According to a report from Public Policy Associates, the digital divide for online education has been narrowing thanks to efforts at the local, state, and federal levels. In 2021, 2.1 million more children had broadband access compared to 2019. While there is still progress to be made in connecting underserved communities across the US, policy experts emphasize the importance of building upon successful public-private partnerships and programs that have expanded K-12 internet access.
Kevin Taglang, the executive editor at the Benton Institute for Broadband and Society, highlights the challenges faced students without reliable internet access. They are unable to complete assignments that require computer and internet access, putting them at a disadvantage compared to their peers. Taglang stresses the need for affordable broadband networks that reach everyone, as access to resources is crucial for education and personal development.
Taglang praises the involvement of federal policymakers in closing the digital divide. Initiatives like the Emergency Connectivity Fund have provided resources to school districts to connect more families for online learning. He also mentions successful community approaches, such as HCS EdConnect and Tech Goes Home in Chattanooga. These initiatives have provided free internet access, devices, and digital skills training to low-income families, serving as a model for tackling the digital divide comprehensively.
Collaborations between nonprofits and states have also played a significant role in expanding broadband access. The Pew Charitable Trusts, for example, have successfully worked with states to bridge the digital divide. Successes in these programs are often driven community planning that prioritizes the needs of underserved families in low-income rural and urban areas.
Taglang believes that with continued efforts, the goal of near-universal access to broadband can be achieved. He envisions a future where personalized learning becomes more widespread, snow days become a thing of the past, and telehealth visits are accessible to all. However, to make this vision a reality, a strong focus on legislation and continued efforts from Congress are vital.
In conclusion, strides have been made in narrowing the digital divide for online education. Building upon successful public-private partnerships and community-driven approaches, as well as continued support from policymakers, will be crucial to ensure that broadband access becomes available to all, regardless of geographical or socioeconomic barriers.
– Public Policy Associates report
– Benton Institute for Broadband and Society