Updates to the Standard Methodology: The Necessity of Internet and Cell Phone

Joana Dizon | Student Assistant, Center for Women’s Welfare

In the age of technology and digitization, internet and smartphone usage is widespread. The Pew Research Center reports that in 2018, 81 percent of Americans own smartphones, 75 percent of adults own desktop or laptop computers, and 50 percent own some type of alternative information device.

Internet access is now critically important to securing employment, pursuing education, acquiring information, performing civic duties and accessing pertinent services, such as healthcare. This has become strikingly apparent during the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has also shed light on a digital divide in adequate access to connectivity for working adults and students, engendering economic inequality and lost opportunity for education and wealth-building.

According to the Household Pulse Survey by the U.S. Census Bureau released in September 2020, 90 percent of households with children had internet access usually or always available for online learning and educational purposes while 7 percent only have internet available some of the time or never.

The shift to online and remote settings has also occurred in workplaces with 31 percent of workers moving to telework by April 2020. Business losses and unemployment has skyrocketed during the pandemic and telework has become one of the last reliable sources of jobs. Analysis completed by The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that 45 percent of employment opportunities can feasibly be carried out via telework. Overall, the pandemic’s impact on technology and internet use has immensely propelled the process of digitization at both the “organizational and industry levels” by several years.

With the rapid innovations around digital technology, it’s safe to say that access to the internet and smartphones has become a necessity every household can’t afford to go without. Those who do not have adequate access lose significant opportunity for skill building, education, and access to health care and other services. In response to this changing reality, the Center for Women’s Welfare will be updating the Standard’s methodology in order to explicitly include the essential costs of internet and cell.