The digital divide is no longer a division between those with access to technology and those without it. A holistic explanation of the digital divide must consider an individual’s level of preparedness for understanding, utilizing, and working with technology.
So what is digital readiness? According to Pew Research, an operational definition includes several things:
- Digital skills — the skills necessary to initiate an online session, surf the internet, and share content online
- Trust — a person’s capacity to determine the trustworthiness of information online and safeguard personal information
- Use — the degree to which people use digital tools in the course of carrying out online tasks
In 2016, Pew researched the digital readiness gap (PDF) and found that 52 percent of Americans are hesitant to embrace new technology. Many are unaware of the full capacities of the internet. Some have concerns about trusting online information. A number feel little to no confidence in their computer skills. The study also found that those who are hesitant to use and learn new technologies typically have lower education and household income levels.
A study put out by the City of Seattle found that certain digital tasks are used less frequently than others. These include looking for a job online, searching for a home or rental online, accessing telehealth, and applying for benefits online (Medicare, VA, Social Security). Similarly, a second Pew study found that one in ten Americans have difficulty creating a resume online, emailing potential employees, and filling out online applications. These skills are essential to full participation in society, yet without proper training, the digitally unprepared are left behind.
Pew’s definition of digital readiness emphasizes the importance of creating a safe environment for learning — and trust is an essential component. To build a more digitally inclusive society, we need to ensure that everyone feels comfortable and confident in using digital skills and learning new ones.
We are always looking for enthusiastic individuals to join us in this work. Consider volunteering to expand digital readiness!