May is Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, a time to recognize and celebrate the contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders to our country. However, it’s also a time to acknowledge and address the challenges that these communities face. One such issue: the digital divide.
“Because of the model minority myth and skewed statistics, people think that the entire AAPI community is tech-literate and living in Silicon Valley,” says CTN’s Vy Vo, a bilingual Vietnamese digital literacy instructor. “This may apply to some, but people assume that our community is more like this than it really is There are tons of poor and at-risk [Asian] people. Some of my learners are very marginalized. Many are seniors, disabled, or low-income. Many can’t leave their homes and have no family and are very isolated. We have to showcase diversity in the community — we’re not all like in the movie Crazy Rich Asians. There is really a need and a demand for services [like CTN provides].”
In order to address the lack of digital equity in AAPI communities, one must first understand the nuances of the problem. First, there is the question of cost. According to APIAVote, 12 out of 19 Asian-origin groups have poverty rates higher than the U.S. average. Many low-income AAPI individuals are unable to afford the high costs of home internet.
Next, there is the question of language: 38% of Asian Americans say that they speak English “less than very well.” Such language barriers can make it difficult to find technology classes or assistance in signing up for low-cost broadband services. Additionally, some AAPI folks, particularly older adults, may be hesitant to adopt digital technology due to concerns around privacy and security and it is important that they have access to reliable information available in their preferred language. Learn how we work to bring culturally and linguistically relevant digital literacy services to non-English speakers.
The digital divide in Asian communities has serious consequences. Access to technology is a key component of economic mobility. Without the internet, it can be difficult for individuals to access job and educational opportunities, acquire new skills, and start their own businesses. Digital inclusion is also crucial for health equity in the AAPI community, particularly as many health services and information have moved online in the wake of COVID-19.
This Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, stand up for the rights of AAPI communities and call attention to a pivotal issue: the digital divide.
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