Anthony G. Wilhelm
Bridging the digital divide between information and technology haves and have-nots has waned from the top of the national policy agenda in the USA during a time in which the sunken investments of the 1990s need to be leveraged. A national information network now exists; yet this infrastructure—largely hardware—needs to be continually modernized and parlayed with commitments to building human capacity, developing relevant content, and scaling socially beneficial technology applications, such as telemedicine, in order to optimize these initial multi-billion-dollar outlays. This article makes the case that sidestepping public-private initiatives aimed at accelerating digital opportunity is imprudent, given the mounting empirical evidence highlighting the payoffs of information and communications technologies, when properly integrated and applied, especially in enhancing the life chances of underserved Americans. Policy next steps should advance the goals of expanding universal service initiatives, including hastening broadband deployment to homes and learning institutions, and deepening programs which leverage the utility of the existing infrastructure, such as expanding human-capital development, producing relevant content, and innovating socially beneficial technology applications.
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