S.C.R. NO.














REQUESTING the legislative reference bureau to conduct a study on ways to close the digital divide.



     WHEREAS, a broadband connection and digital literacy are increasingly critical to how individuals participate in the society, economy, and civic institutions of all levels of government, including access to health care and essential services, education, and career building; and


     WHEREAS, digital exclusion carries a high societal and economic cost; materially harms the opportunities for individuals with respect to economic success, educational achievement, positive health outcomes, social inclusion, and civic engagement; and exacerbates existing wealth and income gaps, especially those experienced by underrepresented populations; and


     WHEREAS, factors attributing to the digital divide include but are not limited to widening levels of education, household income, geographical restrictions, and the lack of physical access to technology; and


     WHEREAS, the lack of digital equity has been a pressing issue for years, disenfranchising those in rural communities and in socioeconomically disadvantaged circumstances, and by creating a digital divide through racial, economic, and geographical boundaries, amplified among the most vulnerable and underserved populations; and


     WHEREAS, fifty-five thousand households in Hawaii do not have an internet subscription, roughly 9.5 percent of households have no internet access, seven percent of households have no computer, 19.2 percent of households with an annual income of less than $75,000 have no internet subscription, 8.7 percent of Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islanders are without an internet subscription, 11.6 percent of individuals sixty-five years and older have no computer in their household, and 10.1 percent of individuals with the educational attainment of less than a high school diploma or equivalent have no internet subscription; and


     WHEREAS, the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic reiterated the digital divide by highlighting disadvantages posed to those without internet access, especially through the transition to remote work, virtual learning, and telehealth underscoring the importance of ensuring statewide access to affordable internet; and


     WHEREAS, the drastic increase in Hawaii's unemployment rate has forced some families to cut home internet subscriptions to prioritize other expenses and the need for social distancing has forced most business and societal functions to occur online, placing employment and other necessities out of reach for those without digital connectivity; and


     WHEREAS, the digital divide in the COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to further segregation of individuals in society based on ethnicity, age, race, and gender since technology creates new alignments among individuals with access to the internet compared to those without access.  The digital divide is particularly striking with regard to education, workforce development, economic development, and healthcare; and


     WHEREAS, achieving digital equity for all residents of the State requires additional and sustained investment and research efforts; and


     WHEREAS, digital equity supports Hawaii's economic recovery and efforts to accomplish many of the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals, the Hawaii Community Foundation's CHANGE Framework goals, and the State's Aloha+ Challenge goals; and


     WHEREAS, technological discrimination is a poverty and social exclusion, depriving some citizens of essential resources for development and wealth generation.  Thus, achieving digital equity is a matter of social and economic justice; now, therefore,


     BE IT RESOLVED by the Senate of the Thirty-first Legislature of the State of Hawaii, Regular Session of 2021, the House of Representatives concurring, that the Legislative Reference Bureau is requested to conduct a study on ways to close the digital divide through multidimensional policies and programs that seek to reduce social and digital inequity simultaneously, including but not limited to:


     (1)  Tax policies that reduce the upfront costs of devices and communications technology purchased by the Department of Education to provide students with equitable access to distance learning;


     (2)  Infrastructure investments and robust competition policies to ensure widespread access to affordable high-quality internet on all islands;


     (3)  Policies to ensure that dramatic growth in continued wireless broadband continues and create and distribute digital technology;


     (4)  Investment in digital literacy, education, and training programs, to remove computer literacy barriers that impede universal access; including policies promoting affordability, readiness, and relevance of access to broadband internet that remove barriers to unserved and underserved populations; and


     (5)  Grant programs to support digital equity projects undertaken by individuals, groups, coalitions, or communities of interest; and


     BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Legislative Reference Bureau is requested to submit a report of its findings and recommendations to the Legislature no later than twenty days prior to the convening of the Regular Session of 2022; and


     BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that a certified copy of this Concurrent Resolution be transmitted to the Director of the Legislative Reference Bureau.









Report Title: 

Legislative Reference Bureau; Digital Divide; Digital Equity; Digital Inclusion