The sub-prime mortgage meltdown that has swelled the unemployment ranks is dwarfed by the ongoing effects of the digital transformation of world markets. This transition started well before the financial crisis and will likely continue long after. In the U.S., the issue of the pervasive lack of technology adoption within low income, rural, minority, and other underserved communities is almost solely couched in terms of the divide between technological “haves” and “have nots.” While social equity and economic justice remain critical dimensions of the issue, there is not nearly enough attention paid to the impact of the digital divide on the overall economy.
Metcalfe’s Law states that each additional node added to a network provides greater value to the network as a whole, but the obverse is also true. Leaving broad swaths of the population out of the digital economy not only harms the technological “haves nots,” but also constrains the technological “haves” from benefitting from the potential network effects of including these communities. This means all of us are now feeling the pain of the digital divide—American CEOs of the one percent included.