Dec 3, 2018 - Technology

The many faces of the digital divide

We tend to think of a single "digital divide" separating the haves and have-nots in the online world, but inequality in the internet era takes on a vast number of forms.

Data: SurveyMonkey online poll conducted Nov. 27–29 among 3,308 U.S. adults. Total margin of error is ±2.5 percentage points; Poll methodology; Chart: Chris Canipe/Axios

Economics and geography play the biggest role, with those in cities enjoying far greater connectivity than those in rural areas. Similarly, people with more wealth tend to have more and faster connections. While those are the two biggest factors, there are also differences across race, education and age.

The bottom line: Not all online access is equal. People in rural areas often have significantly fewer and slower options than their city-dwelling counterparts.

  • And while many low-income households in cities have some broadband access, it's far more likely to be limited to a cellphone, which is less versatile for doing homework and applying for jobs.

The big picture: Over the weekend, Axios took a deep dive into the many digital divides in America, looking at the debate over how much access kids should have to cellphones, iOS vs. Android, the impact of 5G and other issues.There's lots to dig into, but here are a couple of points that stand out to me...

  1. For all the talk about Silicon Valley executives keeping their kids away from smartphones, most of the country sees early access to technology as a key means of gaining the skills needed for the jobs of the future.
  2. Speaking of smartphones, those at the high end of the economic ladder have their choice of iPhone or Android, while those who can't afford several hundred dollars for their phone are likely to have only Android options. That means they are likely to see more ads and have less built-in privacy protection.

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