The Digital Divide & Digital Equity: Problems and Solutions 

June 8, 2022 8:11 am

The Digital Divide has been an ongoing issue for years and years but has come to the forefront since the coronavirus outbreak in 2020. 

When the pandemic shut the world down, we all became dependent on technology to access school, work, doctor’s appointments, and a host of other tasks. Unfortunately, not all of us have devices, access to the internet, or the skills needed to navigate the internet successfully. 

In a recent North Shore Conversation, a weekly radio show produced by the North Shore Alliance for Economic Development and hosted by Laura Swanson, we had the opportunity to speak with both Kim Machet, Director of Strategic Initiatives at Essex County Community Foundations, and Stephanie Guyotte, Associate Director of UMass Lowell’s Innovation Hub at the satellite campus in Haverhill. 

Our conversation was focused on the partnership between the two organizations. They each have the goal of increasing Digital Equity and bridging the current Digital Divide. Read on to hear about what this is, the current state of the Digital Divide, and what their goals include to solve this evolving issue. 


What is the Digital Divide? 

Most of us take technology for granted. The ability to use a device whenever we need or want, the ability to access the internet, and the know-how on how to navigate the internet are included in this process. 

In short, the Digital Divide examines the division between those who have access to technology and access to the internet and those who do not. 

Statistics specific to Essex County show that 1-in-5 people do not have access to a primary computer. (Tisch College of Civic Life at Tufts University) Additionally, this same study showed that 60,000 homes in Essex County do not have access to the internet. That translates into approximately 160,000 people without the ability to navigate the internet. 


While there are multiple fronts that solutions can be for to this problem including the nonprofit, for-profit, state, and government sectors, the partnership between the Essex County Community Foundation (ECCF) and UMass Lowell’s Innovation Hub is working toward understanding the crux of the problem as well as inspire innovative solutions from pioneering entrepreneurs. 

The ECCF and UMass Lowell Innovation Hub recently hosted a “Digital Divide Challenge” with cash prizes for contestants to come up with methods to bridge the Digital Divide either by coming up with innovations or solutions for more people to access the internet, learn skills needed to navigate the internet or be able to own/use/rent devices. 

The four areas of importance included: 

  • Access to reliable internet
  • Access to devices
  • Skills needed to navigate the internet and
  • Provide an ecosystem of support

In coming up with possible solutions entrants would need to consider, age issues (youth and seniors) language barriers, and socioeconomic barriers. 

To learn more about this contest and the work these partners are doing to help bridge the Digital Divide to provide more equality in the world of the internet check out these resources: 

ECCF Digital Equity 

UMass Lowell Innovation Hub 

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