A Snapshot of the Digital Equity Gap in the Latino Community
by CONNECT AK
As part of our collaboration in the Connect AK campaign, we conducted a survey among the members of Alaska’s Latino community to assess their internet usage habits and challenges concerning access to this essential service. Over the last few months, we have focused on bringing awareness to the existence of the digital gap, a gap in access to high quality internet and the corresponding skills to use it successfully. This article summarizes the results of our data collection efforts. The survey, encompassing 61 individuals primarily from Anchorage, was administered digitally as well as with the assistance of our community engagement promoters.
The demographic breakdown revealed that 78.3% of the respondents identified as female. The predominant age group surveyed was between 35 and 44 years old, accounting for 29.5% of respondents, and over a third reported an annual income ranging from $31,000 to $60,000.
The survey shows that 85% of respondents mainly used smartphones to access the Internet. Laptops followed them as the most frequent means of access with 49%, and tablets were used by 27.9% of the participants. Regarding where respondents connect, their home emerged as the main place, with 91.4% indicating that home was their preferred access point. Their workplace occupied the next position with 34.5%, and coffeehouses and friends’ houses were also frequented places but at a lower margin. In addition, the Internet fulfilled a variety of purposes for the Latin community of Alaska. The most common use was to maintain contact with relatives and loved ones abroad, a practice reported by 91.8% of respondents. In addition, 64.4% reported that they use the Internet for educational purposes, 62.7% for entertainment and 57.6% reported that they used it to access social networks. However, the Internet is also key to work-related tasks. 55% of respondents revealed that this is one of the reasons they use the Internet.
In addition, participants get involved in online banking, government transactions, shopping and to stay informed about current news events. Despite this, respondents faced significant challenges in accessing high-quality Internet service. The main concern was affordability since 46.7% reported that access is very expensive. This was followed by slow connection speeds (38.3% reported having this problem). Other obstacles included limited mobile data and irregular coverage in some areas. Alarmingly, only 26.7% of respondents felt that all their Internet needs were covered, underlining the prevailing digital inequality in the community.
Moreover, a significant number within the community perceived internet services as unaffordable (87.7%) and encountered difficulties accessing technical support in Spanish (36%). Furthermore, a considerable portion lacked access to courses or information on device and software usage (41.7%) and lacked adequate resources to learn about online privacy and safety (55.7%). The results of our survey show an urgent need to bridge the digital divide and foster digital equality within Alaska’s Latino community. The digital gap is real and hinders people’s ability to participate in contemporary society. Therefore, we need to continue working to make the internet more affordable, enhance speed and coverage, offer accessible technical support, and provide skill development programs with a special focus on linguistic diversity. By addressing these challenges, the community can fully harness the internet’s potential and stride toward greater digital inclusion and opportunities.
PROUDLY POWERED BY SOL DE MEDIANOCHE NEWS, LLC. Sol de Medianoche is a monthly publication of the Latino community in Anchorage, Alaska