An Examination of the Growing Digital Divide and Some Solutions to the Problem

As technology continues to advance, those without access to it are increasingly being left behind. What can we do to fix this problem?


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Due to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, workers and students alike have had to use technology for every day activities, more than ever before.

For many of us, our phones are the most precious things we own. We carry them everywhere, whether we’re on the train or eating dinner. We may even use them to pay for the dinner through an online payment. With them, groceries can be delivered to our doorstep in less than an hour and meetings can occur from across the Pacific Ocean. With technology these days, there’s no need for the manual labor of driving to a grocery store or setting up an in-person appointment. Technology is used everywhere, every day. Readers are abandoning traditional newspaper prints for digital articles, and with the recent Coronavirus pandemic, students needed to learn from behind a screen for much of the 2020-2021 academic yearMost of our everyday lives revolve around technology. 

The influence of technology on our lives allows space for learning, knowledge, opportunities, and ideas — many of which we often take for granted. Information can easily be found through the click of a button through a Google search, while it might take hours to find the right page of a book in the library. The job application process is condensed to just submitting a form on a website, rather than hunting down a flyer on the street and going back and forth in person with the potential employer. The web is a world-wide library, available 24 hours every day, that gets you results within 1 second of searching. The world is truly your oyster when you are given an ocean full of knowledge at your fingertips.

Much of the globe is active online every second of every day. However, this does not dismiss the fact that everyone is not able to have access to some sort of technological device. We tend to overlook how many people actually own enough electronic devices in order to sustain themselves.

This digital divide — the division between those that have access to technology and those that do not — is present everywhere around us. In New York City, for example,  15% of New Yorkers do not have access to high-speed internet and 24.2% do not own a computer. Even the richest city in the world is not immune to the digital divide.

In America alone, there are thousands struggling with their every day lives because of no access to enough technological devices. About 5% of the U.S. population, representing approximately 7.1 million people, are underbanked, meaning that they do not own either a checking or savings account in a bank. Because of financial issues and minimal access to the required devices, they are unable to conduct online payments.

Socioeconomic Status

Many cannot afford to have technology or a working internet. About 63% living in households that earn more than $100,000 a year reported having a home broadband service, a smartphone, a desktop or laptop, and tablet. Compare this statistic with those in lower income brackets, earning less than $30,000 per year, where only 23% have access to all of these devices. Those of higher status and wealth have access to all sorts of technological devices while those in the lower socioeconomic brackets do not share this luxury. This gives a large disadvantage to them, where our world is almost completely digital. Even as many restaurants and stores go digital, those without technology or online payment methods are stuck with no ability to transact with them.

During the COVID-19 Pandemic

The Digital Divide gap was always an issue that was gradually being improved upon. However, when the COVID-19 pandemic arrived, that entire progress experienced a major setback. Schools had to rely on technology in order to continue teaching students from home. Institutional workers somehow had to adjust to doing all their work online rather than in person. Restaurants and shops were forced to shut down due to quarantine mandates. The American economy fell drastically and struggled to lift itself up again. Technology was crucial in sustaining with our world during this time.

Technology was essential for normal day-to-day activities; 59% of parents with lower incomes reported having technological issues with their children attending remote learning. Many had to resort to using only their smartphones for schoolwork, which tends to be less effective compared to having access to a computer or a laptop.

Influence on Education

Kevin Fu ’25 said, “I think that having no technology at all would put me at a massive disadvantage in the world today, because the majority of communication is now done through technology and texting. So I feel that technology plays a vital role in forming and maintaining connections and enabling me to live my life.”

In March 2020, the Coronavirus pandemic brought the American education system to a standstill. Moving to a system of remote learning in very little time was difficult; students and teachers took time to adapt to a new way of learning. Jessica Chen ’24 started her ninth grade year of high school remotely, and said, “It was difficult to maintain conversations and create relationships with teachers and classmates. The online barrier kept me from others, and coming back in-person was more of an adjustment.” Remote learning has its benefits, such as giving students and teachers more time to prioritize their mental and physical health, and there was no need to commute to school every day. However, it also harmed student’s academic performance and mental health. Learning from behind a screen is a different experience from learning in-person; the remote learning process is different and less effective. Students have more distractions when they’re at home and can always choose to go on their phone over paying attention to their history lessons. At first, the pandemic also limited social interaction because of quarantines. People start talking to each other less, and the nice, relaxing experience at home became lonely and tiring.

Katelyn Lin ’25 said, “Technology has given me great advantages, but also disadvantages at the same time. I am able to access information right at any time, but that makes it just as easy for me to read misinformation from unreliable sources. The web is a curse as much as it is a blessing.” Misinformation online is often easily disguised as coming from credible sources. Users are also naive as to whether or not anything posted online today is telling the truth rather than spewing lies.

The digital divide extends much further than in our country alone. The effects of limited technology in developing countries are well documented. There are factors that contribute to the limited access to technology, but also effects because of limited access. About 40% of out-of-school children throughout the globe in 2015 lived in the least developed countries. Little access to technology also limits the potential of millions’ education. Where technology is relied on for education, especially during the Coronavirus pandemic, those without it are struggling to keep up. The lack of both access to education and technology affects nations’ literacy rates and gives children fewer opportunities to effectively learn in our modern world. To this day, about 35% of people living in the least developed countries struggle in literacy, a majority of them being women. Those living in the least developed countries have a large setback and a disadvantage compared to those living in other developed countries.


Statistically, women have been found to use technology less compared to their male counterparts. Specifically in developing countries, women have been found to make up 25% or less of Internet users in Africa, 22% in Asia, 38% in Latin America, and 6% in the Middle East. Lack of access to education is a reason for the lack of digital knowledge for women. Within developing countries, about 60% of women are unemployed and have almost no educational opportunities. Education has been shown to be a factor in technological usage, where educated women are tend to use technology as much as men. Traditional roles in developing countries have kept women restricted from any sort of education, preventing more and more women from active use of technology. 

In an experiment surveying multiple students across 5 countries (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, and Nepal) during the Covid-19 pandemic, questions were asked about the type of technology that was accessible to them and how fast was their internet. Overall, more men had access to a technological device and stated that they had fast internet connection compared to the women. 22.3% of the male students stated that their internet connectivity was high, 38.7% as low, and 29.3% as neither high nor low, also with 9.62% stating their internet was very low. However, 17.5% stated that their internet connectivity was high, 30.9% as low quality, 41.12% as  neither, and 10.46% with very low quality internet. Even though the majority of the men lived in rural areas and the the women in urban areas, women tended to have higher percentages of limited access to the internet and technological devices. 3.5% of male students claimed to have no devices whatsoever, compared to 6.8 female students.

Bridging the Gap

The digital divide has been an evident issue ever since the innovation of modern day technology. The many digital divides that are present throughout the world continue to be addressed and are gradually being resolved. There have been many programs established with the core mission to provide women, specifically of low-income and low education, with an opportunity to learn technology and all of its great benefits, such as the Women and the Web Program. Many people are volunteering and sharing their knowledge in technology to those that don’t. 

A digital divide is an issue across the globe. However, even our own knowledge of technology as the younger generation can help those that don’t share the same use for and love of technology. As many people have grown up with technology, we have the ability to teach the elderly how to use technological devices for simple day-to-day activities, such as sending e-mails and backing up new photos taken. We might not have the power to fix an entire global issue in one sitting, but we certainly are able to help our neighbors across the street who want to  have a conversation with their children from across the Pacific Ocean. You never know the advantages of technology until you see a reality without it.

This digital divide — the division between those that have access to technology and those that do not — is present everywhere around us. In New York City, for example,  15% of New Yorkers do not have access to high-speed internet and 24.2% do not own a computer. Even the richest city in the world is not immune to the digital divide.