John Horrigan on Digital Inclusion


High Tech Forum would like to offer you a Christmas present: Internet for everyone. Episode 57 of our podcast series features distinguished guest Dr. John Horrigan, the leading scholar in the field of digital inclusion.

John has been researching the gap between the number of people who have broadband Internet available to them and the number who actually subscribe. It’s easy to confuse the two distinct poles of digital inclusion – deployment and adoption – but he’s having none of that.

Digital inclusion in the areas where broadband is available is driven by a number of factors: ability to pay, computer ownership, digital literacy and trust in the idea that Internet is something worth having. Programs that simply throw money at the problem are rarely successful, but comprehensive approaches that tackle all the dimensions can be successful.

Evangelists, Librarians, and Navigators

Horrigan has learned that librarians play a crucial role as the helpdesk for those new to the Internet. While it’s fairly straightforward to use common apps such as Facebook and Netflix, searching for work, applying for benefits, and doing school assignments can be tricky.

Research by our friends at ITIF indicates that government-provided mobile apps generally fall short of full functionality. So new users often rely on public libraries to help them walk through complex applications.

People are reluctant to sign up for low-cost services such as Internet Essentials because they fear the price will go up, but these fears can be quelled by local Internet evangelists.

Digital navigators – a new profession – help newbies with technical problems that would otherwise stymy them.

New Technology Lowers Prices and Increases Coverage

Digital inclusion isn’t simply a poor people’s problem, it affects rural folks across the spectrum of education and income. The subsidy programs that support rural networks lack a stable source of funding, but this is a solvable problem.

Watch and listen to see how!