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Bridging the digital divide for equal COVID-19 vaccine access

Headshot of Melinda Jennings

Melinda Jennings


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Mar 17, 2021
3 min read
White middle aged woman wearing face mask showing a phone screen to an elderly white woman

During a global pandemic where many turned to technology for entertainment, connection, and information, the digital divide in the US was highlighted even further. Now, during the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine, it’s integral that governments navigate this gap.

All groups within the community need to know how and when they can get the vaccine, no matter what their level of tech-access or literacy. We unpack who the digital divide affects the most, and how a multi-channel communication strategy can ensure all community groups are engaged.

Groups made most vulnerable by the digital divide

Adoption of smartphones and the internet in the US has grown rapidly over the last three decades since the advent of the World Wide Web. And yet, for many groups – particularly vulnerable ones – this level of adoption has not been great enough.

Groups that are disproportionately affected include lower-income earners, older Americans, people of color, and those living in rural areas.

For example, according to the Pew Research Center, almost 30% of American adults who earn a household-income of less than $30,000 do not own a smartphone. More than 40% don’t have home broadband, and almost half (46%) don’t own a traditional computer.

In another report, the Pew Research Center also found that nearly one-third of Americans aged 65 and older do not have the internet.  This is coupled with the fact that many older adults don’t have basic digital literacy skills having not grown up using the level of technology we have today.  

When there’s an expectation for citizens to register their details, book vaccine appointments, find out important information, and more all online, better measures need to be taken to ensure widespread access.

Reaching groups with low literacy or access to technology

The key to reaching a wider audience is diversifying communication methods. Multi-channel communication spans across various mediums – including two-way text messages, Facebook posts, voice messages and comprehensive emails.  

Building out options ensures that each group is being met where they digitally live. For example, for someone without a traditional computer or broadband computer, communicating via SMS is likely your best bet. You could also ensure links to forms (such as registering their details or making a booking) are mobile-friendly, creating a seamless end-to-end experience.

Another example may be someone who has internet access but isn’t prolific at surfing the web. Instead, they’re more comfortable sticking to browsing Facebook. In fact, they may be one of about half the US population who get their news from social media. In this case, building out updates, resources, and communication strategies that focus on Facebook and other social media channels may be ideal.

Measuring success through distribution lists

After diversifying your messaging through multi-channel communication, you can measure success through the use of segmented distribution lists. These make it easier to collate data and determine how groups are engaging and converting.  

Multi-channel communications made simple

Whispir makes it possible to easily build out multi-channel communication strategies through one single channel. Using our platform, you can segment audiences, send messages at-scale, manage multiple channels (e.g., SMS, social media, voice and email), and much more. 

These communication tools are key for helping local governments and government agencies bridge the digital divide, and make a significant difference in the lives of community members at such a critical time.

We’ve designed Whispir to be as simple to use as possible, so you won’t need any IT support to get up and running with your communication plan. Learn more about how Whispir can assist you in communicating your COVID-19 vaccine rollout.

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