The Digital Divide

College of Behavioral and Social Sciences

For anyone who regularly uses the internet for school, work and entertainment, it’s hard to imagine, but many of our neighbors and some of our students live in the gap known as the digital divide. The digital divide, or the fact that a substantial percentage of people are limited in their use of the internet and other communication technology by social factors, has been recognized as a burgeoning issue since 2000. People experiencing poverty, the elderly, and people in rural areas can all fall into the digital divide. As technology accelerates, people in the digital divide are disproportionately affected by the speed at which technology changes.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, with many people working from home, schools moving to remote instruction, and communications and assistance related to the pandemic moving online, people living in the digital divide are having a difficult time. Recent surveys show that 4.4 million households in America do not have regular access to the internet and in homes where the internet is always available, over 23 million families depend on devices from their child’s school district (

In rural southeast Georgia, where the poverty rate is upwards of 35% (, many families cannot afford the cost of broadband internet, and use smartphones or tablets to access the internet. These solutions are often budgeted for by purchasing minutes per month and cannot accommodate the time needed to participate in virtual education. Families in this situation depend on public wi-fi, but with schools closing and libraries maintaining limited hours due to the pandemic, even this solution is not enough.

In southeast Georgia, many of our neighbors live in the digital divide and expanding access to technology and information has become especially relevant during the pandemic. Projects that expand access will have lasting positive outcomes for children and families in our area.

— Heidi M. Altman, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Anthropology