The digital divide is a significant challenge, but solutions exist. The digital divide can be closed by implementing digital inclusion policies, programs and tools that incorporate the following:
- Affordable, robust broadband internet service
- Internet-enabled devices that meet the needs of the user
- Access to digital literacy training
- Quality technical support
- Applications and online content designed to enable and encourage self-sufficiency, participation and collaboration
The Division of Broadband and Digital Equity is working to achieve digital equity throughout North Carolina to fully close the digital divide.
Digital equity is a condition in which all individuals and communities have the information technology capacity needed for full participation in society, democracy and economy. Digital equity is necessary for civic and cultural participation, employment, lifelong learning and access to essential services. To achieve digital equity means that every North Carolinian would have the technologies, tools and skills needed to access affordable high-speed internet anywhere, anytime.
To achieve digital equity requires the design, implementation and support of digital inclusion programs.
Digital inclusion is a term that refers to the activities necessary to ensure that all individuals and communities, including the most disadvantaged, have access to and use of information and communication technologies. Because of the evolutionary nature of technology, digital inclusion strategies must evolve as technologies develop and change.
While making sure that everyone has access to technology, the internet, and digital literacy training is a critical component, the use of these tools is essential in closing the digital divide. This component is commonly called “adoption.”
Broadband adoption is when a household subscribes to an internet service in their home. There are many reasons for not subscribing at home, but there are four key barriers to adoption:
- The cost associated with the subscription to broadband service
- The cost of a device to use the broadband service
- A person’s lack of existing digital literacy skills, like how to use the internet or device
- The perceived lack of relevance or benefit to the person’s life
While the issues surrounding availability to reliable, high-speed internet is often the topic of discussions around broadband, adoption remains a substantial issue. According to the Federal Communications Commission, only 59.4% of North Carolina households subscribe to at least 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps. The American Community Survey found that almost 25% of households do not subscribe to any internet services at all.