd said.
Lloyd said the next steps are to gather more details on what kinds of efforts are already underway, and identify areas to invest in and work regionally toward larger solutions.
"Today is just a start of the conversation," he said.
(c)2020 The Salem News (Beverly, Mass.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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