The internet is a near ubiquitous aspect of modern life — making it easy to take for granted all the skills, tools, opportunities, and benefits that it provides. In celebration of CTN’s 14 years of digital inclusion work, we’ve compiled 14 ways that internet access and digital skills can improve someone’s quality of life.
- Providing better access to health information and options. Telemedicine can offer convenient, flexible, and more affordable care options to millions of Americans — especially those who lack accessible and quality healthcare in their region or need to stay at home due to health concerns or disabilities. While the benefits of this online tool are clear, they often go underutilized by the people who need it most due to lack of internet access.
- Making it easier to communicate with friends and family. From video call platforms to social media outlets, friends and family can connect more easily than ever before. For people who are not physically located near their community or have family members in other countries, the internet provides a bridge of connection.
- Offering a wealth of online activities and experiences to enjoy remotely. For older adults or people who might have difficulty leaving the house, the digital world is a gateway to exploration and enjoyment. One of CTN’s learners, Brenda Joyce, uses her tablet and digital skills to join virtual events, like collaging classes and the Frick Museum’s Cocktails with a Curator.
- Promoting workforce development skills. A report by Burning Glass Technologies found that more than 8 in 10 middle-skill jobs require digital skills. With access to the internet and the knowledge to use it, people can work towards higher-paying jobs, develop new skills, and better participate in a digital workforce.
- Increasing access to social services and benefits. There are a lot of helpful resources available that people might not know about or access if they’re not online. Benefits and social services — like the Affordable Connectivity Program — typically have portals, streamlined applications, and qualification info online.
- Decreasing isolation and loneliness. According to our partner Metta Fund, 7% of older adults spend one hour or less socializing with friends or family in one week. This is especially troubling when loneliness is linked to serious mental and physical health conditions.
- Empowering people with a sense of agency. For Luis, one of CTN’s Home Connect learners, the internet prompted a shift in his daily life. He uses his device to listen to music, audiobooks, and religious services. He was able to update his resume and apply for jobs. He even assisted others in getting registered online for vaccine appointments! With the tools of technology, older adults like Luis can independently pursue opportunities and interests online.
- Improving education and learning opportunities. The pandemic revealed just how essential internet access is for k-12 students, and its importance will not fade in the coming years. In a 2019 Gallup survey, an overwhelming majority of teachers (85%), principals (96%), and administrators (96%) favored increased use of digital learning tools.
- Participating in democracy and civic duties. According to the Center for American Progress, those who register to vote online are more likely to participate in elections. Not only does the internet make it easier and more accessible to register to vote, but it also helps provide thorough information on candidates and upcoming elections.
- Searching and applying for jobs. The internet is now essential for finding new job opportunities, writing resumes, and submitting applications. Before getting connected to our Sunnyvale program, Laurie Rehaney was struggling to get back on her feet. When she received a Chromebook and training, she was able to find a full-time position working in home care!
- Maintaining curiosity, finding new interests, and pursuing hobbies. The highly connected nature of the web lends itself to discovery. One of our Texas-based learners, Patricia Blaine, uses her tablet to take virtual piano lessons. She was excited to discover how easy it is to record and upload videos to YouTube and is hoping to share her music with others.
- Improving the economy for everyone. A Deloitte study found that a 10% increase in broadband access in 2014 would have resulted in more than 875,000 additional U.S. jobs and $186 billion more in economic output in 2019. Not only is access to the internet helpful for individuals’ economic well-being, but it is also essential for growing our digital economy.
- Strengthening communities and social ties. The internet helps people organize, collaborate, and share information with large numbers of people. For our partner Calle 24 — the leading nonprofit of San Francisco’s Latino Cultural District — lacking the internet puts older businesses at a disadvantage when competing with new, trendy spots. With social media and emails, the Latino Cultural District can distribute information about upcoming events to a wider audience while better engaging with the established community.
- Creating a better world. The internet enables us to collaborate with people across the globe. This means we can highlight injustices, better understand needs, and connect with people we may have never otherwise met. Over the past few years, optimism about the capacity of digital tools to help solve the world’s most pressing challenges has risen 11 percentage points (to 55%).
While the benefits of technology are clear, accessing them is still a challenge for millions of Americans. This means we must work to build an equitable and inclusive internet that improves the lives of all people — regardless of their age, income level, or primary language. Want to help us expand digital equity and inclusion? Check out our volunteer and partner opportunities to get involved!