State of Digital Equity: Lessons from survey data and focus groups

May 12, 2022 | by
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In late 2020, EveryoneOn undertook a national survey to understand the digital divide during the pandemic. Even at a time of such uncertainty, it was important to look at broadband adoption and digital equity in a deeper way, since investments in digital inclusion were and would continue to be necessary as COVID widened the digital gap, leaving students, seniors and families offline. In the absence of recent research, EveryoneOn, in partnership with the Ballmer Group and Microsoft surveyed income insecure households (less than $50,000 a year) as well as conducted focus groups with individuals and digital inclusion practitioners. Our collective goal was to understand the persistent barriers to adoption and use the findings to inform policies and initiatives that foster digital equity. 

At the Ballmer Group, addressing barriers to economic mobility for children and families is a priority. When children do not have access to the tools necessary to participate and succeed in school, that is a barrier to economic mobility and resiliency. This is why it is important to understand what is keeping K-12 households unconnected or under connected. We learned in the first report that families cannot afford anything over $100 for a computer, reducing their education and economic opportunities.

For Microsoft, the pursuit of racial equity entails addressing digital inequities that disproportionately affect racial and ethnic minority communities. Lack of access to high-speed and affordable internet service, robust devices and digital skilling opportunities have compounding effects on households, communities and our society. The Microsoft Airband Initiative intends to support cross-sector efforts to address barriers to digital equity.

The findings in this third and final report reveal that equity must be at the center of digital inclusion efforts. We must invite diverse leaders, advocates and community anchor organizations to the table not only to provide a clear picture of digital inclusion, but to give them decision-making power about where and how funds should be invested. The recent passage of the Infrastructure and Investments Jobs Act and launch of the Affordable Connectivity Program provide a historic opportunity to create a more equitable and inclusive approach to digital equity. Rulemakings will influence what state and local funding efforts will look like, which has been instrumental for driving broadband adoption. On page 11 of this report, we make recommendations to help inform state and local leaders how to allocate federal funds they secure. The research makes it clear that policy change and investments must be made quickly if we are to prevent sustained educational, economic and social disparities caused by digital inequity. We are committed to ensuring digital equity for all. Will you join us?