In the age of coronavirus, social distancing has necessitated Internet connectivity. Those who have it can go on learning, attending virtual meetings and accessing employment opportunities online. But as the curve rises, inequalities have deepened for African American young adults living in poor communities who lack devices and wifi access at home.

We know that Generation Zers and young Millennials are technologically savvy, gifted content creators and social media influencers. Now, a wide swath of them have been separated from the broadband they used to access in school, coffee shops, libraries, community-based organizations and other public spaces. As employers move toward virtual interviewing and educational institutions resort to virtual classrooms, the digital divide has emerged as one of the chief barriers to young adults leveraging technology to maximize their learning and earning potential.

Within a knowledge-based, tech-driven economy, access to wifi at home is not just a nice thing to have — it is an essential utility. Systems-level change will be crucial to ensuring that the digital divide does not widen the opportunity divide for the most disadvantaged.

A survey by the Pew Research Center found that roughly six out of 10 African Americans own a desktop or laptop computer compared to eight out of 10 whites. While achieving near parity as smartphone owners, about a quarter of African Americans rely on their phone as their computer. But without broadband access at home, what good is it?

The LeadersUp Insights Team recently surveyed nearly 10,000 young adults ages 18-29 to get a sense of their digital connectivity and discovered significant gaps. Just 52 percent have access to high-speed Internet at home; 65 percent had their mobile data plan disconnected for up to two months within the last six months; and 35 percent use their cell phone as a computer.

The Internet is a bridge to information, learning and economic opportunity. For young adults who lack basic skills, it is imperative they have digital access to career readiness and professional development tools to prepare them for the world of work.