Digital Equity Imperative

Increasingly, technology is built into nearly every aspect of our daily lives: online-only bill payment, tablets to check-in at the doctor’s office, emails and apps to connect with your child’s teacher, and self-check at grocery stores.

In our quest to save money and increase efficiency, we risk creating systems that marginalize individuals that lack the connectivity – and skills – to navigate an increasingly digital world.

The challenge is especially acute in the world of work. Because while headlines often focus on the risk of automation for truck drivers or the heightened demand for coders and computer scientists, technology is making an impact on all of our jobs.

According to a recent report from the McKinsey Global Institute, technology threatens just 5% of occupations with complete automation-driven obsolescence, but far more jobs (60%) could have nearly a third of their work activity automated, dramatically changing the work experience of most occupations.

Currently 73% of service sector workers lack skills to solve problems in digital environments, but very few receive training at work or can access opportunities outside of work to improve their digital skills.

With digital fluency now a key 21st century skill, inequitable access to digital upskilling has deep implications for the economy and employers.

US executives are highly concerned about a digital skills gap.

workers who struggle to use computers are using them on the job anyway.

Even middle skill workers show significant gaps in “digital readiness”.

Workers with higher digital literacy skills perform better and earn higher wages.

Current efforts to upskill employees through online courses may leave out those who need it most: workers without access to devices or internet at home, or who are uncomfortable navigating the world of online learning. And even the on-ramps to employment can be cut off, as the process job-seekers use to discover and apply for jobs moves online.

In our increasingly tech-infused world, digital inequity exacerbates existing disparities and constrains the US economy.

Lack of access to technology and foundational digital skills training locks many people out of opportunities with considerable costs to them and our wider society.

We are at a critical crossroads on our journey to build a resilient workforce and economic mobility for all Americans. Access remains a stubborn barrier to upskilling.

Digital US is working to ensure that all Americans have foundational digital skills and resilience to thrive in work and life by 2030. We will drive awareness, develop digital skills and resilience, and design an equitable ecosystem for digital upskilling that works for all of US.