Blacks and Hispanics could fall into an “unemployment abyss” unless something is done soon to address a gap in access to the internet and technology, according to a report by a top global bank.
“We went into the study expecting a gap, but the data has been far more glaring,” the report’s author wrote.
The September report is from Deutsche Bank and titled “America’s Racial Gap & Big Tech’s Closing Window.”
The report found that if there isn’t a big change in the next few years, 76% of Blacks and 62% of Hispanics won’t have the skills needed for 86% of U.S. jobs in 2045.
What’s holding Blacks and Hispanics back, and what could make the dire predictions in the report come true, is the lack of access to quality internet, technology and digital literacy.
Experts have long said that better access to broadband, computers and training translates into higher earning potential for adults and better results in schools for children.
But, the report finds, Blacks and Hispanics lag far behind their white peers when it comes to this access.
“Due to the structural and infrastructural inequities, Blacks and Hispanics are 10 years behind whites in levels of broadband access,” the report’s author wrote.
“In the era of tech innovation, a year can be a lifetime. The impact of being 10 years behind is a staggering manifestation of multiple aspects of economic and societal development.”
According to the report’s findings, about 30% of Blacks in the U.S. have access to quality broadband compared with about 60% of whites.
As for technology, the report finds 51% of Hispanics and 60% of Blacks own personal computers compared to 83% of whites.
Until this gap is bridged, Hispanics and Blacks will fall farther behind.
“If this digital racial gap is not addressed,” the report’s author wrote, “in one generation alone, digitization could render the country’s minorities into an unemployment abyss.”
Geri Chaffee, an education advocate for Hispanics in Sarasota and Manatee Counties and president of PDO.org, is well-versed on the issues of access and said the findings were a surprise even for her.
“I’ve never considered (the lack of access) as setting people behind so much in their ability to compete,” she said. “When I saw that, I went, ‘Oh my gosh. These people have actually quantified the effects of this inequity.’ That was a little overwhelming.”
The report does provide a long-term solution for the problem.
The idea is for a five-year program aimed at addressing the divide by targeting asset-limited households in Hispanic and Black communities.
The price tag is $15 billion, and Big Tech, the biggest technology companies, should have a role in paying for it since they are the ones that stand to benefit, according to the report.
“There are many programs that currently exist in principle which aim to address the digital racial divide, but one that is sustained, committed and backed by cash-rich companies is still conspicuous by its absence,” the report’s author wrote.
By leading the effort, the report’s author wrote, Big Tech has an opportunity to be seen as part of a solution rather than the problem and could help change “the national discourse on these companies.”
“What we envision is by no means a Robin Hood measure, but rather a nuanced approach that we believe weighs the risk-reward of such an initiative,” the author wrote.
The five-year program laid out in the report addresses the issue in three major steps:
• Offering broadband connections to unconnected Black and Hispanic households earning less than $30,000 a year.
• Providing basic computers to Black and Hispanic households earning less than $30,000 a year.
• Providing one year of technology training to all middle school and high school students from Black and Hispanic households earning less than $30,000 a year.
This program could reach nearly 6 million students over the five years, according to the report.
Chaffee said addressing the issue at the school level is the best possible solution.
“What other system, if not the education system, is there to bridge that digital divide?” she said. “Can you think of any other system that is in the best position to make an impact? Do we not have a moral obligation to address that? Some things are so obvious to me.”
This story comes from Aspirations Journalism, an initiative of The Patterson Foundation and the Sarasota Herald-Tribune to inform, inspire and engage the community to take action on issues related to digital access.
Website of source