What is the Digital Divide?

The digital divide is the gap between demographics and regions that have access to the latest information and communications technology and those that do not. Currently, the term includes the technical and financial capacity to take advantage of available technologies, along with access to or lack of access to the Internet, but the gap it refers to is constantly changing with the development of technology. I will. For example, the term was first used in the late 20th century to describe the gap between those who have access to mobile phones and those who do not.

Important point

  • The digital divide includes access to or lack of access to the Internet, as well as the technical and financial capacity to take advantage of available technologies.
  • The digital divide exists between developed and developing countries, urban and rural populations, young and educated and uneducated individuals, and men and women.
  • The urban-rural gap is the biggest factor in the digital divide.
  • The results of the digital divide include isolation that can affect mental health. Educational barriers as higher education moves more and more online. Exacerbation of gender discrimination.
  • The coronavirus pandemic has revealed a difference in digital coverage in the United States. For example, the difference between children forced to attend school in remote areas and in less wealthy communities where people struggle to get vaccination appointments.

Understand the digital divide

The digital divide opens the gap between those who have affordable and reliable access to the Internet, those who have the skills and gadgets they need to access it, and those who lack it. Represents.

This is a problem in many countries, where rural populations are far more likely to be separated from digital technology than urban dwellers. There are also disparities between countries and continents. And it exists between men and women: In 2019, 55% of the world’s male population used the Internet, compared to 48% of the female population.

Beyond the gap between developed and developing countries, rural and urban populations, and men and women, there are three common types of digital divides described in the literature.

  • Partitioning access —This is the most visible digital divide. This refers to the socio-economic differences between people and their impact on the ability of people to buy the devices they need to be online. In developing countries, many people have restricted access to technology and the Internet and do not have the skills needed to use it effectively.
  • Use split —This refers to the different levels of skill that individuals have. There are generational gaps in the skills required to use the Internet. It is also influenced by the quality of education that individuals receive. Young, educated people tend to have more skills than older, uneducated individuals.
  • Quality of use gap —This measure is a little more complicated. This refers to the different ways people use the Internet and the fact that there are people who can get much more of the information they need from the Internet.

These gaps in connectivity and skills reflect existing differences in access to wealth and education, as well as gender discrimination. The digital divide also exacerbates these same differences by keeping many people out of the information they need to get out of their current living conditions.

Global digital divide

For many years, the global digital divide has been seen as a result of economic development. As countries and individuals get richer, they may buy digital equipment and infrastructure, and the digital divide will naturally disappear.

Still, revenues have increased around the world over the last two decades, and access to digital services remains stubbornly low in many developing countries. This is often due to a lack of investment in internet infrastructure. Citizens may have internet-enabled devices, but still cannot connect to the World Wide Web. Internet penetration still varies widely from continent to continent. In 2020, 94.6% of North Americans had access to the Internet, compared to 39.3% of Africans.

85%

Percentage of the world’s population projected to be covered by 4G networks by the end of 2020, according to the United Nations International Telecommunication Union.

However, these statistics hide many fluctuations within a country or region. Sea-facing powers tend to have much better internet access, even if they are underdeveloped elsewhere. Therefore, in 2020, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the United Nations Information and Communication Technology Organization, began to provide statistics on landlocked developing countries and small island developing states based on the total statistics of developing countries. It was.

Similarly, there are large disparities in Internet access among highly developed countries. Many rural Americans do not yet have sufficient internet access and are even less skilled in maximizing the access they have. In fact, the most accurate predictors of the digital divide are not age or country. They are the level of education, the disparity between urban and rural areas. According to a recent survey, about 72% of people in urban areas of the world have internet access from home, compared to less than 40% of people in rural areas.

Some analysts fear that the digital divide is widening rather than narrowing. In addition, some suspicious business practices appear to be widening the gap in developed countries as well. The ongoing debate about net neutrality and versioning can be seen as a matter of fair access to the digital world.

Digital divide results

Until very recently, access to the Internet was considered a luxury, and digital access disparities were seen in much the same term. However, there is widespread consensus that technical discrimination is a form of social exclusion because it deprives certain citizens of the resources essential to the development of wealth.

This is most apparent when you look at the balance of the global economy, especially the surge in the number of jobs that require digital access and skills. For example, in the United States, almost half of all STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) work is computing. In 2020, there were over one million blank computer science positions. Lack of access to learning these skills is a barrier to these jobs and the associated income.

However, you don’t have to pursue a career in the tech industry to be affected by the digital divide. The effects of this phenomenon reach many people in several important ways.

  • Lack of communication and isolation —The COVID-19 pandemic focuses on isolation that is immediately experienced by people without internet access or skills. This can have serious knock-on effects, from the inability to secure vaccination appointments for the coronavirus, to limiting the prospects for an individual’s work and affecting mental health.
  • Barriers to Education —As education becomes more and more online, people who do not have the resources to access the Internet, including school children limited to distance learning during a pandemic, may be separated from the opportunity to develop their skills. There is sex. As a result, children can have educational gaps and adults can miss work opportunities or fail to acquire the basic skills needed to contribute to the community.
  • Exacerbation of sexism —As mentioned above, the digital divide also exacerbates many existing forms of discrimination. One of the most prevalent is sexism. Women who lack equal access to the Internet are more likely to move up because they do not have access to education and information to help them take on the challenge.

As the world becomes more and more dependent on digital technology, these consequences can be more serious and widespread. Society is obliged to deal with the digital divide in a holistic way that recognizes its many aspects and its negative consequences.

Bridging the Digital Divide

In recent years, programs have been launched aimed at combating certain aspects of the digital divide. Many of these are coordinated to the highest levels, including the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 9. This will allow countries to coordinate their efforts to eradicate digital discrimination.

In developed countries, some analysts point to the success of 20th-century programs that have saved millions of people from poverty. One of the commonly mentioned examples is the Rural Electrification Act during the Great Depression. This is an example of how governments deliver technology to underserved areas that private companies consider less profitable to include in their networks.

In addition, the following specific programs have been launched in the last few years to address the other aspects of the digital divide.

  • Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI) —It aims to reduce the cost of broadband internet in certain parts of the world.
  • One laptop per child (OLPC) —We offer very low-cost laptops to children around the world and offer online education programs to help them develop their digital skills.
  • Starlink —It provides high-speed internet and global coverage at an affordable price via satellites launched into space.

Many countries now also have digital literacy programs aimed at teaching both adults and children the skills needed to break the digital divide.