What is the Digital Divide and what are the points of view on it
The Digital Divide refers to any inequalities between groups in terms of access to, use of, or knowledge of information and communication technologies (ICT). Digital Divide can be local, regional, national, or global. This article is focused on global digital divide.
The global digital divide is a term used to describe the disparities in opportunity for access to the internet, information and educational/business opportunities derived from this access between developed and developing countries. Unlike the traditional notion of the "digital divide" between social classes, the "global digital divide" is essentially a geographical division.
There are varying points of view on the digital divide:
One group argues that there is increased access to computers and the internet and that computers are now cheaper to buy and easier to use. Falling prices and ease of use suggest that the digital divide is shrinking. They argue that computers were never the source of any ones poverty. They state that the digital divide is meaningless to those who lack the basic essentials such as adequate nutrition, primary health care, basic education, safe water and sanitary conditions.
Others argue that the digital divide does indeed exist. They believe that barriers such as poverty, illiteracy and so on are holding people back from having access to computers and the internet.
My belief is that the digital divide is real for those who have moved beyond obtaining the basic necessities of life and are now held back by a lack of access to technology. They have essentially satisfied their basic living needs and are now looking to improve their lives via the use of technology. Thus, the digital divide is real in some instances where technology can be used to improve the standard of living of some people.
What is the impact of the digital Divide on Developed and Developing Countries
If the gap between those with access to computer technology and the skills to function and process it was closed, this would be an advantage as it is important when it comes to promoting economic opportunity: as more and more jobs rely on computer skills, the computer illiterate are closed out of more and more economic opportunities. Skills, education, employment, and the ability to move goods, services, and knowledge globally puts countries in a position to be globally competitive. At the 2012 World Economic Forum, The Global Competitiveness Report of 2011-2012 was published. It ranks 242 countries on competiveness. The numbers demonstrate that countries with the financial, cognitive, institutional, and socio-demographic access to computer technology are ranked highest on the list. This concludes that technology supports the ability of a country to be well-positioned competitively on the global stage.
How do we eliminate the problem of the digital divide
Obstacles to overcoming the global digital divide
Many argue that basic necessities need to be considered before achieving digital inclusion, such as an ample food supply and quality health care. Minimizing the global digital divide requires considering and addressing the following types of access:
Individuals need to obtain access to computers, landlines, and networks in order to access the Internet.
The cost of ICT devices, traffic, applications, technician and educator training, software, maintenance and infrastructures require ongoing financial means.
Empirical tests have identified that several socio-demographic characteristics foster or limit ICT access and usage. Among different countries, educational levels and income are the most powerful explanatory variables, with age being a third one. In the U.S. for example, 34% of persons over 65 have access to the internet whereas 89% of persons between 18 and 28 have access. And now, access is available on mobile devices which even young children have. Gender and certain other demographics don’t seem to play a role.
In order to use computer technology, a certain level of information literacy is needed. Further challenges include information overload and the ability to find and use reliable information.
Computers need to be accessible to individuals with different learning and physical abilities. In the U.S., the 508 Disabilities Act requires the technology be accessible by all individuals.
The numbers of users are affected by whether access is offered only through individual homes or whether it is offered through schools, community centers, religious institutions, cybercafés, or post offices, especially in poor countries where computer access at work or home is highly limited”
The Internet is considered a form of e-democracy and attempting to control what citizens can or cannot view is in contradiction to this. From a study in 2006, I learned that Iran prohibited the use of high-speed Internet in the country and removed many satellite dishes in order to prevent the influence of western culture, such as music and television.
Many experts claim that bridging the digital divide is not sufficient and that the images and language needed to be conveyed in a language and images that can be read across different cultural lines
Language is a real problem with access. The web mainly consists of websites written in English. By the year 2000, only 20% of all Web sites in the world were in languages other than English and most of these were in Japanese, German, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Chinese. In 2005, less than 10% of people were English-literate while the rest, more than 2 billion, spoke languages that were sparsely represented on the web.
We just spoke about what the challenges or barriers are that must be overcome. Let’s talk about some examples of the global digital divide:
Examples of Global Digital Divide
- Mobile phones and small electronic communications devices
- E-communities and social networking
- Fast broadband internet connections
- Internet access
- Electronic Service Delivery
- Online Research
At the World Economic Forum of 2011-2012, John Chambers of CISCO stated “Jobs go where the best infrastructure and training is.” Ann Livermore of Technology Solutions Group stated, “India and China graduate one million engineers each annually compared to 70,000 in the U.S, and Europe even fewer. We see very advanced implementations in countries starting with a clean slate. Developing countries go straight to wireless.
In conclusion, the digital divide is real and it dictates the competitiveness and ranking of countries in the global economy. Poverty, illiteracy, and economic gain are impacted tremendously by technology. Every citizen should have the right to learn and grow through the use of technology. We just need to develop long-term solutions to turn digital divide into digital inclusion.
Gloria Parker is CEO and Senior Partner of Parker Group Consulting in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. Ms. Parker served on the Obama-Biden Transition team in 2008 – 2009 as co-team lead on National Archives and Government Printing Office (GPO) Agency Review Teams. She also held executive management positions at CSC and Apptis, Inc from 2005 through 2009. Ms. Parker holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Mathematics from Hampton University and completed graduate studies in Mathematical Statistics at the Ohio State University.