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The New Face of Detroit’s Digital Divide? Google…

Apple_Watch_digital-divideAfter taking a major hit during the Great Recession, Detroit has finally begun to bounce back in a big way recently. Or, at least, half of Detroit has.

In downtown Detroit, strong auto sales and a growing economy have led to new startups, office buildings, luxury stores, and other encouraging signs of urban revitalization. Yet this May in The New York Times, an unflattering profile of Motor City highlighted the Detroit residents trapped on the wrong side of the new “digital divide.”

That’s because Detroit has the lowest rate of Internet access among every major American city, with 40% of residents lacking reliable Internet access. Once upon a time, job seekers could look in the newspaper or even go to an office to drop off a resume in person. Now, without an Internet connection, applying for jobs is a nightmare.

Plus, because so many jobs now require computer experience, those without digital skills are being left behind, too. Even non-technology jobs that don’t require computer coding or technical skills still demand proficiency with technology. Experts say that four out of five small businesses will soon use cloud computing, and technology is simply non-optional for most modern workers. That leaves many Detroit residents out of luck.

“Once I leave, I worry that I’m missing an email, an opportunity,” one job seeker told The New York Times.

“I was in pain visiting Detroit, seeing how so many pockets aren’t part of the opportunity of broadband and are falling behind,” Mignon L. Clyburn, an FCC commissioner, said after visiting Detroit.

And this summer, Google represents exactly how steep that digital divide has become. The technology company recently opened a self-driving car technology development center in the area, where the company hopes to “lay down roots.”

While the center could bring hundreds of jobs, the company would likely do more good for the city by improving access to broadband technology or offering computer training.

So while highly skilled technology workers may be brushing up their resumes for the new Google car division in Detroit, workers on the wrong side of the digital divide are falling further behind.

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