Posted on Benson Chan
We live in a connected world. Our computers, mobile phones, televisions and even cars are connected to the Internet. We work, get our news, learn, shop and communicate through the Internet. So it is surprising and shocking when we hear about people in hyperconnected Silicon Valley who do not have computers or Internet service at home. In reality, the “digital divide” had always existed, but the COVID-19 pandemic merely made its impacts more visible and widely felt. Seemingly overnight, we read news stories about people unable to work remotely, students falling behind because they can’t attend online classes, or families unable to buy things online when many of the physical stores they normally shop at are closed.
Digital Divide can exist anywhere, not just poor or rural areas
Best known for innovation, Silicon Valley is a region encompassing Santa Clara County, the southeastern part of San Mateo County and the southern part of Alameda County. Santa Clara County is home to 1.94 million people with a medium income of $126,606, and a median home value of $1.11 million. San Mateo County is home to 769,545 people with a median income of $124,425 and a median home value of $1.21 million. By median income, Santa Clara County and San Mateo County are the 4th and 6th wealthiest counties in the United States.
Despite this, the digital divide exists in Silicon Valley. In Santa Clara County, it is estimated that 15,000 families do not have access to broadband Internet service and devices. Similarly, San Mateo County faced a divide with students within its 23 public school districts.