Many people reading this article are probably doing so on a smartphone, tablet or computer. They might not know that half of Americans don’t own a smartphone, one-third lack a broadband connection and one-fifth don’t use the Web at all.
Since 2007, when I was named president of the Ford Foundation, we’ve given $44.5 million to dozens of organizations — like Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, the Mozilla Foundation and the Media and Democracy Coalition — to make the Internet more accessible, affordable and mindful of privacy.
But as I prepare to step down in September, I must acknowledge that there has been little real progress on this issue. Like any effort to develop our national infrastructure, success demands more than the dedication of the nonprofit sector alone.
The factors that will drive our national future — educational achievement, a healthy population, broad political participation and economic opportunity for all — depend in significant ways on how we structure and manage our spreading digital frontier. About 19 million Americans still lack access to high-speed broadband; many more can’t afford it.