With the rollout of vaccines, the digital divide has become a major blocking figure. Many cities require vaccine appointments to be registered online, meaning that Americans who don’t have access to the internet are excluded. This vaccination process is closely compared to remote learning, as they both demonstrate how America’s government services are not prepared to move fully digital.
Jessica Rosenworcel, Acting FCC Chairwoman, explains that “the number of Americans without high-speed internet could be closer to 100 million”, not the 18 million that the FCC has incorrectly estimated. In an effort to help out this issue, the FCC has approved an emergency $50 monthly broadband discounts for qualifying Americans, however, those living in rural areas won’t be as included.
According to Dr. Kim Rhoads, an associate professor of epidemiology and biostatistics, the people who don’t have access to technology or WiFi are going to have to wait forever and are going to be the ones not to get a vaccine. She says that “in areas like San Francisco’s poorer neighborhoods, where despite being the tech capital of the world, tens of thousands of residents don’t have access to affordable, reliable high-speed internet.”
There is a clear connection between the different communities of people who are getting vaccinated and those who have internet access. CDC data states that of the people who have received at least one of their vaccine shots, 65% were white, 8.5% were Hispanic/Latino, 6.7% were Black, and 4.8% were Asian Americans. Closely related, a 2019 report from Pew Research Center shows that 79% of white, 66% of Black, and 61% of Hispanic respondents have access to broadband internet. These statistics prove how communities of color have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 due to their lack of access to the internet and are having a harder time receiving vaccinations.
As we approach our one-year mark of the COVID-19 shut down in America, the next steps we need to be taking are becoming more apparent. It is essential that connectivity and accessibility to the internet need to become a priority, as well as more healthcare workers going out in the field to meet the needs of those most vulnerable. Technology is more important than ever, sometimes a factor in either life or death during these times, and it is imperative that we do as much as we can to bridge the digital divide.