Feds, companies work to close digital divide


However, the 2011 survey reveals that as adoption has grown and as the U.S. economy struggles, cost concerns are increasing in importance. Also, as broadband has grown and become integrated into daily life, and as consumers become more tech-savvy, the reasons given for not adopting have become more diverse.

Help’s on the way

Private and public companies and organizations are making a concerted effort to bridge the digital divide.

Comcast recently began rolling out its Internet Essentials program, which offers a low-priced bundle of a computer and $9.95-per-month broadband service to households with children eligible for free or reduced-price lunch.

Connected Nation says its survey findings could help policy makers determine which populations might be more responsive to adoption programs focused on cost (like Internet Essentials) or programs focused on digital literacy and skill development, such as Connected Nation’s Every Citizen Online program in Ohio.

Another major effort comes from Microsoft. The initiative, announced at the Clinton Global Initiative’s annual meeting in September, is a three-year program to help ensure that 1 million students from low-income families in the United States receive the benefits of software, hardware, and discounted broadband service.

The program is part of Microsoft’s global Shape the Future Program, which has provided technology and access to more than 10 million students around the world over the past five years.

The program will bring together Microsoft staff and state and city nonprofit and private organizations, including the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship, and One Economy.

These partnerships will develop and “accelerate reduced-cost programs and policies that will include the following: Windows-based PCs optimized for students, broadband access, Microsoft education software, and job skills training,” said Microsoft in a statement.

Microsoft said it launched the program in part because of the lower graduations rates of students without access to broadband service.

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