Earlier this week, we talked about how Microsoft and The Clinton Global Initiative are teaming up in an effort to make technology more accessible to low-income families in the United States. Microsoft and the CGI plan to bring home access to high speed Internet and a personal computer to one million people over the course of three years. Is this a worthwhile use of money and resources? Many people see Internet access and a personal computer as mere luxury items. Is there a greater benefit to having Internet access and a computer in your home? The research answers yes.
In a study done in November of 2008 titled Home Computers and Educational Outcomes: Evidence from the NLSY97 and CPS, researchers found that students who have access to a home computer are between six and eight percent more likely to graduate from high school than their peers who do not have a computer at home. The researchers also concluded that students who had home computers were more likely to have higher grades than students that did not have a computer in the home. They also found that students with access to a computer at home were less likely to be suspended from school or commit a crime. These researchers also suggested that having access to a computer at home may become increasingly important as more and more schools begin to use digital materials and even require the use of Internet based course content. At the time of this research, it was estimated that nearly 20 million children, or 26 percent of all the children in the United States, did not have a computer in their home.
Having a computer at home has impacts reaching beyond a person’s education. It is estimated that 50 percent of all jobs require employees to have technical skills or computer literacy. Within the next ten years, this estimate is expected to rise to over 75 percent. The families who do not have a home computer with Internet access are unnecessarily missing out on various eLearning resources and online job skills training. There is also a significant cost to society as a whole for families that do not have a home computer or home Internet access. These costs come in the form of lost potential wages (which translates to lost tax revenues), a decrease in access to preventative health care information, and a decrease in the participation in government programs.
Similar outcomes were found in research from the United Kingdom as well. In a study from October of 2009, The Economic Case for Digital Inclusion, researchers found that students with access to a home computer would have a higher lifetime earnings total than their counterparts who have no home computer. The estimated 3.6 million households that do not have a computer or Internet access were found to be missing out on over £1 billon per year that could be saved by either shopping or paying bills online. This report estimated that if everyone in the United Kingdom were online, the total economic benefit would be around £22 billion.
As you can see, making technology accessible to all people has many economic and societal advantages. If you would like to learn more about digital exclusion, two great websites to visit are Shape the Future or Race Online 2012.