Digital Divide 4
Bridging the gap 9
Current measures Being Undertaken to Bridge the Divide 10
In recent times as we approach the future, how technology as affected different aspects of almost every field in the world at a global level is an astounding sight to behold and its effects can be noticed everywhere. The primary concern in consideration is the digital divide caused due to technology and technology in this scenario includes the advancements in communication technology and the internet. When the effects on society is in focus then the effects of the progress in communication technology and the internet on the media and information transmission are to be observed.
The effects of the digital divide on several different aspects have started to become an alarming issue and measures are being undertaken to solve it but it is important to understand why and how the problem arises.
The digital divide is caused due to the concentrated use of internet in the wealthier nations and due to this; the deprived nations and regions are under a totally different atmosphere where the effects of the development in the information sector are not noticed at all. This creates a divide or we can say a disparity between these two classes of people in the society. As the wealthier nations are showing rapid advancements in the internet and information transmission, it becomes a rising concern. (Evans, 2002)The advancement referred here are in the Information and communication technologies (ICT) which has a positive outlook, and agreeably, the development in these sectors is a positive sign but its negative effects emerged after a certain point of time and the world is now trying to bridge the digital divide. (Masao Kahikara, 2002)
The origin of a digital divide is technically due to extensive growth in developed countries where the technical revolution for the transmission of knowledge began, where Information Societies emerged to catalyze growth of Information revolution throughout country and between such countries. And due to this the two types of digital divides that have emerged are:
1) Global Digital Divide: This refers to the gap between countries and also the developing countries trying to enter the information revolution.
2) Local Digital Divide: This refers to the divide between the people inside a particular country and this has primary focus over a digital equipment gap (Blake & Tucker, n.a.)
The prodigious growth of internet can be easily noticed in the world, despite no dependable data on the online population of the world, but there are estimates regarding the number of internet users in the world which are astonishing. In 1991 it started as a mere 4,4 million in the world which went on to 10 million in the year 1993, in 1999 it had risen to 277 million and by the end of 2002, it had reached at a gigantic 600 million. The factor that should be noticed here is that a huge amount of this population resided in America and 60% of its population were internet users by 2004. UK, Korea and Japan managed to reach such a level after some time. (Chen & Wellman, 2004)
These divides can also be observed in 3 different ways namely; Global divide existing between countries, social divide between the different classes of people based on their income and the democratic divide existing between the people using the internet and the people who do not have access to it. As a result, the developed and developing countries have been able to play a huge part in the global economy while other nations are phased out. The World Bank referred to the Digital divide as a roadblock for development and was concerned over its exponential growth. (Avgerou & Madon, 2005)
The Role of ICTs in the development and the Digital Divide has been more than average. The interest of industrialized countries in ICTs for development has been noticed and there have been many worldwide summits for creating global awareness regarding ICTs. The objective behind this was development of information and knowledge and for the introduction of a global free market. Throughout the years, ICTs have been known to contribute to improve conditions of the economies of the countries by developing communities and through economic benefits. (Avgerou & Madon, 2005)
The Digital Divide affects employment also as employers and companies prefer employees with technical know-how and internet usage skills in every field and the population bereft of the internet would not have the same knowledge to offer as the ones who have been exposed to it. (Dijk)The reasons for people not having been able to use the internet are:
• No requirement of internet or no opportunities for use
• Lack of time and interest
• Rejection of technical medium due to traditional notions
• No skills to use internet
• Monetary problems
A sub-type of Futures Research (FR) known as EFR is a research methodology adopted to observe the digital divide which had both positive and negative outcomes regarding the influence of ICTs. Findings suggested positive effects like ubiquitous access to ICT, Literacy regarding IT will flourish and protection of privacy. Whereas, the negative effects were insufficient protection of public interest, policies steered by commercialism and oppression to both users and non-users. (Mitchell, 2003)
The Digital Divide truly crosses all borders as it has global effects. The countries not adapting to information technology and internet have proved to lag behind in many aspects like literacy, economy, employment, business and general development. Whereas Developing countries investing in the IT industries have developed in many ways and the more people have managed to get employment. (Avgerou & Madon, 2005)
The Digital Divide at the geographical level has shown various statistics from around the world from which it can be ascertained that countries with higher GDP tend to have more internet users. It has also been seen that the developed countries with the most amount internet penetration isnt showing growth in the number of new users of internet. Internet Diffusion has been stalling compared to the explosive rate at it which grew in the last decade. (Chen & Wellman, 2004)
There have been problems witnessed regarding there is less motivation regarding the pursuit of development in technology. The problem with people is not that they don’t have or can’t have the resources the problem is that the people don’t want resources that would help them to get educated in the subject of internet or would get them educated as a skilled worker. There is also another myth arising that the people who have a personal computer and an internet connection do actually use it. Many users under this category just use it rarely for short amounts of time. The amount of people who fall under the category of not using the internet because they just don’t need are supposed to be educated regarding the benefits of having a computer and an internet connection and how helpful and handy it can be from time to time. (Dijk J. A.)
The reason why there is less motivation in the rural area is because of certain technophobia which is that they do not feel comfortable and actually experience fear in dealing with computers. There is also another reason which is that the folk is scared of the beneficiary effects of advancement in technology.
The Information technology has been consistently adopted by society but the divide is a relative divide between the different classes of people, though there has been a substantial increase in the number of computers possessed and internet connections. Despite this there have been hindrances like people have to constantly change equipment as it gets outdated pretty soon and that the free internet in reference is not really free. (Dijk & Hacker, 2000)
The Digital Divide within the countries in societies is based on many factors like;
Socio-economic status: Although it is supposed that internet user generally come from rich and middle-class families and preferably well-educated, it is seen that as the magnitude of internet penetration decreases, the population accessing the internet get more and more elite.
Age: Young population is more likely to internet use internet as compared to the older population and this has been possible because of internet access in educational institutions nowadays. The older population doesn’t feel the need to learn how to use the internet unless they really have to.
Gender: It has been seen that men are likely to use internet with United States as an exception. Statistically, the number of female internet users has been low globally.
Region: The regions with a higher economic growth have been noticed to have a higher rate of online penetration as compared to poor countries. Also, it has been observed that GDP also has a relation with the statistics related to this subject.
As the developed countries continue to show growth concerning internet, there is a considerable level of digital divide between developed and developing countries and also digital divide has been observed within both the type of countries. This further affects society in the form of social inequality and the population left without access to internet might face exclusion from economic changes and knowledge based societies. (Chen & Wellman, 2004)
All these concerning factors lead us to find a solution to this anomaly and filling the void caused due to technology as soon as possible.
Bridging the gap
The alarming level of the effects of the digital divide has caused countries and organizations to find measures to bridge the gap. UNESCO has suggested some basic measures for countries to solve this problem, they are:
Connecting public spaces: Public spaces like train station, administrative building lobbies, libraries, public parks, etc have a higher tendency to attract huge crowds and installation of devices with internet connection would make sure more accessibility and new users.
Increased number of cyber cafes: If more cybercafés are set up with government aid then the number of potential internet users is bound to increase. The number of cybercafés has substantially increased in developing countries.
Promoting corporate companies to fund donations: Corporate companies and NGOs can help set up funds to help educational institutes to be equipped with internet as it would also promote and encourage higher education and literacy. (UNESCO, 2002)
After acquiring an interest of using a computer, one has to have a basic know how of the hardware/software of a computer and that also requires digital skills and they should be imparted easily. Also, information skills are required which are skills to be able to search for content on the internet and how to use it. Mailing skills include skills of sending an e-mail, contacting and communicating with other people on the internet. (Evans, 2002)
Increase in availability of internet in rural areas would help with the divide in a substantial way. Use of power lines and satellite communication should be implemented for this with lower access prices.
Observation of difference in the global prices of internet connectivity suggest that an internet connections cost US$ 16 per 100kbs and the average income is 168 US$ this suggests that prices are really high when it comes to the question of whether middle class families can afford it and countries with a huge amount of rural areas and higher magnitude of low-income families, internet connection is slow and costly. In Africa consuming one gigabyte of data costs 745 USD. (Union, 2007)
In high income countries, one month of internet makes for less than 1% of the per capita in some countries. Mobile phone internet and consumption has been high due to their low pricing and the same should be adopted extensively as much as possible. (Union, 2007)
This issue can be countered in some countries at a school level, the initial problem was the computers were treated as an extra part of their curriculum and not as an important part of their studies, more often as a secondary subject in schools; this can be countered by involving technological aspects in studies. Lab should be made available for students and teachers whenever they want and tasks should be given to complete on the computers in the class. (Swain & Pearson, n.a.) Sector reform can be considered as an effective way to counter the digital divide; it can be done by liberalizing the market and introducing competition to the IT companies and also by involving private sector in this situation would prove helpful.
Current measures Being Undertaken to Bridge the Divide
Business and political organizations realize the gravity of the Digital Divide. Encouragement of competition is a factor that would prove fruitful to this endeavor. The competition between PC manufacturers has led them to decrease prices in order to attract customers and this would result in more and more people being able to buy computers. AMD has introduced the 50X15 initiative to help bridge the divide and it aims to supply 50% of the world population with internet by the end of 2015. (The Digital Divide, ICT and the 50×15 initiative, n.a.)
There is a language barrier too in the process of bridging the gap as information supply has to be in the relevant language for it to matter. If the language is understood by the minorities it can be transmitted from one source to another. UNESCO is working to build more cybercafés and install personal computers of digital devices with internet connectivity in public spaces to promote potential users. (UNESCO, 2002)
The Digital Divide has caused negative effects socially, culturally and geographically and it has been observed that what kind of phenomenon causes it. Still studies are going on trying to ascertain true answer to the problem, more or less like a general solution to the problem of Digital Divide. Its affects on society are still being witnessed in many rural countries and also locally between different classes of people as rural people have a totally different outlook on the concept of Internet. Still measures are being undertaken by businesses, world organizations and governments to fund and promote the use internet and more and more people are to be educated regarding the need of a computer and internet in recent times and also that educational institutions can play a very big role in speeding up the infusion of Internet.
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