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The Prevalence of Digital Inequity

The pandemic has revealed that high-speed internet is an essential utility necessary for academic and professional success, as well as better quality of life, yet millions of Americans don’t have suitable access to a stable broadband connection. The Michelson 20MM Foundation seeks to cure this digital inequity, and we’ve partnered with the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) to help in getting more Americans connected—particularly those residing in underserved communities.

Michelson 20MM and PPIC Partner to Learn More

Backed by a Michelson Spark Grant, the Public Policy Institute of California will leverage California-representative data to examine how the digital divide has changed from spring 2020–when schools first closed–to spring 2021. They’ll also  present policy options to address lingering gaps with the recognition that digital learning is here to stay even after schools reopen.

The following policy questions will guide their investigation:

  • How have digital access gaps changed from 2020 to 2021?
    • Do students have more access to the internet and devices for distance learning?
    • Do more students of color, low-income students, and students without college-educated parents have reliable internet and device access for distance learning?
    • Is there a regional component to digital access inequality, e.g. inland/coastal, rural/urban?
  • In which areas (e.g., race, income, region) has the state made more progress?
  • Which areas (e.g., race, income, region) need improvement?
  • What policy tools are available to federal, state and local policymakers to close remaining digital access gaps?

PPIC will use the Census Household Pulse Survey (2020-2021) and the U.S. Department of Education’s NAEP 2021 School survey in their research. Data from the Household Pulse Survey will allow the tracking of internet/device access from 2020 to 2021, and the NAEP survey includes live instruction students received from their teachers during distance learning. 

Putting the Data into Action

Digital inequity is embedded in systemic and historical injustices that disproportionately impacts low-income communities and communities of color. Digital redlining is as real, and the effects of redlining continue to segregate communities of color by denying them access to opportunities.

To counter these injustices, Michelson 20MM and PPIC will share our learnings widely as we promote our conviction that digital equity is a 21st Century right. We aim to produce a publication of our findings and will ensure that everyone, especially policymakers, continue educating and informing themselves on this issue. Michelson 20MM is proud to welcome PPIC to our Spark Grant family and we’re excited to work with them to combat digital inequity. 

The Michelson 20MM Foundation is dedicated to supporting and investing in leading organizations, technologies, and initiatives that seek to transform learning and improve access to educational opportunities that lead to a meaningful career. Michelson 20MM was founded thanks to the generous support of renowned spinal surgeon and inventor Dr. Gary K. Michelson and his wife, Alya Michelson. Visit us at 20mm.org.