Smart phones. Tablets. Laptops. Gaming systems. Flatscreens. Digital billboards.
We are surrounded by digital technology. The internet is quite literally in our pockets. Many of us feel like we live in a world with seemingly unrestricted digital access – but that’s not the case for everyone.
There Is, Without A Doubt, A Digital Divide
While digital technology and internet access is a basic expectation for some, for others it’s a luxury. Recent studies from the Pew Research Center revealed that among U.S. households with an annual income below $30,000 a year, 43% do not have home broadband services, 41% do not have a desktop or laptop computer, and 24% do not own a smartphone.
Americans without proper access to these technologies are at a major disadvantage. Without proper broadband connection and digital tools, communities can’t access resources that help make starting or running businesses safer, tap into online health tools, or even research projects for school.
Minoritized Communities are Often at the Biggest Digital Disadvantage
A 2020 study by Erika Poethig, Chief Innovation Officer at the Urban Institute, revealed shocking truths about digital access in urban communities in the United States. Poething found that 30% of all urban households lack broadband, disproportionately impacting Black and Hispanic families.
US Census data tells a parallel story: digital disparities are most likely to occur in homes where the head of household is under 35 years old, makes $25,000 or less annually, and is Black or Hispanic.
Likewise, data from the Pew Research Center showed that when quizzed, a majority of US adults can answer “fewer than half” of digital knowledge questions correctly.
Where Financial Equity and Digital Equity Meet
When access to digital technology is not available, neither is access to the resources that electronic payments provide. This leads to an overwhelming amount of people who are underbanked.
Uneven Access to Digital Technologies Restricts Economies
Individuals who are under or unbanked engage in the economy in a very different manner than those that are banked. These individuals navigate the world without the basic safety nets many of us benefit from, such as credit lines, credit scores and credit cards.
By building digital access across communities, we can help people clear financial hurdles using electronic payments – think debit, credit and prepaid cards, as well as mobile wallets. Electronic payments allow users to track their spending, making it easier to keep a budget. It also helps people avoid the cost and travel time of check cashing centers and gives them more purchasing power via access to the digital marketplace.
Similar electronic payment benefits hold true for small business owners. Consumers not only want to use credit, debit and prepaid cards, but they’ll often spend more money when they do. Research shows that consumers spend up to 16% more when using a payment card. By accepting payment cards, customers know that a business cares about their time, money, and security. That leads to higher sales and loyal customers.
How We Can Break Down Digital Barriers
Many key influencers and advocates, spanning government, public and private sectors, have shifted their view of broadband access and the internet from a luxury to a modern-day public resource. These supporters and their transformative viewpoints are essential to breaking down digital barriers and increasing broadband access to all households, regardless of income or community.
By way of traditional political advocacy, community programming and education platforms, actions are being taken to level the digital and financial playing field. Master Your Card is particularly proud of the commitments our partners have made and to increase digital and financial equity.