To Close the Digital Divide, Fund Community Organizations

LA Wave

By Cesar Zaldivar-Motts | March 10, 2017

In 2007, my wife Emma Hernandez and I finished graduate degrees at University of Kansas and decided to head home and open a bilingual computer training and digital literacy center in Southeast Los Angeles.

The idea was simple: connect the thousands of people offline to the Internet and make sure they have access to affordable computers and broadband, so they won’t be further disadvantaged from education and job opportunities.

Over the years, I have seen the effects of this approach. The Southeast Community Development Corporation has educated more than 4,000 children and adults in digital literacy skills, connected 2,500 people to broadband at home, sold 500 affordable and often refurbished computers and established 12 computer centers throughout Los Angeles.

We have helped kids do their homework, adults get jobs and seniors connect to health services. We are now also focused on teaching advanced computer skills and providing training in robotics, programming, refurbishment and e-waste.

Some have argued that our work should be handled by public libraries or schools. But there are just too many people in our area — many of whom are low-income and Spanish speaking — who are not well served by those institutions due to underfunding. Indeed, a 2016 California broadband survey conducted by the Field Poll found that among the state’s Spanish-speaking Latinos, only 39 percent connect to the Internet through a home-computing device. Those folks may be smartphone literate, but when it comes to higher Internet skills they are being left behind.

Some examples: Recently, a family of four walked through our doors very distressed. The mother and father had been informed by the landlord of their Section 8 housing that their apartment building was being converted and they had 60 days to move out.

The landlord gave them a web address, which he said contained apartment listings, but the couple didn’t have a computer or Internet at home and they didn’t know how to search online. Our technology center staff taught them to search listings and they discovered they had more housing options than they previously thought, giving them a greater sense of control over their lives.

Or take the example of a factory worker in his late 50s who walked through our doors in need of basic computer help. He has landed a job with a local manufacturing company and the last step of the application was beyond him: filling out an online form — something he had never done. We set him up with a computer and walked him through the process. We also showed him websites that listed similar jobs, should he want to consider other opportunities. His eyes were opened to new possibilities.

Or take the example of a mother of four, who stumbled upon the Southeast Community Development Corporation Technology Center after spending $6 printing out her child’s homework at Kinkos, a fee that was bad for her budget. We gave her son unlimited free time to finish his school assignment and charged his mother 10 cents to print out his report. She now brings all of her children to our technology center, so they can properly finish and submit their homework.

Many people, including some of our elected officials, do not know that half of low-income, urban Californians are disconnected from the Internet, do not have computers at home and lack basic digital literacy skills. Even fewer understand the crucial role community-based organizations play to close the digital divide.

But if they want to ensure educational and economic opportunities for all, they must understand this reality. And then they must put power to action and support the Internet For All Now Act.

AB 1665, which has been introduced to the Legislature by Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia with the support of 11 other legislators, largely calls for support of broadband infrastructure in California’s rural and remote areas. A portion of it, however, demands support for community-based organizations, which are making sure that 21st-century skills and technology are available to all.

Cesar Zaldivar-Motts is executive director of the Southeast Community Development Corporation. He also serves on the boards of directors of several community organizations in Southeast Los Angeles County.

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Only 43 Percent of California’s Rural Residents Have Broadband Internet Access

Pacific Standard

Rick Paulas | December 23, 2016

When you think of California, you think of its mystic coastline and majestic natural parks. You think of San Francisco’s foggy hills and the glimmering sprawl of Los Angeles. Maybe you think of the missions, or the Hollywood Walk of Fame, or the hippies, or the redwoods, or the empty cul-de-sacs of McMansions in Orange County.

What you don’t tend to think about is the huge oval between the Sierra Nevadas and the Coastal Ranges—the 200,000-square-mile swath that encompasses Redding, Stockton, Sacramento, Bakersfield, and the farmland in between. This is California’s Central Valley, one of the most important agricultural regions in the world, where more than 250 crops are grown and nearly a quarter of the country’s food supply is produced.

And yet, there’s barely any Internet access.

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One Cure for California’s rural health care needs

Sacramento Bee

Eric Brown | December 16, 2016

Digital health innovations and applications, including virtual doctor’s appointments and smartphone health apps, can help us live better and longer lives.

But many rural Californians don’t have access to these services as access to broadband internet and access to health care is rapidly becoming one and the same.

More than 5 million Californians live in rural areas and many don’t have enough doctors in their communities, as few as 43 primary care physicians per 100,000 people. Some rural residents are forced to drive hundreds of miles for specialty care.

Modern broadband communications networks and technologies can help bridge this gap, connecting patients though videoconferencing, remote patient monitoring and electronic messaging. With a tablet or smartphone, patients can virtually see doctors or specialists across the state. With mobile apps, patients can monitor a chronic condition and send real-time data to doctors for assessment and follow-up. This not only brings quality care to rural patients, but it also saves patients and caregivers time and money.

As the state’s largest group of public health clinics and hospitals and doctors engaged in telehealth, California Telehealth Network has seen it accelerate considerably over the last two years. Our 450-plus sites report telemedicine consultations have increased by more than 60 percent over the past year. Thousands of patients in rural communities such as Alturas, Brawley, Portola, Ridgecrest and even Catalina Island can see a specialist without ever leaving their local community.

To continue this momentum and increase access and quality of health care in rural communities, it is crucial that providers have access to modern communications networks. We must encourage our elected officials and policymakers to continue investing in broadband and advanced technologies that will help level the playing field for rural areas and lower health care costs for the entire state.

Already, 96 percent of California has broadband access. We need to stay focused on reaching the rest of the state. The future of healthcare is clear. Everyone should have access to that future.

Eric Brown is CEO of California Telehealth Network.


Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/opinion/op-ed/soapbox/article121159268.html#storylink=cpy

UC Riverside Center Aims to Boost Broadband Policy Research

Government Technology

Maggie Cabrey | December 14, 2016

(Techwire) -- As technology becomes more integrated in our everyday lives, it seems the line separating those who have Internet access and the individuals who don’t is becoming more apparent. Looking to help close this digital divide, the University of California-Riverside (UCR) plans to open a new Center for Broadband Policy and Digital Literacy.

The university is the only UC in inland Southern California, a rural-next-to-urban region where the the divide is especially evident. Part of UCR’s School of Public Policy, the Center for Broadband Policy and Digital Literacy will tackle digital inclusion issues occurring in the inland area and assist the California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF) by expanding broadband policy research in the state.

In development since early 2015, the center was co-founded by Lloyd Levine, president of Sacramento-based consulting firm Filament Strategies, and university Dean Anil Deolalikar. Levine is a former state Assemblymember.

In an interview with TechWire, Levine spoke on the project’s progress, future steps and the purpose behind building a Center for Broadband Policy and Digital Literacy.

“I see us providing great benefit to policymakers by providing real-world scientific research on exactly what the digital divide is and what it means to be on the wrong side of the digital divide,” Levine said.

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Digital Democracy Success in Inyo County

Sierra Wave

Kammi Foote | November 30, 2016

Inyo County—a county of 10,000 square miles that contains Death Valley and three monumental mountain ranges—is both the second-largest county by area and the least populated by density in California. That is why high-speed Internet access was crucial to civic engagement in the November 2016 election.

Since 2014, the Inyo County Elections department has worked on several projects to enhance accessibility of public information. We have collaborated on a grant-funded project with ELECTricity to create a new mobile friendly website (http://elections.inyocounty.us/) at no cost to Inyo County citizens.

And we have added numerous no- or low-cost features to this website, including the ability for voters to verify that they are registered to vote in Inyo County, a tool to look up their polling place and see what’s on their ballot using their address, confirm that their mailed ballot was received and an interactive way to find out who their elected representatives are.

The fact is rural communities can face significant barriers to civic participation. Without easy access to online information, less people can connect to their government. Fortunately, that is not the case in Inyo County.

In the weeks leading up to the November 8 Presidential Election, the Inyo County election website received over 7,000 individual visits, including 2,641 on Election Day. That may not seem like a lot, but Inyo County has only 10,000 registered voters. This means that over half of them likely used our online services during this election.

Making voting information available online is one part of the equation, but voters also need to have a reliable way to access it.

Inyo has been wired for the last two years because of the Digital 395 project—so named because it runs along Highway 395—a 583-mile fiber optic network built from Barstow, CA to Carson City, NV. According to the California Public Utilities Commission, Digital 395 is slated to connect 28,127 households.

Digital 395 would not have been possible if the state hadn’t come up with a public-private mechanism in 2007 to pay for the broadband infrastructure that now runs through our county. That mechanism is the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF).

The CASF was established to affordably support the deployment of broadband to unserved and underserved areas of California. To date CASF has funded 57 projects and reached 300,000 households, but the California Public Utilities Commission program will be out of funds after it approves 14 pending projects. There are, however, many more than 14 broadband projects in California in need of funding.

To help meet this need, a network of civic organizations and legislators has launched an effort entitled “The Internet For All Now Act” to expand the adoption of broadband in California. If successful, this effort could help Inyo County’s most remote communities to be online and able to participate in our digital democracy.

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The Long Road to High-Speed Internet in Rural Sonoma County

Santa Rosa Press Democrat

Tom West | November 20, 2016

For most Californians, getting high-speed internet at home takes about a week. You figure out which company provides broadband and at what cost, make an appointment for service installation and get connected.

But in rural Sonoma County, that process has taken 500 residents along Joy Road four years — and the reasons have everything to do with the high cost of broadband infrastructure and the way telecom companies avoid providing high-speed internet service in sparsely populated areas.

Although the greater Joy Road area will soon get broadband, thanks to a $7.7 million infrastructure grant from the state Public Utilities Commission’s California Advanced Services Fund, the story of Sonoma County’s “Gigafy Occidental” project is typical of what rural residents face throughout the state. It is also an allegory about the need to subsidize high-speed internet infrastructure in rural areas.

In September 2012, residents of Joy Road — a beautiful redwood-dotted area southwest of Occidental — met to discuss their high-speed internet problems. Concern was growing that because it was impossible to download or upload documents for work or school, people were moving out and home values were dropping.

The residents, who became known as Connect Joy Road Area, launched a two-pronged attack: one on the area’s internet service providers, which had been avoiding broadband service requests; and one on the California Public Utilities Commission, which reported that the Joy Road area already had high-speed internet service.

You might ask: Why would the CPUC claim such a thing? Answer: Because its maps are based on faulty data reported by the large telecom providers.

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San Mateo County's Latino Digital Divide

San Mateo Daily Journal

Olga Talamante | October 15, 2016

In San Mateo County, right between San Francisco and Silicon Valley, 25 percent of Latino families cannot afford a home computer, do not have internet at home and are disconnected from the digital economy that makes our region hum.

I know this because I am executive director of the Chicana/Latina Foundation, which since 1977 has worked to empower Latinas through education and training. Although I have seen great strides made in internet connectivity and digital literacy over the past decade, Latinos are still too far behind. Without home high-speed internet and computers, schoolchildren cannot to do their schoolwork, parents cannot communicate with teachers, adults cannot apply for jobs and seniors cannot connect to health services.

And with every passing day, that digital divide is widening because advances in technology — invented right here in the Bay Area — are leading to socioeconomic opportunities in which the under-connected cannot participate. Silicon Valley companies and philanthropies should be ashamed that so little attention is paid to this Latino digital divide, which is right at their doorstep.

But there is much that can and should be done quickly.

According to the California Emerging Technology Fund’s 2016 Survey on Broadband Adoption in California, the reason so many Latinos are under-connected is cost. It is simply too expensive for families making minimum and low wages to pay both for a home computing device and high-speed internet, along with a cellphone and a monthly data service plan.

Think about it: Owning a computer and a smartphone and paying for internet service on both of them sets you back hundreds of dollars per month. Now imagine if you were making minimum wage working in a Bay Area restaurant. After rent, food, commuting and child care and health care costs — would you really be able to afford a Chromebook and monthly broadband? Probably not.

The United Nations has declared access to the internet a human right, but here in California, one of the richest and most technologically innovative places in the world, access is still a glaring problem.

That’s why Silicon Valley companies and foundations must get in the habit of giving away hundreds of thousands of free computers every year to the low-income people in their backyards. The recent $10,000 donation, along with 400 laptops, from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative to Redwood City schools is a small but important start.

Silicon Valley companies and foundations must also reach out to the many community-based nonprofits working to provide low-income Californians affordable computers and broadband. Large internet service providers like AT&T and Comcast offer low-cost monthly internet, but they also require consumers to fill out many complicated forms. Nonprofits like the Chicana Latina Foundation and Mission Economic Development Association know how to help low-income people take advantage of these affordable offers, but they need staff and resources to help navigate the process. Community-based organizations are the trusted messengers that can make a difference in closing the digital divide. 

The fact is getting Latino Californians fully connected to our digital economy and society is absolutely within our reach. But it will require corporate beneficence, smart philanthropy and funding for community-based nonprofits. Let’s get this done and see more boats rise on our increasingly digital sea.

Olga Talamante is a Chicana political activist and the executive director of the California-based Chicana/Latina Foundation. She lives in Pacifica.

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In San Mateo County, right between San Francisco and Silicon Valley, 25 percent of Latino families cannot afford a home computer, do not have internet at home and are disconnected from the digital economy that makes our region hum.

I know this because I am executive director of the Chicana/Latina Foundation, which since 1977 has worked to empower Latinas through education and training. Although I have seen great strides made in internet connectivity and digital literacy over the past decade, Latinos are still too far behind. Without home high-speed internet and computers, schoolchildren cannot to do their schoolwork, parents cannot communicate with teachers, adults cannot apply for jobs and seniors cannot connect to health services.

And with every passing day, that digital divide is widening because advances in technology — invented right here in the Bay Area — are leading to socioeconomic opportunities in which the under-connected cannot participate. Silicon Valley companies and philanthropies should be ashamed that so little attention is paid to this Latino digital divide, which is right at their doorstep.

But there is much that can and should be done quickly.

According to the California Emerging Technology Fund’s 2016 Survey on Broadband Adoption in California, the reason so many Latinos are under-connected is cost. It is simply too expensive for families making minimum and low wages to pay both for a home computing device and high-speed internet, along with a cellphone and a monthly data service plan.

Think about it: Owning a computer and a smartphone and paying for internet service on both of them sets you back hundreds of dollars per month. Now imagine if you were making minimum wage working in a Bay Area restaurant. After rent, food, commuting and child care and health care costs — would you really be able to afford a Chromebook and monthly broadband? Probably not.

The United Nations has declared access to the internet a human right, but here in California, one of the richest and most technologically innovative places in the world, access is still a glaring problem.

That’s why Silicon Valley companies and foundations must get in the habit of giving away hundreds of thousands of free computers every year to the low-income people in their backyards. The recent $10,000 donation, along with 400 laptops, from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative to Redwood City schools is a small but important start.

Silicon Valley companies and foundations must also reach out to the many community-based nonprofits working to provide low-income Californians affordable computers and broadband. Large internet service providers like AT&T and Comcast offer low-cost monthly internet, but they also require consumers to fill out many complicated forms. Nonprofits like the Chicana Latina Foundation and Mission Economic Development Association know how to help low-income people take advantage of these affordable offers, but they need staff and resources to help navigate the process. Community-based organizations are the trusted messengers that can make a difference in closing the digital divide. 

The fact is getting Latino Californians fully connected to our digital economy and society is absolutely within our reach. But it will require corporate beneficence, smart philanthropy and funding for community-based nonprofits. Let’s get this done and see more boats rise on our increasingly digital sea.

 

Olga Talamante is a Chicana political activist and the executive director of the California-based Chicana/Latina Foundation. She lives in Pacifica.

- See more at: http://www.smdailyjournal.com/articles/opinions/2016-10-15/op-ed-san-mateo-countys-latino-digital-divide/1776425169863.html#sthash.8cGfysZd.dpuf

In San Mateo County, right between San Francisco and Silicon Valley, 25 percent of Latino families cannot afford a home computer, do not have internet at home and are disconnected from the digital economy that makes our region hum.

I know this because I am executive director of the Chicana/Latina Foundation, which since 1977 has worked to empower Latinas through education and training. Although I have seen great strides made in internet connectivity and digital literacy over the past decade, Latinos are still too far behind. Without home high-speed internet and computers, schoolchildren cannot to do their schoolwork, parents cannot communicate with teachers, adults cannot apply for jobs and seniors cannot connect to health services.

And with every passing day, that digital divide is widening because advances in technology — invented right here in the Bay Area — are leading to socioeconomic opportunities in which the under-connected cannot participate. Silicon Valley companies and philanthropies should be ashamed that so little attention is paid to this Latino digital divide, which is right at their doorstep.

But there is much that can and should be done quickly.

According to the California Emerging Technology Fund’s 2016 Survey on Broadband Adoption in California, the reason so many Latinos are under-connected is cost. It is simply too expensive for families making minimum and low wages to pay both for a home computing device and high-speed internet, along with a cellphone and a monthly data service plan.

Think about it: Owning a computer and a smartphone and paying for internet service on both of them sets you back hundreds of dollars per month. Now imagine if you were making minimum wage working in a Bay Area restaurant. After rent, food, commuting and child care and health care costs — would you really be able to afford a Chromebook and monthly broadband? Probably not.

The United Nations has declared access to the internet a human right, but here in California, one of the richest and most technologically innovative places in the world, access is still a glaring problem.

That’s why Silicon Valley companies and foundations must get in the habit of giving away hundreds of thousands of free computers every year to the low-income people in their backyards. The recent $10,000 donation, along with 400 laptops, from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative to Redwood City schools is a small but important start.

Silicon Valley companies and foundations must also reach out to the many community-based nonprofits working to provide low-income Californians affordable computers and broadband. Large internet service providers like AT&T and Comcast offer low-cost monthly internet, but they also require consumers to fill out many complicated forms. Nonprofits like the Chicana Latina Foundation and Mission Economic Development Association know how to help low-income people take advantage of these affordable offers, but they need staff and resources to help navigate the process. Community-based organizations are the trusted messengers that can make a difference in closing the digital divide. 

The fact is getting Latino Californians fully connected to our digital economy and society is absolutely within our reach. But it will require corporate beneficence, smart philanthropy and funding for community-based nonprofits. Let’s get this done and see more boats rise on our increasingly digital sea.

 

Olga Talamante is a Chicana political activist and the executive director of the California-based Chicana/Latina Foundation. She lives in Pacifica.

- See more at: http://www.smdailyjournal.com/articles/opinions/2016-10-15/op-ed-san-mateo-countys-latino-digital-divide/1776425169863.html#sthash.8cGfysZd.dpuf

In San Mateo County, right between San Francisco and Silicon Valley, 25 percent of Latino families cannot afford a home computer, do not have internet at home and are disconnected from the digital economy that makes our region hum.

I know this because I am executive director of the Chicana/Latina Foundation, which since 1977 has worked to empower Latinas through education and training. Although I have seen great strides made in internet connectivity and digital literacy over the past decade, Latinos are still too far behind. Without home high-speed internet and computers, schoolchildren cannot to do their schoolwork, parents cannot communicate with teachers, adults cannot apply for jobs and seniors cannot connect to health services.

And with every passing day, that digital divide is widening because advances in technology — invented right here in the Bay Area — are leading to socioeconomic opportunities in which the under-connected cannot participate. Silicon Valley companies and philanthropies should be ashamed that so little attention is paid to this Latino digital divide, which is right at their doorstep.

But there is much that can and should be done quickly.

According to the California Emerging Technology Fund’s 2016 Survey on Broadband Adoption in California, the reason so many Latinos are under-connected is cost. It is simply too expensive for families making minimum and low wages to pay both for a home computing device and high-speed internet, along with a cellphone and a monthly data service plan.

Think about it: Owning a computer and a smartphone and paying for internet service on both of them sets you back hundreds of dollars per month. Now imagine if you were making minimum wage working in a Bay Area restaurant. After rent, food, commuting and child care and health care costs — would you really be able to afford a Chromebook and monthly broadband? Probably not.

The United Nations has declared access to the internet a human right, but here in California, one of the richest and most technologically innovative places in the world, access is still a glaring problem.

That’s why Silicon Valley companies and foundations must get in the habit of giving away hundreds of thousands of free computers every year to the low-income people in their backyards. The recent $10,000 donation, along with 400 laptops, from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative to Redwood City schools is a small but important start.

Silicon Valley companies and foundations must also reach out to the many community-based nonprofits working to provide low-income Californians affordable computers and broadband. Large internet service providers like AT&T and Comcast offer low-cost monthly internet, but they also require consumers to fill out many complicated forms. Nonprofits like the Chicana Latina Foundation and Mission Economic Development Association know how to help low-income people take advantage of these affordable offers, but they need staff and resources to help navigate the process. Community-based organizations are the trusted messengers that can make a difference in closing the digital divide. 

The fact is getting Latino Californians fully connected to our digital economy and society is absolutely within our reach. But it will require corporate beneficence, smart philanthropy and funding for community-based nonprofits. Let’s get this done and see more boats rise on our increasingly digital sea.

 

Olga Talamante is a Chicana political activist and the executive director of the California-based Chicana/Latina Foundation. She lives in Pacifica.

 

  - See more at: http://www.smdailyjournal.com/articles/opinions/2016-10-15/op-ed-san-mateo-countys-latino-digital-divide/1776425169863.html#sthash.8cGfysZd.dpuf

New Program Connects Housing Projects to Internet

Los Angeles Wave

Wave Staff | September 16, 2016

BOYLE HEIGHTS  — A major commitment from AT&T will bolster the ConnectHome initiative’s drive to close the digital divide for low-income families through a low-cost broadband program.

Access from AT&T, a public-private effort, will help connect families living in public housing projects to low-cost Internet service.

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and local elected officials were on hand Sept. 7 to formally announce AT&T becoming a national stakeholder at Estrada Courts, the public housing project in Boyle Heights.

ConnectHome is an initiative to extend affordable broadband access to families living in assisted housing units. Through ConnectHome, Internet service providers, nonprofits and the private sector are offering broadband access, technical training, digital literacy programs and devices for residents in assisted housing units in communities across the nation.

Castro said the Internet is not a luxury, but rather a necessity that helps youths compete.

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How to Close the Digital Divide: And Why It Is a Matter of Public Policy!

California State Association of Counties

Lloyd Levine | September 15, 2016

This is the second of a two-part series on the digital divide. Part one can be found here.

Why is the Digital Divide a matter of public policy? The answer is simple: Since the turn of the new millennium, high-speed Internet access has become crucial to business, education, health and civic life.

Digital access and inclusion are 21st-century social justice and equity issues. Like the electricity grid, railroads, and the Federal Highway System, broadband infrastructure is a necessary public and private good. Because so much of modern life is dependent on being connected, the California has a compelling state interest to ensure that broadband access is available and affordable to everyone.

Recognizing this, the California Legislature has enshrined in statute a goal of 98% broadband access by 2017. Yet California is falling short of that goal, especially in rural areas, where the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) estimates only 43% of rural households have access to reliable broadband service.

While the private sector has connected 70% of the state, that number has leveled off. To bridge the rest of the divide, the public and private sectors must work together.

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How Bad Is the Digital Divide in California?

California State Association of Counties

Lloyd Levine | September 7, 2016

In California in 2016, the state that practically invented the Internet, 30% of Californians (nearly 12 million people) do not have meaningful broadband at home, according to an August 2016 survey by The Field Research Corporation.

This article, part one of a two-part series, will look at the historical data on the Digital Divide and the new data from the recent Field Poll. This data will provide the context necessary to understand the problem and formulate appropriate public policy solutions.

The graph to the left provides some historical context for California’s current Digital Divide. The overall broadband (i.e. high-speed internet) adoption rate has increased significantly since 2008, climbing from 55% in 2008 to 84% as of July 2016. However, that 84% is really illusory and doesn’t paint a full picture. California’s broadband adoption rate is at 84%, only if we include the 14% of people whose only access is on a smartphone.

The California Emerging Technology Fund, which commissioned the survey, is technology neutral but recognizes differences in technological functionality. Smartphones do not have the necessary functionality to be an appropriate substitute for laptop or desktop computers. Because smartphones have small screens, small keyboards, and limited functionality on websites and applications, individuals who rely on them are considered “under-connected”—in other words, they are not able to fully compete in the digital economy.

Because of the limitations inherent in smartphones, and because 14% of Californians are “smartphone only” users, it is more accurate and appropriate for policy makers to use the “meaningful” broadband adoption rate of 70%.

To really understand why and how a 30% Digital Divide exists in California, it is necessary to understand the terms “access” and “adoption.”

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