Sep 10, 2020 - Technology

Coronavirus may preview an acceleration of the digital divide

Reproduced from NTIA; Chart: Axios Visuals
Reproduced from NTIA; Chart: Axios Visuals

The coronavirus crisis may offer a grim preview of further marginalization for Americans of color in the coming decades, a new Deutsche Bank report concludes.

The big picture: "COVID is a picture of what the world might look like in the future as it gets more digitized," Apjit Walia, a technology strategist with Deutsche Bank, told Axios. His report finds that Black and Hispanic Americans are particularly vulnerable to being left behind as the workforce further digitizes and inequality rises.

By the numbers: 76% of Black people and 62% of Hispanic people in the U.S. could be shut out or underprepared for 86% of jobs in the country by 2045, according to the report. The pandemic has already offered a model for how that divide might play out.

  • Black people had to venture out of their homes 135% more than white people in April compared to pre-COVID, Deutsche Bank found, per geolocation data gathered in majority Black and majority white neighborhoods in Chicago, New York and Los Angeles.
  • "We believe this is an accurate representation of the state of the racial digital divide in the country," write Walia and report co-author Sai Ravindran. "Clearly, poor access to Tech connectivity & work-from-home jobs rendered minorities with few choices but to venture out of home to make a living, even with peril to their lives."

Black and Hispanic people are a decade behind white people in the U.S. when it comes to levels of broadband access in the home, according to data Deutsche Bank highlights from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

What's next: Big Tech firms could step in to help bridge the digital divide, such as by offering job training and funding connectivity initiatives, Walia said.

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