Essential opportunities and services, from job applications to medical records to school assignments, are increasingly available primarily or exclusively online. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, “as the digital economy grows, digital inclusion represents economic inclusion.” Unfortunately, the patterns of digital exclusion tend to mirror and amplify other forms of social inequality: people with disabilities, those who have never attended college, and those with household incomes below $50,000 are among the least likely to have and use the internet at home (source: NTIA Digital Nation Data Explorer).
14% of all households in Denver are digitally disconnected – they either have no computer or have a computer but no internet access. That disconnection is unequally distributed across race and ethnicity: 22% of Black households and 21% of Latino households in Denver are digitally disconnected, compared to 9% of white households. (Source: US Census Bureau American Community Survey 2018 5-year estimates)
Geographically, the pockets of people who are digitally disconnected follow historical patterns of other inequities. Neighborhoods on the west and north of Denver tend to have higher concentrations of households without access to devices or internet services.
If, in the words of Mayor Hancock’s 2019 inauguration address, we seek “growth with equity and growth with justice” as a city, then Denver must step up and take active, coordinated, and strategic steps to extend full digital participation to every resident.