Closing the Digital Divide

According to a report by the Latino Issues Forum (Latinos and the Digital Divide), “Advancements in technological innovation have spurred remarkable improvements in communication, access to education, entertainment and high-speed Internet. A technology divide, most commonly referred to as the Digital Divide, exists between the haves and have-nots of Internet access. Even though rates of Internet access across the nation and the expanding utilization of broadband service have increased, there is still a gap between Latinos and other racial or ethnic groups who are disproportionately represented in the population of people without access.”

Pan American Bank’s immediate service area is nearly 100% Latino and approximately one-third live below the poverty level. ¬†As such, many local residents are victims to the Digital Divide.

A March 2007 study by the Pew Hispanic Center (Latinos Online) that shows a consistent Internet access gap between Latinos and the rest of the country from 1997 to 2006. The report provides further statistics that show that while Internet use is lower for Latinos, it is significantly lower for Spanish-dominant Latinos.

The report asserts that access to broadband service incorporated with computer literacy training and assistance provide a gateway to a number of socio-economic advantages. “Broadband access provides opportunity for individuals to access a range of tools i.e. health information, political and civic engagement, educational resources, communication tools, employment opportunities, expansion in choices as a consumer, financial management assistance as well as a number of other uses.”

The report further states that in order for individuals to maximize the potential uses of computer and Internet services they need access to broadband – not dial-up. Broadband access is critical because many online tools that include access to employment, finance, health, and educational resources are only compatible with broadband. Therefore, expanding access to broadband and computer literacy assistance is necessary in providing tools as a means to bridge the gap between disadvantaged and more privileged communities.

Ultimately, the report concludes that community-based organizations (e.g., nonprofits), with the support of telecommunications and other technology providers, play a major role in providing people access to computers with broadband as well as training and support services. Community-based organizations have proven success in providing services to a population that is not otherwise reached.

In 2010, Pan American Bank partnered with Community Union to provide computer literacy courses for the community at the Bank.  Courses conducted on-site are taught by Community Union instructors. Pan American Bank provides a space to conduct training and training is supported through grants to Community Union as well as small fees charged to the participants. The computer literacy program conducted at Pan American Bank has graduated hundreds of adult students and is slowly closing the digital divide in the community.

One Million NIU Graduates