Analysis by Common Sense Media and the Boston Consulting Group examines how closing the digital divide would advance innovation and improve the quality of essential services through key institutions
SAN FRANCISCO, December 8, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — A new report released today by Common Sense Media and Boston Consulting Group shows that making the internet faster, more affordable and more available will improve essential services for everyone, not just the underconnected. . The report, “Closing the digital divide benefits everyone, not just the unconnected“, describes how services essential to the well-being of families – in the areas of education, health care, government and employment – can be significantly improved if institutions and communities both have access equal to high-speed internet. This report is the fourth published by Common Sense Media and Boston Consulting Group since 2020 that focuses on bridging the digital divide.
While essential institutions may have the capacity to make full use of online technologies, doing so without first bridging the digital divide would deprive communities that could benefit most from access to these essential services. Thanks to an unprecedented amount of new federal funding, states now have the resources they need to close the digital divide and ensure equitable access to better and more efficient services in key sectors. Last year, Congress pledged more than $80 billion for broadband through two major federal laws: the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA).
The report found that when communities had equitable access to faster and affordable internet, it had a huge impact on key institutions providing essential services in the following ways:
Education: Students and their caregivers have greater access to teachers, and educators can strategically use edtech tools to improve student outcomes.
Health care: There are better patient outcomes with better access to telemedicine, and doctors can see more patients in remote areas by expanding virtual service.
Government services: Households can use benefit programs more easily, and governments can improve the effectiveness of their services through mass communication and awareness raising.
Use: Job seekers have more opportunities and employers can find better candidates remotely.
“Much has been said about the digital divide and its profound impact on the individual, but the divide also exists at the institutional level,” said Amina Fazlallah, Senior Director of Equity Policy at Common Sense Media. “Equitable access to the internet is needed to unlock the modernization of essential public services, and billions of dollars in new broadband and digital funding could unlock innovation within these institutions for the benefit of all.”
The report highlights various case studies from across the country to show how institutions are benefiting from bridging the digital divide. The Washoe County School District used the Emergency Connectivity Fund to establish near-universal connectivity among its students, which unlocked a variety of online educational tools for schools. UNC Chapel Hill School of Medicine used grants to roll out a psychiatric virtual care program that provided appointments for thousands of vulnerable patients.
“States are poised to receive a substantial influx of funds that have the potential to reshape connectivity in our country, which would have monumental impacts on all of society,” said Kelsey Clark, Managing Director and Partner and Co-Head of Public Sector Broadband at BCG. “To prepare for federal funds, state leaders must be proactive in understanding who is not having access and why, engage local institutions in co-developing solutions, tap into multiple sources of funding across the public and private sectors. and strengthen their own ability to deploy funds in a way that maximizes the impact of their investment.”
According to the report, leveraging ARPA and IIJA funds will benefit everyone – consumers, communities and the private sector – but how the funds are used will depend on key decisions by state broadband leaders. The report provides tactical advice on how to think about connectivity and best practices to get the most out of funds available for these essential services.
Select Recommendations for State Broadband Leaders
Work closely with institutions providing essential services, and all relevant stakeholders, to factor their current and future broadband needs into the planning required for the two major broadband infrastructure programs, the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment Program (BEAD) and the Digital Equity Act (NARCOTICS BRIGADE).
Use digital inclusion programs to help cement the success of investments in broadband infrastructure deployment, particularly by investing in long-term Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) awareness and enrollment, and in digital inclusion programs.
Our previous research with BCG explored the depths of the K-12 digital divide and became an instrument for the leaders who ultimately secured the IIJA’s passage.
Read the full report here.
About Common Sense Media
Common Sense is the nation’s leading nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of children and families by providing the trusted information, education and independent voice they need to thrive in the 21st century. Learn more about commonsense.org.
Jason MaymonVice President of Communications
Telephone: (347) 931-1633
Lorena Taboasmedia relations manager
Telephone: (786) 521-4215
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SOURCE Common Sense Media
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