The state of California wants to help close the digital divide across the state – in part, by learning more about how older adults make use of technology.
The state is holding several workshops (https://www.eventbrite.com/cc/digital-equity-and-bead-planning-workshops-1979869), hoping people will provide input about how they think federal money can be spent toward improving broadband access across California.
Like many other groups, said Strat Maloma, associate director for advocacy and community engagement for AARP California, some older adults face challenges with internet access and speed.
“Much like electricity, running water, internet access has become a basic necessity for modern life,” he said. “Disparities exist especially for older adults – access to high-speed internet, or whether it’s disparities in terms of access, and also the importance of having high-speed internet access.”
The Federal Communications Commission estimated that, as of last year, at least 3.7 million California households are eligible for its Affordable Connectivity Program, a $30 broadband discount offered to low-income households. However, only 1.4 million had enrolled.
At the workshop he attended, Maloma said, the attendees were divided into small groups and had the chance to participate in guided dialogue about their technology use. He said it’s significant for all Californians – and especially older adults – to share their experiences and be included in conversations about how the state could use federal funds for broadband.
“What we’d like to hear from them is what their experiences are when it comes to having access, affordability, to broadband and internet services,” he said, “but we’d also like to hear what would help create a situation of equitability for them, their communities, when it comes to having access to broadband and high-speed internet access.”
In the most recent data, from 2020, 10% of Californians reported not having a desktop, laptop or other type of computer at home. That figure is slightly higher, at 15%, for Black and Latino households. Access was especially limited among low-income households, with 23% not having internet or a device to use it.