Readersforum's Blog

January 10, 2013

Failing to Close the ‘Digital Divide’

Susan Crawford is a visiting professor at the Harvard Kennedy School and Harvard Law School, and a contributor to Bloomberg View and Wired. She is the author of "Captive Audience: The Telecom Industry and Monopoly Power in the New Gilded Age."

Susan Crawford is a visiting professor at the Harvard Kennedy School and Harvard Law School, and a contributor to Bloomberg

By Susan Crawford

For a growing number of Americans, a library is for Internet access. According to a Pew survey last month, more than a quarter of all adults used the Internet at a library during the past year. The numbers are higher for blacks and Latinos than they are for whites. Indeed, whites may not know or understand how important library Internet access is to minorities: 92 percent of blacks and 86 percent of Latinos said it was very important for libraries to offer free access to computers and the Internet, while only 72 percent of whites did.

Users of public library Internet connections tell surveyors that they’re applying for jobs, doing homework, getting information about health care, finding out about government benefits and managing their finances. And because almost a third of Americans (again, more blacks and Latinos than whites) don’t subscribe to our country’s expensive Internet access at home, librarians say that they’re scrambling to fill the gap left by our nation’s yawning digital divide.

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