Strategic Networks Group: Digital Divide increasingly based on age and income

by Joan Engebrets
September 14th, 2011

The Digital Divide increasingly is based on age and income, rather than broadband availability, according to new research from Strategic Networks Group.

ConnectedPlanet_Lo-ResThe research firm has developed what it calls a “Digital Economy Index” to summarize how households use 30 distinct Internet activities. The company uses the index to rank households on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 representing households that engage in 100% of activities.

Using this methodology, SNG found that Internet utilization is lowest among households with incomes below $30,000 and in which household members are over 55.

“Simply connecting . . . does not complete the process of bringing people and households into the digital world,” wrote SNG in an announcement of the research findings. “So we need to do better, including designing Internet outreach and training programs to the groups that are still experiencing the divide.”

SNG argues that people in households with higher DEI ratings have stronger earning ability. Accordingly the firm advocates “more focused targeted training for those e-solutions that have the most significant, long-lasting socio-economic impacts.” In referencing the e-solutions with the greatest socio-economic impact, SNG references Internet activities such as teleworking, selling online and using VoIP.

I’m all for training to help people use broadband to make money—and it’s always exciting to report on success stories of that nature. After one local leader launched a grass roots program to train people in his community to get jobs as remote call center workers, numerous people in the community were contracted to provide call center services (CP: Cloud-based call center provider is key to rural Tennessee workers). Another initiative, detailed in a report from the Columbia Institute for Tele-Information titled “Broadband in America 2nd Edition: Where It Is and Where It Is Going (According to Broadband Service Providers)” (CP: Report: U.S. providers’ broadband ambitions still unfulfilled) trained low-income people in the Bronx to do data conversion work that in the past would have been outsourced overseas.

What both of those initiatives had in common is that people were trained with a specific employer or client in mind—and I would point to initiatives of this kind, rather than a class involving more generalized computer skills, as the most effective computer literacy training.

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