Deloitte: Broadband for all to tackle digital divide
A new report from Deloitte called Broadband for all: charting a path to economic growth has evaluated the connection between broadband internet access and economic growth.
The report also explores what needs to be done to close the so-called digital divide – to optimise the economic and social benefits while reducing inequalities. However, after a decade of infrastructure investment that saw billions of dollars of private and public investment in broadband, the results have been disappointing.
According to the report:
Between 2010 and 2020, federal programs spent approximately US$107 billion.
In 2014, the last year of the 4 Mbps downlink benchmark, 16 million Americans (approximately 5% of the US population) did not have broadband services that met that standard.
In 2019, after five years and approximately US$54 billion, 14.4 million Americans did not have broadband that met the new FCC speed threshold (25 Mbps downlink).
“The pandemic hastened the pace of a decades-long trend in which innovative applications are increasingly essential to enhancing educational opportunities, organising our lives, connecting with colleagues and friends, improving workplace productivity and enriching the quality of lives,” said report co-author Dan Littman, principal, technology, media and telecommunications at Deloitte.
“If large segments of our population lack the necessary communications infrastructure to participate, progress will be increasingly difficult.”
The COVID-19 pandemic forced many Americans to work from home, but many simply did not have access to adequate or affordable internet connectivity or mobile devices. This highlights what the report calls a pivotal moment for the US economy. More than US$100bn of infrastructure investment has been allocated by the government to address this issue but the digital divide remains.
The impact of broadband access on US jobs<
According to the report, access to broadband can have significant impact on the US workforce:
A 10% increase in broadband penetration in 2016 would have added 806,000 additional jobs in 2019, or an average annual increase of 269,000 jobs.
More than 875,000 additional jobs and US$186 billion more in economic output would have occurred in 2019 had there been a 10% increase in broadband access in 2014.
Adding 10 Mbps to average download speeds in 2016 would have resulted in 139,400 additional jobs in 2019.
“When it comes to the public or private broadband investments to close the digital divide, the economic benefits are clear, but will require stakeholders to navigate potentially competing priorities across emerging technologies that can meet needs in the near-term, the long-term desires for faster speeds, and financial support for devices and in-home equipment,” concluded report co-author Jack Fritz.
Microsoft: Building a secure foundation to drive NASCAR
Microsoft is a key partner of The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) and together they are driving ahead to create an inclusive and immersive new fan experience (FX).
These long-term partners have not only navigated the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic with the use of Microsoft Teams and Microsoft 365, but are now looking to a future packed with virtual events to enhance the FX, well beyond NASCAR’S famous Daytona racetrack.
“Together, we've created a secure environment that's allowed for collaboration, but the future is all about the fans”, said Melinda Cook, General Manager for Microsoft South USA Commercial Business, who cited a culture of transparency, passion, adaptiveness, and a growth mindset as to why this alignment is so successful.”
“We've partnered to create a fluid, immersive experience for the users that is supported by a secure foundation with Microsoft in the background. We are focused on empowering and enabling customers and businesses, like NASCAR, to reach their full potential. We do this with our cloud platform which provides data insights and security.”
“Our cloud environment allows NASCAR to move forward with their digital transformation journey while we are in the background,” said Cook who highlights that Microsoft is helping NASCAR
- Empower employees productivity and collaboration
- Improve fan engagement and experience
- Improve environment security and IT productivity
- Improve racing operations
Microsoft Teams, which is part of the Microsoft 365 suite, enabled employees to work remotely, while staying productive, during the pandemic. “This allowed people to provide the same level of productivity with the use of video conference and instant messaging to collaborate on documents. Increased automation also allows the pit crews, IT, and the business to focus on safety, racing operations, and on the fan experience,” said Cook.
“We have started to innovate to create a more inclusive fanbase, this includes using Xbox to give people the experience of being a virtual racer or even leveraging some of the tools in Microsoft Teams to have a virtual ride along experience.”
“These environments are how we create a more inclusive and immersive experience for the fans. We're working on a virtual fan wall which allows people from new locations to participate in these events,” said Cook, who pointed out Microsoft was also helping bring legacy experiences alive from NASCAR’s archives.
“At Microsoft we can take it one level further by letting fans know what it's like to see the pit crew experience, the data and all the behind-the-scenes action. We will continue to improve automation with machine learning and artificial intelligence, from marketing to IT operations to finance to racing operations,” said Cook.
Christine Stoffel-Moffett, Vice President of Enterprise Technology at NASCAR, said: “Microsoft is one of our key partners. They have been instrumental in helping the NASCAR enterprise technology team re-architect our Microsoft systems to ensure an advanced level of security across our environment, contribute to our business outcomes, and focus on fan experience.”