As a librarian, I’ve been hearing about the digital divide practically from the beginning of my career.
It is defined as “the growing gap between the underprivileged members of society, especially the poor, rural, elderly, and handicapped portion of the population who do not have access to computers or the internet; and the wealthy, middle-class, and young Americans living in urban and suburban areas who have access.” Three years ago, it was a quarter of the nation.
If we’ve learned nothing else from the COVID-19 experience, it is that When School Is Online, the Digital Divide Grows Greater. The problem has not improved greatly in recent years. Americans turned to technology during the COVID-19 outbreak. An outage would be a problem.
A highway is a highway
I’m wondering if the previous arguments have been off. People I know speak of the digital divide in terms such as “economic justice” or “fairness.” That might attract us liberals, but meh. They see underserved as one letter off from undeserved. We need to sell it as a Defense Initiative. Internet Force! Y’know, like Space Force.
And there’s a lot of history behind this. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has funded projects that “have provided significant technologies that influenced many non-military fields, such as computer networking and the basis for the modern Internet, and graphical user interfaces in information technology.”
There may be not enough money in the domestic budget for such an initiative. But there seems to always be money in the Defense budget. This is a national security issue. This will keep us safe in the next disaster. The interstate highway system was purportedly built, in part, “in case of atomic attack on our key cities, the road net [would] permit quick evacuation of target areas.” In the case of the next disaster, we need our people to have access to the information highway as well.