Digital Divide despite obtaining computers and fast internet access, certain communities still experience the effects of the digital divide, according to recent findings.
Investigation of a refugee population reveals the influence of additional factors.
A study of the Bhutanese refugee community in Columbus revealed that despite nearly all members having internet access, only a small fraction utilized it to engage with local resources and stay informed about news online.
And the study, which was done during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic stay-at-home orders in Ohio, found that nearly three-quarters of respondents never used the internet for telehealth services.
The results showed that the digital divide must be seen as more than just a technological problem, said Jeffrey Cohen, lead author of the study and professor of anthropology at The Ohio State University.
“We can’t just give people access to the internet and say the problem is solved,” Cohen said.
“We found that there are social, cultural, and environmental reasons that may prevent some communities from getting all the value they could out of internet access.”
The study was published recently in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.
For the study, researchers worked closely with members of the Bhutanese Community of Central Ohio, a nonprofit organization helping resettled Bhutanese refugees in the Columbus area.
The study included a community survey of 493 respondents, some of who were surveyed online and many more who were interviewed in person.
While many of the respondents lived in poverty – more than half had annual incomes below $35,000 – 95.4% said they had access to the internet.