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COVID-19: turns Pre-existing Issues into Devastating Tragedies; How the Digital Divide No Longer Can Remain on The Outskirts of Government Policy
By Betti Halsell, Contributing Writer
Published April 16, 2020

Larry Irving (Courtesy photo)

Coronavirus exposed resources that are assisting with pre-existing issues: homelessness, unemployment, and health conditions by demographic. All the noted adversities evolved into tragedy and devastation, as coronavirus continues to attack more than the human body. The unsheltered have always been exposed to elements; that could possibly have ended their life. Those who lost their job or lived paycheck to paycheck, always were on the cliff with their feet dangling in front of an abyss of unmanageable financial responsibility. There has been a call to close the digital divide for 25 years now.

On a global scale, the social and economic system is fragile. An adversary unseen to the human eye, infiltrated the mind, body, and livelihood of every human being on the face of this planet. I spoke to pioneers that foreseen the impact of having a digital divide, way before millions of children were not able to attend school remotely, because they do not have the technological resources. I conversed with activists, that had a vision of a better world, due to a wider net of broadband access. Larry Irving, Internet Hall of Fame Honoree, the man who coined the term Digital Divide, saw the great possibilities in humans if we are all connected by the internet and have equal access to technology.

The Digital Divide is the term to describe “The gulf between those who have ready access to computers and the internet, and those who do not.” However, the significance of that division is living and breathing. People are living without access to the source of human advancement. The exposed truth during this pandemic is individuals are being left behind. Sharing thoughts with Larry Irving, I wanted to know in this current space, what is his take of the widening gap in lack in digital resources that is peaking in the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Irving stated, and I am paraphrasing the exact quote, in a household where money no longer flows due to a parent or provider losing their job, it  will come down to paying their car note or keeping the internet connected, “Broadband is going to go first.” Narrowing the line to who is on the wrong side of the digital divide, it is affecting people of color and those that live in rural and urban communities. Therefore, the call for policy behind broadening the connection cannot fall on deaf ears. No one should have to sit at McDonald’s for hours,just to have access for their child to do their homework. Our future scholars deserve better than writing their entire term paper on their smart phone, because they do not have access to their computers. This is the reality we live in; millions of Americans are having to think outside the box, just to remain inside civilization.

Statistically within our nation, 60 percent of Detroit have homes without proper broadband connection, 40% of Houston face the same problem. The numbers fluctuate throughout the states, but the common denominator is the need for a national policy, digitally supporting the people across America. It is within our right to receive a higher education; it is within our culture for freedom and liberation. Deities such as the Homework Gap and the Digital Divide has been a weight on collective advancement, before the era where an entire computer could fit in the palm of your hand.

Irving expressed the need for broadband equality to be included in future stimulus packages. He brought up a potent factor, Capitol Hill is dispersing trillions of dollars, creating grace-period plans for residential and commercial property fees, and setting aside resources for the first response occupations. But where is the trillion-dollar subsidy to respond to thousands of children with no computer at home. Where is the multimillion-dollar agreement to accommodate digital resources for senior citizens, as they practice social distancing because they are most susceptible to Coronavirus. what is an elder to do if they unable to receive their food supply due to not having access to the food delivery apps.

The most at risk, are people of color. We are showing a higher rate among COVID-19 related deaths. Preliminary race and ethnicity research were identified at the L.A. County Press Conference on April 7. Confirming within 93 fatal cases, 19% were Asian, 17% were African American, 28% were Latino, 27% were white and 9% were identified as being another race. Looking at these numbers by the total population of each group, Barbara Ferrer, Director of Public Health disclosed as of April 7. Black people have a “slightly higher rate” in coronavirus deaths, than any other ethnicity. Considering the demographics of the digital divide, there is a lot of Black and Brown people that are on the wrong side of the division in resources to technology, amid a direct attack on our lives.

Coronavirus interrupted our way of living, but it also silenced unnecessary chatter for the real quality conversation of closing the connection gap; the issues the digital divide became stronger and more prominent. As I stated before, the information that is affecting the African American community directly, showcases the necessary need to create a stronger bond in communication and assistance within the collective.  This evidence calls for resources that are far beyond what’s available to the general public.

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Categories: COVID-19 | Health | News
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