The digital divide is the division between those who have the internet at home and those who do not. As the internet has become more popular over the years, this isn’t as big of a problem as it used to be, but it still is an issue. Libraries have an important role in the digital divide by providing free access to the internet.
As of 2010, the majority of people in the United States of America access the internet at home. Only a third of people without the internet at home access it at other places. It’s surprising that 20% of the population does not use the internet at all. Those people are at a disadvantage because more and more necessary functions such as searching and applying for jobs are performed on the internet (Plumb, 2007).
Those who use the internet at places other than their homes do not get the same experience with the internet as those who do use it at home. People do not have unlimited time to spend on the internet when not using it at home, so they probably don’t explore as many areas on the internet as those with it at home (Kinney, 2010). Overall, there are a fair amount of people who could benefit from access or better access to the internet.
There are various characteristics that are common among people who don’t have access to the internet at home, but one of the major factors that divides those who have the internet and those who don’t is income. The graph depicts the percentage of people who have access at home, use the internet at places other than home, and those who don’t use the internet based on various income levels. It is obvious how as the income level increases so does use and access to the internet.
Another characteristic which is useful for predicting use of the internet is education. Having a college education is indicates that internet use especially in the home is likely. This is strongly correlated with income because an education leads to higher paying jobs.
The internet is accessed from a variety of places. Even those with access at home will use the internet elsewhere. People without the internet at home or at work, which are the two most common places to access the internet, have limited options for internet use. A growing number of people use mobile devices for the internet, but that is not always as reliable and efficient depending on the connection. Many places provide free WIFI, but most of the do not have computers for people to use. Others may use the internet at other people’s houses if possible.
The places people are least likely to use the internet are schools and libraries. However, libraries are important in terms of internet access for those who do need it. They provide free access to computers and the internet. Another benefit for people using the internet at the library is that they can get assistance if they need help using it (Kinney, 2010). It may seem like libraries play a small role in the digital divide, but the services the library provides are valued by those who need them. It should be the duty of the community via the library to aid those in need because the knowledge the internet can provide benefits everyone.
Kinney, B. (2010). The internet, public libraries, and the digital divide. Public Library Quarterly, 29(2), 104-161. doi:10.1080/01616841003779718
Plumb, T. K. (2007). Challenges and opportunities for electronic resources (ER) librarians in facing down the digital divide. Collection Management, 32(3/4), 327-349. doi:10.1300/J105v32n03_06