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As much as 30% of adults experience problems connecting to the internet at home, with 15% of U.S. adults only relying on “smartphone-only” internet. This technological disparity has led to the rise of a digital divide, with less fortunate communities often being left behind.
Written by Trix David for The Agile Brand Blog
Digital access has been more available than ever. A report by the Pew Research Center on mobile tech and home broadband notes that U.S. smartphone ownership and home broadband subscriptions have increased from 2019 to 85% and 77% respectively. However, despite a vast majority having access to these technologies, some people still face access difficulties. As much as 30% of adults experience problems connecting to the internet at home, with 15% of U.S. adults only relying on “smartphone-only” internet. This technological disparity has led to the rise of a digital divide, with less fortunate communities often being left behind.
What is the digital divide?
The digital divide refers to unequal access to technology. Maryville University’s insights on the digital divide in the U.S. note three types of the digital divide: the gender divide, the social divide, and the universal access divide. These disconnects often arise from less privileged groups, such as women, people who aren’t able to afford access to broadband or the internet in general, as well as those with physical disabilities or digital illiteracy. However, there could also be a digital divide in terms of capabilities. A gap in technology-related skills or education may grow more evident as younger, more tech-savvy employees enter the workforce — potentially leaving older workers behind.
How can employers address the digital divide?
Given these technological challenges, many people struggle with not only limited access to different resources but also struggle to stay relevant at work. The digital divide can negatively affect their happiness and work performance, especially in recent years when workers were forced to follow a remote setup. As covered in our post called “Healthy Organizational Cultures”, it’s the responsibility of employers to bridge this gap and focus on improving the employee experience, before their customers’ experience. By being inclusive in their approach to their workforce, companies can help employees address issues related to technology and develop positive business outcomes. Here are some ways employers can start overcoming the digital divide:
Make equipment and tools accessible
Having limited access to technological equipment such as a laptop shouldn’t be the basis for not keeping a great employee. The difficulty often lies in not being able to afford these tools, so to remedy this, businesses should at least lend workers digital equipment and tools that enhance their work. In addition, companies also need to consider their employees’ internet speed and provide an allowance based on their workload. By improving accessibility, businesses can achieve better remote worker productivity and job satisfaction.
Offer training and support programs
To adapt to changing technologies, companies must train and support their employees in learning or re-educating themselves in different processes. This is in line with an article by Business Insider on reskilling, sharing that 79% of CEOs are regularly concerned about their workforce’s existing skills. Businesses must reskill their employees to promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth and support productive employment with fulfilling work. Free training programs can ensure employees have relevant skills and increase business success outcomes.
Stay connected with employees
Aside from addressing their accessibility and technical challenges, employers must stay connected with their employees. Organizations that foster connection and collaboration between their employees can encourage more experienced workers to help out their new co-workers. Aside from being a way to seek mentorship, social interaction can help boost employee morale and motivation to help workers tackle problems in the digital workspace. Employees can increase their knowledge and productivity through a positive work environment, leading to outstanding performance.