Digital Divide and Educational Equity

Access to technology is essential to educational success as well as workforce and community development. However, geographical, income-based, and racial or ethnic disparities in technology access persist.

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.

So What?

ACT surveyed a random sample of students who took the ACT test as part of a national administration in April 2017. We asked the students numerous questions about their access to and use of technology specifically 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 connections available to them, and how often they used electronic devices for school-related activities.

Now What?

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.

Authors

Rael Moore, PHD

Raeal Moore is a senior research scientist at ACT specializing in survey methodological research and research on education best practices in P–12 schools.

Dan Vitale

Dan Vitale is a policy analyst in the Office of Public Affairs at ACT.

Nycole Stawinoga

Nycole Stawinoga was a program manager in ACT’s Center for Equity in Learning.