What is the “Digital Divide?”
According to Wikipedia, the digital divide “refers to the gap between individuals, households, businesses and geographic areas at different socio-economic levels with regard both to their opportunities to access information and communications technologies (ICT) and to their use of the Internet for a wide variety of activities. It includes the imbalance both in physical access to technology and the resources and skills needed to effectively participate as a digital citizen.”
Simply put, it’s that some people have access to computers and the internet and some do not, and the term “digital divide” infers that the ones that do not have access are at a disadvantage.
As more and more of the world’s information becomes available online, often for free, people without access to that information cannot function as effectively as the ones who do.
Let’s look at a quick example: Say I needed to fill out and submit a government form that was available on the internet but I didn’t have internet access. I would have to go down to the correct government office (hopefully I picked the right one), wait in line, pick up a form, ask any appropriate questions and then either fill it out there or bring it home, fill it out and go back to submit it. In a developing nation, this could be a several day affair.
Contrast that with having internet access. I could do a quick web search to find the appropriate form. Download the form and instructions. Fill out the form and mail it in, or if it required physically submitting it, it would only mean one trip to the government office.
Over my next couple of blog posts, I’ll be unpacking what the Digital Divide means in regards to accessing ICT, using the Internet, and the imbalance both in the physical access to the technology and what it means to be a “digital citizen.”