Unmasking Inequity and Empowering the Future: Latinos and the Digital Divide

We shed a light on the digital disparities Latinos face, highlighting the UnidosUS Digital Skills for Life (DS4L) program’s transformative impact to bridge the gap and empower a brighter future for all.

An uphill battle

When it comes to digital access and opportunities, Latino adults find themselves facing steep challenges. According to the Pew Research Center, Hispanic adults, along with Black adults, are less likely than white adults to have a computer and broadband internet at home. The statistics paint a stark picture, with only 57% of Hispanic adults owning a desktop computer or laptop compared to 82% of their white counterparts. Notably, a quarter of Latino adults rely solely on smartphones for their digital needs. 

To compound these challenges, Latinos are projected to have the highest potential rates of job displacement due to automation. A UCLA study reveals that over 7.1 million Latinos in six states with the largest Latino populations (CA, TX, IL, NY, and FL) are at risk of being replaced by automation, which amounts to 40 percent of the Latino workforce in these states. Hispanics are also particularly overrepresented in industries ripe for automation, such as agriculture, leisure and hospitality, construction, and retail. 

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Furthermore, Hispanics are significantly underrepresented in the tech industry. While they constitute 16.7 percent of the overall workforce, they only make up 6.8 percent of computer and math jobs, as per the Brookings Institute. 

The digital divide became even more apparent during the COVID-19 pandemic, as remote work and schooling became the norm. NBC news reported that some low-income Latinos had to resort to going to parking lots with public WiFi or using their own cellphones to help their children complete homework assignments. The pandemic underscores the urgent need for equitable access and opportunities, as marginalized communities grapple with extreme measures just to bridge the digital gap. 

Working towards a solution 

Enterprising Latinas
DS4L program participants at UnidosUS Affiliate Enterprising Latinas in Wimauma, FL

Closing the digital divide has the potential to improve educational outcomes for Hispanic children, move Hispanics into better-paying jobs, and ensure that everyone has an equal shot at thriving and participating in American society. Addressing these challenges will require a multi-pronged approach and partnerships across different fields.

One initiative making a difference is UnidosUS’s partnership with Google.org and 29 Affiliate organizations nationwide for the Digital Skills for Life (DS4L) program. DS4L is a digital literacy program designed for Hispanic adults, teaching the basics of hardware, software, internet connections, professional communication, social media, apps, and internet safety and security in a bilingual culturally competent manner.

Mi Casa Resources
DS4L program participants at UnidosUS Affiliate Mi Casa Resource Center in Denver, CO

How Digital Skills for Life is helping Latino adults: 

  • Participants report being better equipped to assist their children with school assignments, scheduling appointments, setting up video conference calls, and ensuring internet safety.  
  • The program also provides the necessary technological skills for success in jobs that require the use of digital devices, email communication, and various essential apps in the modern workplace. 
  • Empowering Latino adults has a ripple effect, benefiting the entire family. 
Association House with certificates
DS4L program participants at UnidosUS Affiliate Association House of Chicago

Successful outcomes from the program: 

  • Over 1,880 people have enrolled in DS4L, surpassing its enrollment target by 4%.   
  • The program has successfully maintained a 78 % retention rate, with 87% of participants indicating that they were satisfied with the program and would recommend the training to a peer. 70% of participants report a self-perceived increase in their knowledge of digital skills following the program. 
  • 82% of program graduates apply the skills they’ve learned.

We invite you to learn more about our Digital Skills for Life program and stay updated on how UnidosUS and our Affiliate organizations across the country are reshaping the narrative surrounding Latinos and the digital divide. Together, we can bridge the gap and empower a brighter future for all. 

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