Asian Americans Advancing Justice – AAJC Publishes First-of-Its-Kind Research Illustrating How the Digital Divide Uniquely Impacts Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders

Advancing Justice - AAJC’s research reveals significant disparity within AANHPI communities’ access to broadband, connectivity and digital literacy
For Immediate Release
Michelle Boykins (202) 296-2300, ext. 0144

Washington, D.C. — Today, Asian Americans Advancing Justice AAJC published two complementary reports highlighting specific inequities facing Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) communities regarding access to the internet and access to digital tools and literacy: Digital Literacy in the Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Communities and Digital Divide in the Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Communities.

Advancing Justice – AAJC’s research is among the first to focus on in-language polling using phone surveying to offer new insights about the experiences of digital access in AANHPI communities that similar studies have previously obscured. The reports unpack the reality of what digital literacy and broadband access looks like for many in the AANHPI community and reveal that there is work to be done to improve digital access and literacy in these communities. 

Previous research has shown that 95 percent of English-speaking Asian Americans use the Internet, suggesting high levels of digital access and literacy, but these studies offer an incomplete picture. Most research for these studies is collected online, which inevitably leaves out those who do not have broadband access or have limited digital literacy. Furthermore, most studies that include the AANHPI community do not aggregate the data to drill down to the more than 50 different ethnic groups represented within AANHPI communities.

The research studies, made possible by the financial support of Charter Communications and NBC Comcast Universal, confirm what advocates and community leaders have been reporting for years: significant subsets of AANHPI communities are still being left behind by the digital divide. According to the report findings:

  • 17% of AANHPIs still do not have access to high-speed internet at home
  • 14% reported that the connections that they did have were poor or need improvement 
  • Of the 17% that did not have access to high-speed internet, 11% rely on dial-up connections and 5% are only able to connect to the internet through a mobile phone or tablet connection. Still, others reported compounded disconnectivity because they did not have access to appropriate devices such as a laptop or tablet. 

“This research underscores the important role that access to broadband plays in connecting communities to the things they need in their daily lives, like health care, education, food security, and civic engagement opportunities, as well as other government programs that are designed to support them,” said John C. Yang, Advancing Justice – AAJC’s president and executive director. “It also highlights how the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the digital divide, increasing the staggering number of households unable to benefit from digital services and opportunities crucial to maintaining their livelihoods and wellbeing.” 

Internet access and digital technology have evolved into an indispensable component of modern American lives. Beyond mere entertainment, it serves as a portal to essential public services, educational prospects, and economic avenues.  As our communities continue to rely on internet connection, we need strong and decisive actions to help ensure the individuals who need it most have access to technology and tools to effectively use it.

This report offers tangible actions that governments, corporations, and national organizations can take to bridge the digital divide. Solutions range from increased funding and more flexible connectivity that expands beyond wired internet services to increased mobile support. The report also highlights the need for culturally competent digital literacy, in-language materials, and English language training. 

Read the qualitative analysis here and the quantitative analysis here