Digital Inequity

How unequal Access to Technology impacts impoverished people

“Dr. King’s Beloved Community is a global vision, in which all people can share in the wealth of the earth. In the Beloved Community, poverty, hunger and homelessness will not be tolerated because international standards of human decency will not allow it. Racism and all forms of discrimination, bigotry and prejudice will be replaced by an all-inclusive spirit of sisterhood and brotherhood.”—The Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change

It’s the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King and it’s the perfect time to honor and reflect on the lasting impact of his incredible life and what his commitment to social justice and equal opportunity means to our nation’s history and to all of us today, especially in this moment.

It’s also the perfect time to take a specific action, to solve a particular problem, to move one step closer toward creating this “Beloved Community” by fighting for basic civil and human rights.

Bridging the digital divide would be one important, impactful way of doing that right now.

Now, you’ve probably heard that term, “Digital Divide”, a lot lately. It’s a lot like “Food Desert.” It starts with a word that speaks to something that is everywhere, of which we as a country have an abundance, and couples it with another word that shows a contrasting, alternative picture. In each case, we are supposed to get a sense of what is and what is not, a clear separation and an accompanying counter, unsettled feeling of lack.

The problem is that while this term draws people in (What exactly is this “divide” you are talking about?), it sounds like a catchy slogan hatched in some downtown office away from those most affected. It also doesn’t begin to address the fundamental, underlying challenge. As a result, many people with resources and power who can change this situation for the better do not really understand its root causes and the people most impacted.

A better way of labeling this problem, according to an article written by Mathew Lynch on, would be “Digital Inequity.” According to him, “Digital inequity is the unequal distribution of technological resources and availability.”

This is a game changer. The sad reality is the vast majority of terms and their definitions do not focus on inequity. They don’t begin to correctly name the problem and address the underlying unfairness or injustice. For example, the website defines the more often-used “Digital Divide” as “the gap between demographics and regions that have access to modern information and communications technology, and those that don’t or have restricted access. This technology can include the telephone, television, personal computers and the internet.”

Gaps between demographics and regions that have access to modern information and communications technology…Does that sound like a serious problem to you? Does that sound like something you can grasp, something you can sink your teeth into and really start to solve? I mean, what is it about the words “demographic” and “regions” that makes you want to stop what you are doing right now and take action?

Referring back to equity, here’s a simpler, more direct, more real explanation: there are impoverished people from black, brown and rural communities who do not have access to the internet, laptops or tablets in their homes, and there are people with resources who do.

Let’s look at the families in our Kids Above All Early Childhood Program.

86% of the children and families in our program come from Black and brown communities.

75% of the families who receive our Doula, Parent Empowerment and Family Child Care services with three people in their household make $21,720 a year. Let that sink in: $21,720 a year.

Can you imagine what it would be like to live on $21,720 a year, with three mouths to feed?

These families use Medicaid for their healthcare, so there are doctors who will be reluctant to see them due to the state being delinquent in paying its bills.

So you are more than likely a person of color, you are poor, it’s tough to take care of your family, to get the healthcare you need, and, to add insult to injury, you have limited, if any access, to the Internet or a computer.

That’s “Digital Inequity.” Because it is not just about technology, it is about everything else that prevented equal access to anything digital.

What does that mean for the children and families in Kids Above All’s care?

71% of our kids and families do not have access to a laptop computer or a tablet.

13% do not have access to internet of any kind.

Think about that, especially during COVID. Think about that as you sit at your kitchen table, in your home office, or on your living room couch. You have your wireless phone in your hand or your laptop or tablet resting on your legs or the desk of your home office. You are searching through the Internet with ease, sliding your finger across the glowing screens, trying to find a solution on the web to any number of challenges you may be facing, or information on a subject that interests or concerns you. Or maybe you are just replying to work or personal emails or you have a zoom call with your boss, a colleague, a potential client, or a family member. You have all you need right there. You don’t even have to leave the house. You are connected to everything and everyone.

And then step outside without a jacket on an especially chilly January morning and think about this …

It’s COVID. You are a family of three. You are either out of work or you work part-time or you have two to three jobs. You make just over $21,000 a year. You are on Medicaid and receive support from the government to provide food for your children. Your main way of staying connected to the outside world at home is through your phone. Unfortunately, you don’t have the money for high-speed Internet through WIFI. You also don’t have access to a tablet or a laptop computer.

Imagine that, in this day and age, not having the ability to easily connect to the Internet or a laptop in your own home, and how that would impact you and your family.

Imagine how much more difficult it would be to search for a new or better-paying job so you can provide for your family; how much more difficult it would be to find a primary care physician to keep yourself and your child safe and healthy; how much more difficult it would be to build the future that you want for you and your family.

The good news is that you can help close this unacceptable gap, to create a bridge from lack to ready, to ensure the availability of technology that will transform the lives of people living in poverty, that will lift up a family fighting to get through each day, that will give them the necessary, modern tools to build a better world, to be a part of that beloved community that Dr. King envisioned so many years ago, so their children have every opportunity to succeed and realize their full potential.

All you need to do to be part of the solution is click right here so that our children and families have the tools and equipment they need. 

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