The Digital Divide, Smart Phones, and Website Performance

The New York Times published a troubling-but-not-surprising article today on the effect of the “digital divide” on school children in the United States. In short, the lack of access to faster internet and desktop computers in rural and poor communities has left millions of children without the ability to easily do their homework or submit school assignments.

The article starts with a vignette of two children who have to stand outside their school to access wifi:

Isabella, 11, and Tony, 12, were outside the school because they have no Internet service at home — and connectivity is getting harder. With their mother, Maria, out of work for months and money coming only from their father, Isaias, who washes dishes, the family had cut back on almost everything, including their cellphone data plan.

So every weeknight, the siblings stood outside the low-slung school, sometimes for hours, to complete homework for the sixth grade.

And they’re not alone:

[T]he federal government is now grappling with a stark disparity in access to technology, between students who have high-speed Internet at home and an estimated five million families who are without it and who are struggling to keep up.

This matters to anyone who has a website, but particularly for organizations serving low-income communities where access to the internet is not a guarantee and a smart phone is often the primary (or only) internet-connected device in the home.

For someone browsing your website with a slow connection on a small screen, ensuring your site is responsive (works on any size device) and fast isn’t just a matter of convenience or saving a few seconds. That can be the difference of the site loading or being usable at all and determine whether that person can access the information and services on your website.

Read “Bridging a Digital Divide That Leaves Schoolchildren Behind” in the New York Times

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