What is the Digital Divide, and why should I care?

In a city like Austin, how can there possibly be a problem with people not knowing how to use a computer? It’s hard to imagine, but even though Austin, AKA Silicon Hills, is continually listed as one of the high tech centers of the US, there is still a large segment of the city that has no idea how to use a computer.

The digital divide is a term that describes the disparity between these two groups: those who are able to effectively access and use technology and those who are not. It seems simple enough, but in these tough economic times, is this really an issue we need to tackle?

The answer to this question is a big, profound YES.

So how does this affect you and me? When large populations in a community aren’t able to access and use technology, it hurts the whole community. Not knowing how to use email or word processors or the Internet prevents people from entering a competitive job market because most companies require online applications and digital resumes – even if computer skills aren’t a part of the job description. However, today even low-paying, blue collar jobs often require employees to know basic computer skills. Time cards, inventory sheets, and cash registers are usually specialized computers connected to complex corporate networks, requiring every employee to be competent using technology.

When people can’t find work and families can’t support themselves, the repercussions echo out into the community. Less people working means less tax revenue, while at the same time, there is an increased pressure on social services providers. A family might need an older child to quit school and go to work, which means the cycle of low-paying jobs is continued for another generation. Finally, investing in Austin’s brain trust and improving the education and technical acumen of our residents will help us draw more businesses to Austin, increasing the tax revenue and reducing unemployment. In short, a computer literate population makes a city stronger economically and gives it a leg up when it comes to competing for new industry.

At Austin Free-Net, we’re committed to bridging this digital divide. Most of us who work here are in love with technology, but that’s not why we’re really here. We’re here – and we do what we do – because we realize that every student we help creates a ripple effect throughout our community. One by one – family by family – Austin Free-Net is helping to level the playing field so that people committed to bettering their lives, and the lives of their families, are given the tools to do so.

By supporting Austin Free-Net you are investing in our city and in our families. You’re not only stopping the cycle of generational poverty, but you’re also investing in the future of our community, strengthening our economy and helping to keep Austin the thriving, wonderful place we all love.

For more information on ways you can help, please check out our Volunteer and Donations pages.