RS1: Chi-town

Study shows Chicago slow in bridging digital divide

The article “Study shows Chicago slow in bridging digital divide”, written by Marwa Eltagouri, explores the controversial topic of the “digital divide”. In Chicago, Illinois, there is still a there is still a large divide between people with internet access at home, and people without – on the South and West sides in particular. A study released by Karen Mossberger, who formerly headed the MacArthur Foundation and Partnership for a Connected Illinois, found that neighborhoods with high poverty rates, mainly consisting of people of African-American and Latino race, contain the lowest number of households with broadband access. Although many of these people are still able access the Internet through public computers or smartphones, these sources are limited. For example, people are able to access the Internet in public libraries, but they are limited to the hours that the libraries are open for. Eltagouri explains that because this segment of Chicago is “limited in their Internet use and are far less likely to use online courses, visit government websites, look up political information or access online job applications” (Eltagouri, 2016).

Steps in closing the digital gap were made between 2008 and 2013, when numerous neighborhoods on the South and West sides of Chicago experienced greater rates of expansion in at home broadband as well as an increase of public Internet use. In 2013, however, disadvantaged neighborhoods in Chicago continued to be way set back compared to the rest of the city in regard to having access to Internet at home. Elatagouri notes that “[I]n West Garfield Park, Burnside and Brighton Park, for instance, fewer than 45 percent of homes has broadband access, compared with the city’s average of 70 percent, according to the study” (Elatagouri, 2016).

One factor leading to the continued digital divide is likely affordability. People who use their phones as their primary source of Internet access don’t need to purchase another device, such as a computer. They also don’t have to pay for the home broadband, but instead, they only pay for their phone plans. However, most phone plans, especially cheap ones, have a limit to their data usage, limiting this group of people yet again. Low-income African-Americans are Latinos are the most common users of library Internet, which again leads to the conclusion that affordability is a major boundary for having home broadband connection.

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