RS 1: Chicago

Study Shows Chicago Slow in Bridging Digital Divide

Chicago, Illinois is one of the country’s largest, most diverse cities. In an article titled Study Shows Chicago Slow in Bridging Digital Divide, Chicago Tribune reporter Marwa Eltagouri outlines the problems that come with the digital divide in one of America’s most populous cities. According to Karen Mossberger – an Arizona State University professor and researcher on the study – Chicago is “the only major city to have internet usage data available on a neighborhood level.” Eltagouri states how such detailed information on the population can be extremely helpful for studying the effects of the digital divide in neighborhoods. “In 2013, broadband adoption on home computers and devices was lowest in neighborhoods such as West Garfield Park, Burnside, and Brighton Park,” with “fewer than 45 percent of homes [having] broadband access.” These Chicago neighborhoods stated in the article – West Garfield Park, Burnside, and Brighton Park – are primarily African-American and Latino neighborhoods. Further, the data provided on these neighborhoods is consistent with nationwide averages (as of 2013) as “just 55 percent of Latinos [and] 66 percent of blacks [have adopted broadband].” These statistics on minority neighborhoods vary drastically from Chicago’s “[city] average of 70 percent” and “81 percent of whites” connected to the internet. Eltagouri explains how “between 2008 and 2013, several [disadvantaged] neighborhoods… ha[d] made strides in bridging the ‘digital divide’.” However, the pace at which impoverished neighborhoods have increased widespread internet access has slowed in recent years, especially until the time the article was written, in April 2016. Many people in pooper neighborhoods have ameliorated their disconnection from the internet by using smartphones, which could be one reason for the surprising divide in broadband internet access. As “affordability” is largely a reason for the polarized results of internet accessibility, Mossberger states that “[people] accessing the Internet through their phones don’t have to buy a separate device” such as a laptop or home computer, creating no need to “[pay] an additional bill for broadband internet.” Eltagouri uses this idea to attempt to justify why only “45 perfect of homes had broadband access” in lower-income neighborhoods. The Tribune states another problem with this though, as some families would be “[limited] to their public library hours and the basic Internet searches they’re able to perform on their phones.”

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