Tech, Media, & Telecom Issues Vital to AAPI Communities

Over the last decade, the advancement of digital and telecommunications capabilities has made it possible to access education, entertainment, and economic opportunities at any time and from virtually any place. When the Internet began, access to these amazing new services was considered a luxury. Today, it is a necessity.

The so-called “digital divide” has transformed from a practical problem into a national imperative. Those without robust Internet connections, access to innovative technologies, or affordable mobile data are denied the economic, academic, and social opportunities enjoyed by their fellow citizens — whether performing a job search, accessing information, or streaming a favorite show.

While, according to the best available data, “English-speaking Asian Americans” are consistently the most likely group to report Internet usage, we are not monolithic. Our communities encompass dozens of ethnic groups and more than 100 languages. For instance, while AAPIs (Asian American and Pacific Islander) have some of the highest median household incomes, they also have had some of the fastest growing poverty rates. Income is a strong indicator of whether or not a household is likely to have broadband access, and for many low income families and communities, access to new technologies, digital media, and robust telecommunications that others take for granted, is unavailable. Historically, many in our community have resided in rural communities, often the most disenfranchised from reliable Internet availability. The recognition of AAPI success cannot come at the expense of confronting AAPI struggle throughout our diverse communities.

Additionally, ensuring the enormously complex matrix of devices, networks, creators, and distributors that support our digital lives remains functional is a staggering task — one that will involve a legislative and regulatory solution that will impact nearly every person and community in the United States, including AAPI communities. Therefore, it is essential that an organization like the Japanese American Citizens League has a strong voice in relevant policy or regulatory debates regarding issues such as broadband access, innovation, media, and telecommunications. Just like all other Americans, we speak up because these issues impact the lives of those in our communities, and those who are unable to speak and for whom we can provide voice.

Of course, our communities are also interested in joining the wide-ranging technology policy dialogue in this country because of the continuous and accelerating pace at which new and old media — online platforms and “traditional” print and broadcast outlets — are becoming intertwined. Since the arrival of the first Asians in this country, our communities have had to fight bigoted, inaccurate, and dehumanizing media portrayals of our people and our cultures. Diverse representations on online platforms are more vibrant than ever, but we need to ensure that all people, especially young people, who don’t see representations of themselves elsewhere in the media, have opportunities to see, and be, true-to-life representations of themselves online. While recent decades have shown real improvement on these issues, there is still much work to be done.

We must continue to be engaged in the policy decisions that will determine how the next generation will access and experience the Internet, the space in which all future media will “live.” Access to the Internet is a right and necessity today, and it is essential that AAPI communities enjoy the same unfettered, equitable access to the Internet as all Americans.

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