Digitally Invisible cover


Digitally Invisible

How the Internet Is Creating the New Underclass

Nicol Turner Lee
Release Date: August 6, 2024

Billions of people around the world lack internet access. No one cared until the whole world had to go online.

President Joe Biden has repeatedly said that the United States would close the digital divide under his leadership. However, the divide still affects people and communities across the country. The complex and persistent reality is that millions of residents live in digital deserts, and many more face disproportionate difficulties when it comes to getting and staying online, especially people of color, seniors, rural residents, and farmers in remote areas.

Economic and health disparities are worsening in rural communities without available internet access. Students living in urban digital deserts with little technology exposure are ill prepared to compete for emerging occupations. Even seniors struggle to navigate the aging process without access to online information and remote care.

In this book, Nicol Turner Lee, a leading expert on the American digital divide, uses personal stories from individuals around the country to show how the emerging digital underclass is navigating the spiraling online economy, while sharing their joys and hopes for an equitable and just future.

Turner Lee argues that achieving digital equity is crucial for the future of America’s global competitiveness and requires radical responses to offset the unintended consequences of increasing digitization. In the end, “Digitally Invisible” proposes a pathway to more equitable access to existing and emerging technologies, while encouraging readers to weigh in on this shared goal.

Nicol Turner Lee writes at the intersection of technology, race, and social justice. She is a senior fellow and director of the Center for Technology Innovation at the Brookings Institution, and the founder of the AI Equity Lab. A tech policy expert and storyteller, her work has appeared in the Washington Post and New York Times, and on NBC, CNBC, NPR, and the PBS NewsHour. She has served as an adviser on technology policy issues for government agencies, including the National Academies of Sciences and the Federal Communications Commission. She received a PhD from Northwestern University.

Nicol Turner Lee deserves commendation for bringing this issue to the forefront, sparking essential conversations, and inspiring action toward a more connected America. It is more vital than ever that policymakers, community organizations, and industry work toward a more inclusive tech future.
Larry King, Former Assistant Secretary, U.S. Department of Commerce
'Digitally Invisible' is a phenomenal must-read for those seeking to understand how the lack of online access is a historical by-product of long-standing, systemic inequalities.
Aldon Morris, Author, The Scholar Denied
A timely revelation about technology’s erasure of certain communities.
Bishop Leah Daughtry, Coauthor, For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Politics
No one writing today knows the story of the many digital divides in America more than Nicol Turner Lee. She has given us a great gift.
John Palfrey, President, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
For decades, Nicol Turner Lee has been deeply committed to digital equity. I count her among the voices I am always ready to listen to on these issues.
Michael K. Powell, Former Chairman, Federal Communications Commission
'Digitally Invisible' engagingly interweaves the common challenges facing urban school districts and remote, rural farms with the competitive imperatives that the nation faces. This book is urgent reading for policymakers, journalists, academics, and business leaders.
Marcus Brauchli, Former Editor, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal
'Digitally Invisible' brings us the voices of people across America with shared interests in a just digital future with authenticity and powerful compassion.
Vilas Dhar, President, Patrick J. McGovern Foundation