The Obama administration is looking for new ways to bring access to the digital divide

It's hard to imagine any American without an Internet connection when people are often seen with their faces buried in smartphones, tablets and laptops. PCs and mobile devices have certainly become ubiquitous over the years, but for different reasons, not everyone is connected.

According to The New York Times, around 20 percent of American adults who do not have Internet connectivity in any way, whether it's at home, work, school or by a mobile device. 

A report titled "Exploring the Digital Nation," which was conducted by the Commerce Department and is based in 2011 data, shows the differences in Internet adoption rates throughout the U.S. based on parameters such as age, race, location, education and income. 

The report stated that only slightly more than half of Americans ages 65 and older use the Internet. Conversely, about 75 percent of those under 65 use the Internet. 

As far as race goes, 76 percent of white American households have Internet connectivity compared to 57 percent of African-American households. 

Internet use is lowest in the South, where Mississippi, Alabama and Arkansas are the least connected.

Finally, the report shows that Internet use is more prevalent in households with an income of more than $50,000 a year and some college education. 

The NYT article states that many Americans are lost in the digital gap for several reasons, including high costs of broadband services, a lack of computer skills and disinterest in technology in general. 

The Obama administration worries that many Americans are being shut out of jobs, health care and education because of their lack of computer skills. Many job applications, health care applications and school work must be completed on computers, and the administration is looking to close that gap.

In 2009, President Barack Obama launched a $7 billion effort to expand broadband access to all Americans who lacked Internet connectivity. So far, it has proved pretty effective: about 50 percent of those infrastructure programs have been completed, and Internet availability has grown from 90 percent before the program to 98 percent today. 

Also, about $500 million of that $7 billion went toward helping people learn to use the Internet. It has brought half a million new household subscribers to Internet service.

While this has helped, the report claims that there needs to be more programs available for those who can't afford Internet service. Some already exist, such as Internet Essentials program, which offers broadband service for $10 a month to low-income families. It has been pretty effective with 220,000 households out of 2.6 million eligible homes in Comcast service areas signing up.

In 2011, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates partnered with former U.S. President Bill Clinton to bring Internet access to the digital divide. 

However, administration officials feel more progress could be made. 

Source: The New York Times

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