by K.J. Bagchi
The evolution of technology has been a boon in our daily lives. Through these innovations, we pay our bills, check emails, and stay connected to our friends and family. The basis for all these actions depends on two circumstances: having access to a capable device and connecting that device to the Internet. During an era where we can barely keep up with the pace of technological advances, it may be hard to imagine that there are many of us who cannot afford either of those circumstances. The consequences of not having digital access is devastating, leaving students with the inability to perform school work and adults without expedient access to much needed services.
Broadly speaking, the strongest predictors of not having digital access are less educational attainment, lower income levels, and higher rates of Limited English proficiency (LEP). The 2015 American Community Survey reports that only 47.9% of households with less than a high school degree have a broadband subscription. This is compared to the 91% of households with a bachelor’s degree that have broadband access.
At first glance, most studies and anecdotal accounts of the Asian American community seem to illustrate a community with high digital access and literacy. The 2015 American Community Survey (ACS) reports that about 90% of Asian American households had a broadband subscription.
Yet, disaggregating data from the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community shows a much more complicated situation.
The 2016 ACS estimates show multiple AAPI subgroups have a considerable percentage of households with less than a high school degree. Disaggregated data also reveals many AAPI subgroups with lower income levels as well as high LEP rates. These factors project a lack of digital access for a substantial proportion of the AAPI community.
But what accounts for this disconnect between projections and what studies about digital access report? Are these studies and surveys oversampling English-speaking and middle-class Asian American households? Is our community an anomaly when discussing the predictive factors of the digital divide?
These are a few questions that Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC seeks to answer when working to ensure that no one in our community is left behind. In our time, closing the digital gap is one of the most important civil rights issues to engage. Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC remains committed to promoting universal access and reduce barriers to critical technology and services for Asian Americans and other underserved communities.
Just as fair housing, employment, and consumer protection laws are civil rights issues, Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC recognizes that access to technology is critical to empowering our communities and advancing our future.
Koustubh “K.J.” Bagchi is a Senior Staff Attorney for Telecommunications, Technology, and Media