California is tweeting and Skype-ing at breakneck speed, moving too fast for many people and leaving them on the wrong side of what sociologists call a digital divide.
Last week, the county Board of Supervisors voted to support a statewide effort to close that gap, joining in a move to promote “Get Connected” — a public awareness campaign to close the digital divide by shrinking the numbers of those without access to the Internet.
The numbers are huge, according to the Board of Supervisors resolution. Fourteen million Californians do not have access to the Internet at home — roughly 38 percent of the population.
Supervisors did not have a breakdown for San Luis Obispo County.
Among minority groups and the poor statewide, the gap is even greater — only half of low-income people and half of Latinos have access, according to Sunne McPeak of the California Emerging Technology Fund.
The reasons are many, with cost topping the list. It’s not cheap to hook up and stay connected. There also are questions of infrastructure, especially in rural counties.
Hooking up to modern technology is the 21st century equivalent of last century’s three R’s — reading, ’riting and ’rithmetic — according to Joe Gross, who is working with Get Connected in Oakland.
The time is approaching when, if you don’t have digital literacy, you will have trouble simply functioning in the world, Gross said.
McPeak notes that people need functional digital literacy to apply for and perform a job, to apply for college, and to perform countless other functions in society.
Some older folks remain unconnected to the Internet, Gross added, because they fear the technology. That will change over time, he said.
“For kids growing up nowadays, it’s in their genes,” he said.
Today’s kids who don’t have access to the Internet at home can go to the library or use computers at school, McPeak said, but it’s not the same thing. Those children are at a disadvantage because they lack the “access to the world” that the Internet brings.
Closing the digital divide would benefit businesses as well, McPeak and Gross noted.
“Getting everyone connected is in everyone’s interest,” Gross said.
The county was short on specifics about how it intends to further the goal of narrowing the digital divide. Its resolution provides, for the moment, moral support. But McPeak said her organization will be working with county leaders to flesh out the program.
“Local leadership makes all the difference in the world,” she said.