With the national economy in the midst of a gradual turnaround, millions of Americans are searching job boards, posting resumes online and making connections on LinkedIn to find employment. But what about those who aren’t connected to the Internet?
You may be out of luck. Today, 80 percent of Fortune 500 companies only accept job applications online, and that trend will continue to grow. Not only is the Internet the best place to find employment but knowing how to navigate around the web and use email are critical skills in today’s information-rich economy.
Besides finding a job, the Internet is a must-have for students who want to succeed. Besides using the web for exploring cultures and seeking tips on math problems, researching and applying for colleges is impractical without an Internet connection.
While broadband Internet connections can be found in almost every community, some consumers are still reluctant to get connected.
The number of Americans using the Internet has rapidly increased since high-speed broadband connections became the norm more than a decade ago, but 15 percent of adults still are not connected, according to recent research by the Pew Internet & American Life Project. These numbers reflect one of the Internet’s persistent ironies. Despite the fact that consumers have generally adopted Internet technology faster than any other communications technology in history, there remain discrete pockets in America where the Internet revolution has been slow to arrive. For example, as the Pew data also shows, while home broadband adoption rates for families with a household income of $75,000 or higher are 88 percent, that rate falls to 54 percent for households with an income of $30,000 or less.
According to Pew, non-adopters cite a variety of factors when explaining why they haven’t yet connected. Interestingly, the most frequent factor referenced is a feeling that the Internet is not important or relevant to their daily lives. Others without broadband say they lack the digital literacy skills or are concerned about acquiring the hardware needed to get online. There are also some that don’t own a computer or say the price of Internet service is too expensive.
To help close this digital divide, cable companies in hundreds of communities across the nation are tackling the Internet adoption challenge head on. Through partnerships with local organizations that can provide access to low-cost computers and digital skills training, cable companies are offering qualifying low-income families broadband Internet service for $9.95 monthly plus free equipment.
So far, over 250,000 low-income families have been connected as a result of these programs. That’s only part of the way to getting all Americans online but the experience shows that efforts which directly address Internet adoption barriers can be successful.