Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, access to the internet drove much of our daily routines. Now, a year into the pandemic, our dependency on reliable and high-speed internet services has increased significantly, so more of us can work, attend classes and stay connected with friends and family remotely. More of us, but not all of us – affordability and access barriers leave millions of people behind, impeding their quality of life, the economic growth of all and our recovery as a larger community.
In order to bridge the digital divide, we must all play an active role and invest in broadband expansion to the underserved.
We can’t deliver digital access to all without influencing public policy.
Around the world, two groups are most underserved by broadband access: those in rural communities and those in lower-income, often urban, communities. Those who live in rural and less-populous areas often lack physical, and sometimes financial, access to high-quality internet services, restricting their educational and employment opportunities. Additionally, while many low-income urban households may have physical access to the internet, their inability to afford service renders them underserved. With the ongoing pandemic impacting employment and earnings, those two populations critically desire internet connectivity.
To begin closing this gap, governments across the world are looking for solutions. Currently, I serve as co-chair of the Technology and Innovation Committee for the Committee for Economic Development (CED) of The Conference Board. Recently, we released a report on broadband that provides recommendations to eliminate the internet service gap. You can read the full report and our detailed suggestions here. My co-chair Reece Kurtenbach, Chief Executive Officer for Daktronics, and I also authored an op-ed in support of expanded broadband access to the underserved, available here.
Additionally, Unisys sent a letter to the U. S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to support remote learning for grades K-12 during and after the conclusion of the pandemic, which is available here. As organizations, we must acknowledge the critical role of education as we will rely on talent from around the world to build our future workforce.
Expansion of broadband access for the underserved is picking up steam throughout the world.
In Southeast Asia, 150 million adults are currently digitally excluded because they lack access to proper technologies. In rural India, only 15% of homes are connected to the internet. In Mexico, less than half of the total population has access to the internet. And in the United Kingdom, one third of people ranging in ages 15 to 24 don’t have stable internet access in order to learn online and continue their education. Efforts are underway in all these locations, and more, to bridge the digital divide.
To address societal gaps, organizations must evolve their solutions and offerings.
At Unisys, we are committed to applying our expertise to expanding users’ access to high-speed internet resources and helping them use those resources with optimal efficiency. While we are actively addressing gaps in public policy, the solutions we bring to market are working to enable, empower and support end users to use broadband access more effectively. With Digital Workplace Services, our focus is moving more organizations across a variety of industries to a remote or work-from-home environment. This opens up more opportunities for people in rural and economically disadvantaged areas to find jobs. Once those people obtain remote connections to broadband, we help them fully participate in the digital workplace.
At a time when we can’t physically get together, we all rely on our virtual communities. With millions unable to receive physical access, we are leaving millions without the ability to digitally connect. We must use technology to help these people throughout the world. Closing the broadband access gap is a critical step forward.