Madura Wijewardena, Chanelle Hardy and Dr. Valerie Wilson
Connecting the Dots: Linking Broadband Adoption to Job Creation and Job Competitiveness
(In Partnership with Time Warner Cable Inc. Research Program on Digital Communications)
Closing the broadband adoption gap has been a focus of governments, private enterprise and community- based direct service providers for several years. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has pursued this with vigor and creativity rarely seen before -- making broadband adoption a central goal of the National Broadband Plan, creating Connect-to-Compete in partnership with the cable industry and reforms to Universal Service Fund are examples. NUL has provided leadership by advising the FCC on how to design the digital literacy aspects of Connect-to-Compete and delivering broadband adoption and STEM programs through the Digital Connector Program of Broadband Opportunity Coalition and its own programs like Project Ready STEM.
At this juncture, it is worth assessing two things. First, identifying where broadband adoption gaps still persist so that action can be targeted at them. Secondly, expanding broadband adoption to what matters the most -- using broadband adoption to drive job creation and job competitiveness of African Americans and others hardest hit by unemployment. Closing broadband access gaps should not be an end in itself -- real progress will occur if gaps are closed in a way that enhances the job prospects.
This report focuses on how to connect broadband adoption to job creation and job competitiveness in a way that is targeted, efficient and results-driven -- this is not a theoretical effort or a magic bullet solution, but rather, a collection of practical ideas that brings together all the elements of success like workforce training, facilitating private enterprise development and modernizing the STEM education pipeline. Our report includes case studies from Urban League affiliates that have implemented some of these ideas.
OUR FINDINGS ON WHERE BROADBAND ADOPTION EFFORTS NEED TO BE TARGETED:
Overall broadband adoption gap is narrowing: In 2010, the home broadband adoption gap between African Americans and white Americans was 11 percentage points -- in 2009, this was 19 percentage points (56% for African Americans and 67% for white Americans in 2010).
Target broadband adoption efforts at high school dropouts and households below $20,000 annual income: This group has persistently low broadband adoption -- 38% of African American and 51% of white American high school dropouts adopted broadband in 2010.
Close broadband adoption gaps by linking it to jobs: Segment of African American population with low adoption has the most interest in using broadband for jobs -- 77% of African Americans and 17% of white American high school dropouts used broadband to search for jobs in 2009.
African Americans are underrepresented in broadband jobs and businesses: African Americans were 8% of broadly-defined STEM occupations in 2010 and made 0.23% of revenues in information sector businesses in 2007. Broadband adoption can be leveraged to change this.