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Widening Disparities in Online Information Access during the COVID-19 Pandemic
Jina Suh
Eric Horvitz
Ryen White
Tim Althoff
Acceso Abierto
The COVID-19 pandemic has stimulated a staggering increase in online information access, as digital engagement became necessary to meet the demand for health, economic, and educational resources1, 2. We pursue insights about inequity in leveraging online information, spanning challenges with access and abilities to effectively seek and use digital information2–4. We observe a widening of digital inequalities through a population-scale study of 55 billion everyday web search interactions during the COVID-19 pandemic across 25,150 US ZIP codes. We observe that ZIP codes with low socioeconomic status (SES) and high racial/ethnic diversity did not leverage health information and pandemic-relevant online resources (e.g., online learning, online food delivery) as much as regions with higher SES and lower levels of diversity. We also show increased shifts in online information access to financial or unemployment assistance for ZIP codes with low SES and high racial/ethnic diversity. These findings demonstrate that the pandemic has exacerbated existing inequalities in online information access and highlight the role of large-scale, anonymized data about online search activities in digital disparities research. The results frame important questions and future research on identifying and targeting interventions for vulnerable subpopulations that could reduce further widening of digital access inequalities and associated downstream outcomes including health, education, and employment3.
Epidemia COVID-19
Público en general
Versión publicada
publishedVersion - Versión publicada
Appears in Collections:Artículos científicos

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