Our increasingly digital world can bring our island community closer together if we work together. Broadband enables us to connect to the world from anywhere at any time, yet the neighborhood we live in and our socioeconomic status often unfairly determine our connectivity.
Those with access to reliable Internet service can make online transactions, conduct virtual meetings for business, and stay connected with family and friends for social support. Online access is no longer a luxury but a basic need required to engage in school, work and play. Unfortunately, the Covid-19 pandemic made it clear that many Hawaii families, especially those in rural communities, have inadequate access to digital devices, connectivity and skills.
To close this digital divide, government, community groups and the private sector must work together so no one is left behind.
Lack of broadband access is one of the causes of the digital divide, exacerbating differences between the “haves” and the “have nots” along geographical, racial and economic lines. According to 2019 American Community Survey data, over 19% of Hawaii households with an annual income of less than $75,000 do not have an internet subscription.
In addition, nearly 9% of Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders do not have an Internet subscription, compared to 4.6% of Hawaii’s total population, and 8.2% of Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders do not have a computer in their home.
Fortunately, our state is committed to addressing these inequities. Infrastructure; computer access; affordable, quality broadband service; and technical knowledge all help to level the playing field.
In partnership with the Hawaii Broadband Hui, an organic coalition of diverse partners promoting digital equity and access, Gov. David Ige recently signed four broadband-related bills, an important first step to help bridge the digital divide.
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