RS1: Windy City

Study shows Chicago slow in bridging digital divide

Although the popularity and affordability of smartphones have “made it easier for Chicagoans to hop onto the internet (Eltagouri, para. 1),” the number of citizens that have actual broadband access at home creates a sizable digital divide. A study by the MacArthur Foundation and Partnership for a Connected Illinois shows that “African-American and Latino neighborhoods where poverty rates are high (Eltagouri, para. 2)” have the lowest rates of broadband usage on home computers and devices. Despite smartphones having the same access as computers, research states that users “are far less likely to use online courses, visit government websites, look up political information or access online job applications (Eltagouri para. 3).” The ease of entering information or reading on a computer with a larger screen contributes to this statistic. Efforts were made between 2008 and 2013, resulting in “higher rates of growth in home broadband and internet usage away from home, such as at libraries or community centers (Eltagouri, para. 8).” Despite these efforts, these impoverished neighborhoods, with 45% having broadband access, were far behind the city as a whole, with 70% having broadband access. The digital divide in Chicago has less to do with citizens not having the infrastructure for internet access in place (wires, cables, servicing, etc.) and more to do with affordability. The additional cost of a desktop, laptop, or tablet coupled with start-up and monthly access fees is too much for most of the families in these low-income neighborhoods. Karen Mossburger, a lead researcher on the study who formerly led the Department of Public Administration at the University of Illinois at Chicago, stated that because of these high costs, “the greatest users of library computers … tend to be low-income African-Americans and Latinos, further suggesting affordability is a barrier to home broadband access (Eltagouri, para. 11).”

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