When you hear digital divide, what comes to mind?
The changes within the digital landscape have led to the expanded use of technology to learn, inform, and comprehend the information and processes presented to us. Stanford University refers to the digital divide as a "growing gap between the underprivileged members of the society especially the poor, elderly, and the handicapped portion of the population and the wealthy members living in suburban and urban areas" (Stanford University, n.d.). With the onslaught of Covid-19, the disparities became much more apparent amongst individuals, nonprofits, and businesses who couldn't make the transition into the digital world. In this day and age, everything is online, making it increasingly difficult for business owners lacking online acumen or presence to engage their followers and enhance the customer experience. The experience is not a unique one, however, with a vast majority of Americans having little to no access to digital media or the internet. There exists a need and a gap to fill which organizations like EveryoneON and Connect313 are working to close. However, there are inherent challenges in engaging newer audiences, "businesses aren’t entirely aware of the financial incentives that come with getting more people online" (Paulas, 2017), and as people unfamiliar with the platforms are hesitant to utilize digital media, that the gap becomes increasingly more present.
What can we do?
For community leaders and changemakers, it is rare we see a problem and not be compelled to take action. But many struggle with understanding what steps can be taken to tackle such a huge problem. Here are some recommended strategies (Patel, n.d.) compiled from interviews conducted among those impacted by the divide:
Leverage volunteer support
Focus on manageable and sustainable growth
Tailor services to the individual needs of each community.
The first focuses on bringing on a slew of talented individuals to leverage the awesome work the nonprofit is doing whether that's answering your call, email, or marketing to your business. Second, actively creating small but tangible goals to achieve in the long term. This is especially helpful if the organization is growing too quickly and requires a workaround to achieve growth. Lastly, nonprofit organizations should tailor what they offer to the communities they serve whether they are minorities, low-income, homeless, or a combination of all three or more factors.
Nonprofit organizations stand a chance to make a change whether that's big or small. Why not start with bridging the digital divide?
Make sure to check out Connect313 if you live in the Michigan area, this is one of many organizations helping bridge the divide.
Link for Connect313: https://connect313.org/
Close the Gap Foundation. (n.d.). Digital Divide. Close the Gap Foundation. Retrieved July 28, 2021, from https://www.closethegapfoundation.org/glossary/digital-divide
Cyr, S. (2017, November 6). Bridging the Digital Divide: One Organization at a Time | Philanthropy Journal | NC State University. https://pj.news.chass.ncsu.edu/2017/11/06/bridging-the-digital-divide-one-organization-at-a-time/
Paulas, R. (n.d.). How Non-Profits Help Close the Digital Divide. Pacific Standard. Retrieved July 28, 2021, from https://psmag.com/news/how-non-profits-help-close-the-digital-divide
Patel, A. (2021, April 5). The Role of Non-Profit Organizations in Bridging the Digital Divide. Medium. https://insights.theberkeleygroup.org/the-role-of-non-profit-organizations-in-bridging-the-digital-divide-1d27358cdf1
Stanford Univerisity. (n.d.). The Digital Divide [Education]. CS. Standford. https://cs.stanford.edu/people/eroberts/cs181/projects/digital-divide/start.html