Editor's Note: DA4A has begun a large-scale project to research and address the issue of access disparities in the telehealth and teletherapy realms. This project aims to identify and connect trusted technology-based medical resources and education services to individuals and families at free or low-cost rates. Please take the survey to help DA4A gather data about how telehealth and teletherapy access affect you or someone you know so we can explore how to expand access to these services in our community.
A Bridge for the Digital Divide
The Patterson Foundation’s Digital Access for All initiative began in June 2020. We learned that finding ways to quickly bridge the digital divide and working with community stakeholders to increase digital literacy in the workforce to ensure all have opportunities for economic mobility will result in increased economic competitiveness. We met with over sixteen economic development leaders from around our four-county region in late 2021, and we learned that some local companies are handling digital transformation well, and others have not even addressed it. According to Quereshi (2022), digital technologies are driving change and transforming economic paradigms, and the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated this. While the growth of digital technology and artificial intelligence are exciting shifts for the business community, they have yet to deliver higher productivity and growth.
The Future of Work
A Pew Research Analysis showed that 52% of Americans are reluctant to use technology, particularly when learning new things. In addition, 41% of Americans lacking a high school diploma and 17% with a diploma and no higher education “lack the foundational skills to navigate a digital environment and find the information they need” (Chang & Fogel, 2019). The divide is expected to have an enormous impact on workers, especially those in frontline and service jobs, which are more easily automated. Burke, Ghosh & Gottlieb (2021) stated a survey of 800 companies showed 85% accelerated integration of digitalization, 67% increased automation and artificial intelligence, and 35% further digitized supply chains since the pandemic began.
As the economy recovers from the pandemic, most jobs lost to automation have not returned. Burke, Ghosh & Gottlieb (2021) predict that jobs lost to automation by 2030 include:
- 47 % of cooks
- 46 % stock clerks and order fillers
- 28 % of food prep workers
- 24 % of cashiers
Effective strategies to prepare displaced and disadvantaged workers for better jobs, including increased pay and career pathways, are vital to ensure resilient, competitive, equitable communities. A focus on employability and digital skills is needed to ensure jobseekers have the skills needed to compete in the job market:
- Problem-solving using technology
- Interaction with computers and mobile devices
- Basic tools
- Data security and safety
- Data ethics
- Occupation specific tools
- Analytics and data manipulation (Chang & Fogel,2019).
The article Digital Ecosystem Framework (USAID, 2021) discusses collaboration by employers, government, elected leaders, economic development, education and training providers, and policymakers. This is consistent with The Patterson Foundation’s goal of widespread participation to ensure displaced workers can access good jobs of the future. This can be done by “creating an environment that empowers people to use digital technology to access services, engage with each other, and pursue economic opportunities” (USAID, 2021). Actions of the stakeholder ecosystem can include:
- Defining digital literacy
- Communicating the need for certain skills by employers
- Supporting existing equity-focused workforce programs
- Helping local training institutions better match offerings to skills needed by businesses
- Burke, H., Ghosh, S., & Gottlieb, J. The future of work and inclusion. Economic Development Research Partners, August 2021, accessed July 31, 2022.
- Chang, M., & Fogel, N. Digital blindspot: How digital literacy can create a more resilient American workforce. Rework America Business Network, A Markle Initiative, October 2019, accessed August 1, 2022.
- Digital ecosystem framework. USAID, accessed August 1, 2022.
- Quereshi, Z. How digital transformation is driving economic change. Brookings, January 18, 2022, (July 31, 2022).