In the twenty-first century, using digital tools has become part of almost every aspect of daily life. Internet access is no longer limited to our computers, but is now on our phones, tablets, personal assistants, watches, and throughout our homes—right down to our doorbell cameras. But not everyone in the United States has equal access to high-speed internet and internet-ready devices, which leads to a significant digital divide that keeps many from socioeconomic and personal success.

Here’s what you need to know about digital equity, why it matters, and ways communities and individuals can improve equal access to digital tools and education.

What is Digital Equity?

Digital equity refers to the fair and just distribution of digital tools, resources, and opportunities among all individuals, regardless of their background, geographic location, or socioeconomic status. It aims to ensure that everyone has access to affordable, reliable internet connectivity, devices, and the skills necessary to utilize digital technologies effectively.

Why Digital Equity is Essential Today

Digital equity is crucial in the twenty-first century for various reasons:

  • Access to digital tools and high-speed internet is vital for students to engage in online learning, complete assignments, and develop essential digital skills required for future education and success.
  • Employment and economic opportunities. High-quality job opportunities now frequently require that applicants have up-to-date digital skills. These are needed not just to complete and track work, but to communicate with internal and external teams. A lack of digital tools and know-how seriously limits individuals’ ability to apply for jobs, participate in online training programs, and access resources for entrepreneurship and economic empowerment.
  • Health care and telemedicine. Digital equity enables individuals to access telehealth services, receive medical guidance remotely, and access critical health information. This is particularly important for underserved communities with limited healthcare facilities. It also opens up doors to careers in the medical field.
  • Civic participation. Internet access facilitates civic engagement, enabling individuals to access government services, participate in online voting, and stay informed about current events.

Things to Know About the 2021 Digital Equity Act

In November 2021, President Biden signed the 2021 Digital Equity Act into law. The Act aims to bridge the digital divide across the US through several key provisions:

  • Federal investment. The Act provides federal funding to support efforts that promote digital equity, expand broadband internet access, and improve digital skills development.
  • Broadband affordability. It seeks to ensure that broadband services are affordable for low-income households by subsidizing costs and implementing price transparency measures.
  • Digital navigators. The Act supports the deployment of digital navigators who assist individuals in accessing and utilizing digital tools effectively.
  • Digital literacy programs. It promotes the development and expansion of digital literacy initiatives to enhance individuals’ skills and knowledge in using digital technologies.

How States and Cities Can Improve Internet Access and Digital Education

States and cities can take the following steps to improve digital equity at the local level:

  • Infrastructure investment. Governments can invest in expanding broadband infrastructure, particularly in underserved and rural areas.
  • Collaboration between government agencies, nonprofits, community organizations, and internet service providers can leverage resources and expertise to enhance connectivity.
  • Digital inclusion programs. Governments can establish digital inclusion programs that provide affordable devices, internet access, and training to underserved populations.
  • Community Wi-Fi networks. Creating public Wi-Fi networks in parks, libraries, and community centers increases internet accessibility for those without reliable home connections.

Ways Individuals Can Access Digital Tools and Education

If you’re a member of a low-income or otherwise marginalized community, you can take proactive steps to access digital tools and education:

  • Affordable internet options. Explore low-cost internet plans and subsidies offered by internet service providers and government initiatives.
  • Public Wi-Fi. Utilize free public Wi-Fi networks available in libraries, cafes, and community centers.
  • Device accessibility. Look for refurbished or discounted devices through nonprofit organizations or participate in device assistance programs. You may also be able to get new devices at reduced prices during holiday retail sales.
  • Digital skills training. Enroll in a digital literacy program, digital literacy class, or community workshop to brush up on your digital skills. Doing so can not only improve your ability to access entertainment, social media, healthcare, information resources, and other major services, but can help you qualify for higher-quality jobs as well.

Get FREE Digital Literacy Classes with JobTrain

You can get the training you need to learn a variety of digital and technical skills. If you live near Silicon Valley in northern California, you can visit one of JobTrain’s four affiliated centers to get free hands-on digital skills and career training. Browse our Tech4Success resources and sign up for our free digital literacy skills classes to boost your digital skills and prepare for a high-quality job in a field that excites you.

JobTrain is an accredited educational and training institution that transforms lives and communities in Silicon Valley. We help the Valley’s most in need reclaim their lives from poverty and unemployment by preparing them for successful, sustainable careers in high-demand and emerging fields. Explore JobTrain’s digital literacy classes and career training programs today!