Digital Divide

14 May

Ever heard of “Digital Citizens”? Well, according to our favorite online encyclopedia, most probably YOU are one of them. In fact, so is the majority of the developed countries’ population.

And despite that it sounds kind of offensive to be called like that (since it reminds us of the negative connoted transparent one), there is just as much to this status as having access to and participating through Information Technology. Using a cell phone or having an E-mail would actually be enough to fulfill these criteria. (Not even mentioning the use of social networks, e-commerce or blogs.) And even though I find being connected pretty annoying at times, overall I really do appreciate the luxury of being able access this giant resource of data, knowledge and nonsense called internet. After all today’s economy is commonly described as knowledge-based, this gives those who have access to information an important (potential) advantage.

The gap between the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ of access to it is commonly labeled as the “digital divide” (obviously derived out of the general expression “knowledge divide”); which is describing a relatively new kind of social inequity in fashionable terms.

The digital divide itself is a multidimensional phenomenon, which can be observed globally and domestically. From Pippa Norris’ point of view, it comprehends thee individual aspects: The global divide refers to the disparity between industrialized and developing countries, the social divide addresses the inland difference between rich and poor population and the democratic divide indicates differences between individuals that do or don’t make use of the given tools in order to participate in public life.

While the first two doubtlessly are founded on economical terms, the third one suggests some deeper issues behind the gap. The economic divide is supposed to grow more irrelevant (with each day as PCs get increasingly cheaper and easier to afford), putting the spotlight in developed countries on usability and empowerment. These are matters of know-how that can only hardly be overcome by education, combined with adjustments to discriminated groups (such as elder people, or ones with lower literacy skills). Therefore bridging the gap in developed countries appears to be more about fighting a communicational and psychological barrier, while in developing countries the main issue is still about the costs of information technology exceeding financial opportunities of the population.

Is there something that can be done about it?

Of course there are people that don’t see any need in action, because they believe that new technologies develop best without governmental intervention, but on the other hand there are people who’d probably prefer not to wait another 10 years until the day they can finally afford a computer (and be able to help themselves). For this reason various political measures and projects have already been implemented: I guess all of us had computer science in school, some of you might have heard about computer orientation programs for adults, or noticed the increasing number of free Wi-Fi hotspots around. That’s just the top of the iceberg!

My personal favorite out of these is the One Laptop per Child project. It is implemented by a global Non-profit organization, which offers special low-cost computers to schools in developing countries. Today, 2 400 000 of these XO-laptops are somewhere out there helping children to learn.

Sounds like development aid at its best, right?

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One Response to “Digital Divide”

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  1. Who rules the WWW? « FUTURIMA - June 25, 2011

    […] of society itself. Well more precisely a global mirror of individuals and organizations that are lucky enough to access the web’s giant resources of words, pictures, facts, opinions, games, files, videos, […]

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