The New Digital Divide

I’ve noticed, as I am sure other librarians have, an influx of people searching online for jobs and struggling. Not with finding employment, but with the computer. Many do not have email accounts, or if they do they cannot remember their login credentials. It creates a whole extra hurdle to what already is a difficult task.

When I was just entering library school the big topic was bridging the digital divide. In these care free times of the early millennium that divide was one of cost. Libraries took on the mission of providing access for people who could not afford computers. In many ways this was far easier. Here we are in 2018 and tablets are as cheap as $50 and computers can be had for $300. The divide is no longer tied to the cost of the equipment.

What I see is a divide between the people who can use computers and those who have never had to and come to them with no basis for what they are being required to do. When even a bagger at Walmart has to apply online no one stops to wonder if anyone who would be applying for that job has any clue what online is. The internet has largely left these people behind. It’s not even related to finding work. I’ve helped many retirees who have worked for 40 or 50 years and now only want to check their electric bill yet are stymied by the login on the website.

As librarians our role is providing access, yet how do we provide 10 years of computing experience? Is this a divide that we can cross? Working online, or on a tablet, computer, or even modern game console may seem the most rudimentary to some but to others their is a great gap in what they can be accepted to perform. It’s as if one divide closed and another one opened.

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