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This story of a woman applying for a job epitomizes the digital divide

How do you apply for a job online without a computer or an email address?


Katie Balevic


Posted on Jun 26, 2019   Updated on May 20, 2021, 9:48 am CDT

A chance encounter between a CEO and a woman experiencing homelessness this week demonstrated the effects of the poverty gap and the digital divide.

Twitter user Lisa Kaplan was at her local library on June 24 when a woman approached her asking for assistance using a computer. The woman wanted to apply to a custodial position but was told to apply online, Kaplan tweeted.

Since she seemed uncomfortable with using the keyboard, Kaplan helped the woman fill out the application, which called for an email address and a phone number. The woman had neither.

Kaplan, who works in the industry of countering misinformation, said that two-factor authentication is a common method of preventing people from creating fake accounts. But it also widens the digital accessibility gap, preventing people without the resources of a phone or computer from applying for jobs.

In a private message to the Daily Dot, Kaplan said the woman was unable to apply for the job that day. Kaplan said she connected the woman to with an organization that helps people who are homeless work through these types of obstacles.

In response to the Twitter thread, Twitter users commended Kaplan for helping the woman as much as she could and demonstrating the vicious cycle of poverty.

Other users were not as sympathetic.

Some pointed out that the digital divide extends beyond job applications into food stamp applications, as well. Twitter user @KiddoCarson said they applied for food stamps and had to download an app. When they asked the attendant what would happen if they didn’t have a cell phone, the attendant said, “A lot of time-consuming work you would need money for.”

Kaplan said there must be a better way to verify internet users but still make it accessible.

“There has to be a better way,” Kaplan tweeted. “It could be a trusted portal at public libraries or a verification from the librarian, but we need to keep the internet inclusive and accessible—while detecting the manipulation of the internet by nefarious actors.”


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*First Published: Jun 26, 2019, 4:47 pm CDT