Giving Compass’ Take:
• Research from the ACT Center for Equity in Learning reveals that underserved students are more likely to have access to fewer devices at home with which to connect to school-related activities and materials, and this unequal access to technology is hurting their long-term academic success.
• How can funders help increase educational equity for underserved students without sufficient devices at home?
• Learn about closing the digital divide in rural America.
Access to technology is essential to educational success as well as workforce and community development. However, geographical, income-based, and racial/ethnic disparities in technology access persist.2
This “digital divide”—the gap between people who have sufficient knowledge of and access to technology and those who do not—can perpetuate and even worsen socioeconomic and other disparities for already underserved groups.
This brief takes a closer look at one particular group: students who have access to only one device at home, a group representing 14% of all survey respondents.
Taking a deeper dive into the data on students with access to only one device is important because these students may face challenges not faced by students with access to two or more devices.
ACT surveyed a random sample of students who took the ACT® test as part of a national administration in April 2017.5 We asked the students numerous questions about their access to and
use of technology speci cally for educational activities, both at home and in school, including the number and kinds of devices they have access to, the kind and reliability of the internet connection(s) available to them, and how often they used electronic devices for school-related activities.
Access to devices and internet appears to be somewhat uneven among the ACT-tested students we surveyed. Policy recommendations are to expand device access and internet among those who lack them and ensure students can access materials needed for school related activities via mobile technology.
- Expand device access and internet among those who lack them.
- Ensure that all students have easy access to the applications they need for school-related activities via mobile technology.
Underserved students have access to fewer devices and lower-quality internet than students who are not disadvantaged. Inequitable access to electronic devices and effective internet connections contributes to opportunity, achievement, and equity gaps in education. Programs that help to rectify device and internet access imbalances—such as the Wireless Reach initiative or the private-sector Kajeet—can help improve educational opportunity and access for those in greatest need of assistance in preparing for and succeeding in the 21st-century economy.