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REDMOND, Wash., Nov. 17, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- We know that talent is everywhere, but opportunity is not. As the digital economy continues to rapidly transform the ways in which we learn, work, and play, there is a key piece missing in too many communities across the U.S. — access to technology. It's more important than ever that all Americans have access to digital tools, training, knowledge, and devices so they can participate in the 21st century economy.

This lack of access to technology and everything it offers is referred to as the digital divide. Let's look at three reasons why access to technology and digital skills is so important in 2020 and beyond.

1.    Available jobs require digital skills. Millions of Americans continue to lose their jobs as a consequence of COVID-19. However, it's estimated that over the next five years, the global workforce will have 149 million new technology-oriented jobs. So, for jobseekers today and tomorrow, it's in their interest to have digital skills — meaning the ability to use digital devices, communication applications, and online networks and programs. Microsoft recently launched a free online program to provide digital skills training to people worldwide to help empower them to secure these available jobs.

2.    Technology enables organizations to achieve more. Access to 21st century technology can help for-profit businesses and nonprofits alike reach greater success. It can streamline processes, help organizations broaden their reach and impact, and help them be more efficient and productive. And when individuals, organizations, and companies are empowered to achieve more, then communities win.

3.    High-speed internet is a necessity. The effort to electrify rural America in the 1930s enabled new technologies to transform those areas. Today, high-speed internet (also known as broadband) can similarly provide the infrastructure to lift up rural America. More than 157 million Americans don't use the internet at broadband speeds, leaving them without the ability to work or go to school from home, or access critical services like banking and telehealth. Since the pandemic pushed people into lockdown, broadband has been a lifeline — but those without access have been left behind. Further, rural communities without broadband face higher unemployment rates, and see fewer educational and economic opportunities. Every American deserves access to broadband and the benefits it affords.

All Americans — no matter where they live — should have the opportunity to participate in the digital economy. It's a matter of equity. Check out the TechSpark program to see how Microsoft is working with people and organizations on the local level across the country to help ensure all communities are empowered to thrive.  

 

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