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San Diego Examines the Digital Divide

February 16, 2001

Even tech hot spots like San Diego are finding they are not immune from the Digital Divide. In fact, a new report from the San Diego Regional Technology Alliance (SDRTA) finds that the region suffers a wider Internet access divide between Caucasians and Hispanics than the nation as a whole. With Hispanics representing 25 percent of the area’s population, the issue will have future economic repercussions in tech-based entrepreneurship and increasing shortages of workers with tech skills.

Mapping a Future for Digital Connections: A Study of the Digital Divide in San Diego County, released earlier this month by SDRTA, is the first in-depth examination of the extent of the Divide within the community. In some respects, the area is in much better shape than the rest of the country. Seventy-three percent of all San Diego households have computers compared to the national average of only 51 percent. And while computer ownership was 20-30 percentage points higher than the national average for every San Diego ethnic group, African-Americans and Hispanics remained twice as likely not to own a computer as Caucasians and Asians.

While the study identified the extent of the challenges facing the region, it found the financial and technical support infrastructure to address the Divide is beginning to take shape. The significant role of technology to the San Diego economy may have helped the region to start to tackle the issue earlier than many other areas of the country. Through its Community Development Program, SDRTA has been providing direct outreach and technical assistance to local community centers working to address the Divide.

The report closes with several specific recommendations for community leaders to consider:

  • Outreach to the unwired to educate them on the use and benefits from information technology
  • Support community technology centers and support programs that enhance the efforts of community technology centers
  • Investigate novel methods to support computer ownership
  • Convene a community forum to discuss best practices and techniques for addressing the Divide

The full report is available at the SDRTA website: http://www.sdrta.org