Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Digital Divide

While the rapid evolution of technology appears to be the panacea for what ails communities struggling with preparedness, response, and recovery issues, it's important to remember that not everyone has the same access to, or comfort with existing or newer technological innovations. While the technologist is pushing the envelope and creating new opportunities to utilize technological platforms following disasters, there are a lot of people out there who don't fall under the digital umbrella.

Dubbed 'The Digital Divide,' the below infographic does a good job of highlighting some of the remaining challenges to the widespread adoption of technology; however, what the infographic fails to include is the aging population and how the internet usage of those 65 and older are only at 42 percent according to livescience.com. Given that the focus of so many organizations following an event is on addressing the needs of vulnerable populations like the elderly, their lack of access to reliable communications has, and will continue to hamper the communication of critical information before, during, and after an event.

As we look to technology to spur innovation and enable resource strapped muncipalities to do more with less, we must remember that crucial stakeholders aren't currently a part of the preparedness/resilience conversation. I believe that civic engagement and tech innovation are essential to mitigating the loss of life during an event and leveraging the support given after, but that it's up to the communications providers to put the infrastructure in place and offer reliable services so that the innovations can have an impact.

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