Some call it the information gap. Others call it information poverty or the digital divide. But it all refers to a systemic barrier that prevents all people to have equality in accessing broadband internet service.
Wait… What? No internet?
You bet. Throughout the world, and even in the most rural pockets of the United States and Canada, residents live in areas where broadband service providers willfully ignore their obligation to meet the needs of residents.
This article dives into a better explanation of the information gap and how this inequality causes harm to those people who do not have internet service.
No Information, No Knowledge!
The information gap rears its ugly head by delivering educational, social, and informational content to those with a good service provider while holding back those who go without.
We all know the adage about education being the key to happiness and a fulfilled life. But this widening rift between the digital have’s and have-not’s of the world compounds an existing problem by ignoring its very existence.
One independent journalist who lives in rural North Carolina studied this issue for months. This is what she says about it:
“Education is the key to a longer, happier, more prosperous life. So when people do not have access to a wide range of resources due to the information gap, it becomes a potential barrier to development.” -Deborah Tayloe, Bertie News
A Sketch of the Ugly Face of the Information Gap
Here’s a general illustration of two people and how the information gap impacts their lives. (Both are hypothetical examples that one can plug into almost any state or country and see the same results).
Justin and Paul are two teenage boys–both live in Colorado. But while Justin lives in a bustling, relatively affluent neighborhood in Colorado Springs, Paul lives in the plains of eastern Colorado, in a rural farming community.
Broadband companies feverishly laid out the infrastructure for internet services around Boulder’s most affluent areas and the downtown business district. These providers knew that the wealthy homeowners, hip renters in fancy in-town apartments, and businesses had sufficient means to pay the monthly subscription fee. So they catered to these people, those affluent folks like Justin’s family.
On the other hand, Paul’s family still does not have internet. Why? Broadband providers ignored less affluent neighborhoods where they wrongly perceived that people might not have disposable income or the desire for connectivity.
Because they live on a ranch in a rural community, Paul’s parents needed reliable internet for years. But despite all their phone calls begging service providers to run lines to their farm, they were stuck with unreliable, costly satellite service.
Eventually, Paul’s family found the high cost of satellite service to be prohibitive, and they disconnected it. Now, they use their cell phones to access online resources—and even that’s spotty on the farm!
The COVID-19 Pandemic Revealed the Information Gap at Its Fullest
Paul probably rued his lack of internet access before the pandemic—who doesn’t want to play online gaming? But he found plenty of other things to do instead.
But when the pandemic happened, Paul’s school shifted to remote learning. Paul needed to attend classes from his cell phone, and he often had a weak signal. He was a decent student, but he fell further and further behind.
On the other hand, Justin never missed a class during online learning. His lightning-fast internet access meant that he was able to continue to flourish in his studies regardless of the pandemic.
As the weeks turned into almost an entire school year, Paul continued to fall behind, sinking further and further with each passing week.
Sadly, Paul was not alone.
Poor children in urban centers and rural communities from Maine to Oregon (across the entire United States) suffered the same disparity caused by the information gap. The damage done to them, educationally, will wreak havoc on their lives for years to come.
Final Thoughts on Reducing the Information Gap
We must reduce or eliminate the information gap. It is a systemic barrier to success that laser-targets poor people in cities and rural people around the globe. Information is the key to power, and so everyone deserves fair access.