In an age when the internet is becoming more important than ever, we need to think carefully about our approach to the digital divide. We risk creating a new type of digital divide if we fail to consider these factors. The use divide relates to the skills people have on the Internet. It differs across generations, as younger people are typically better educated. The quality-of-use gap, on the other hand, refers to the different ways people access information from the internet.
The current digital divide is already impacting workers disproportionately, particularly those of color. These organizations, sometimes referred to as worker centers, are composed of smaller community advocacy groups and worker organizations. These organizations often support marginalized workers and are led by people of color. In the United States, 70% of black and 60% of Hispanic workers report inadequate digital skills, which directly impacts their employability. In 2018, a third of white workers could work from home, compared to less than 20% of Black and Hispanic workers. By 2045, most of them could be locked out of 86% of jobs.
While there is a decreasing technological digital divide between those with and without access to the internet, the meaning of the term has changed. Previously, research into the digital divide focused on internet access and consumption, but as more people gain access, researchers are studying how people use the internet to create content and how socioeconomics affects user behavior. These changes in our society can cause new types of digital divide, such as gender and income disparities.
While the solution to the digital divide is complex, there are several key institutions that stand to benefit. In fact, the pandemic experience served as a stark reminder of the impact of the digital divide. People in internet deserts missed out on vaccine appointments, while disadvantaged minority groups felt the pain of lack of access to high-speed internet. Indeed, bipartisan agreement is needed to solve this crisis. The next generation of policymakers must take the initiative to address the digital divide.
In addition to the physical divide, the digital divide can create new types of discrimination. The most prominent form of this inequality is gender discrimination. Women who do not have access to the internet cannot challenge their status and receive the education and information they need to become fully functional citizens. Considering that the world is increasingly dependent on digital technologies, we need to address the digital divide holistically. Several countries, such as the United States, are running digital literacy programs.
The world economy has been impacted by globalization. With the growth of technological jobs, the demand for digital skills has increased. Currently, nearly half of all STEM jobs are digital-based. Yet, digital illiteracy continues to separate people from the opportunities they could potentially benefit from. Further, the lack of basic digital literacy is a barrier to employment and income. The risks of creating a new type of digital divide cannot be ignored.