Digital Divide • By: Gilfredo Vargas Jr.
What is Digital Divide? • The 'digital divide' is the term used to describe the growing gap, or social exclusion, between those who have access to the new services of the information society, and those who do not. This can be for a number of reasons: access to education or training, lack of money to buy the required equipment, or lack of access because of the problems obtaining the required communication links or services to get online.
Why Should this divide get Closed? • Economic equality • Social mobility • Democracy • Economic growth
Economic Equality • Some think that access to the Internet is a basic component of civil life that some developed countries aim to guarantee for their citizens. Telephone service is often considered important for the reasons of security. Health, criminal, and other types of emergencies may indeed be handled better if the person in trouble has an access to the telephone. It also seems important to be the fact that much vital information for career, civic life, safety, etc. is increasingly provided via the Internet, especially on the web. Even social welfare services are sometimes administered and offered electronically.
Social Mobility • Some believe that computers and computer networks play an increasingly important role in their learning and career, so that education should include subjects of computing and use of the Internet. Without such offerings, the existing digital divide disfavors children of lower socio-economic status. In order to provide equal opportunities, government might offer some form of support.
Democracy • Some think that use of the Internet would lead to a healthier democracy in one way or another. Among the most ambitious visions are that of increased public participation in elections and decision making processes. Direct participation (Athenian democracy) is sometimes referred to in this context as a model.
Economic Growth • Some think that the development of information infrastructure and active use of it would be a shortcut to the economic growth. Information technologies in general tend to be associated with productivity improvements. The exploitation of the latest technologies may give industries of a country a competitive advantage. Also deemed important are information industries, including development of hardware and software, online services, and many others. Some think promoting some of those industries is of national interest. The broader goal of developing the information economy may involve some form of policies addressing the digital divide. Having a greater portion of the domestic labor force capable of working in information industries, for example, may be considered beneficial.
Countries that suffer from digital divide • Afghanistan, Angola, Bangladesh, Benin, Bhutan, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire), Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Haiti, Kiribati, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Maldives, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nepal, Niger, Rwanda, Samoa, Sao Tome and Principe, Sierra Leone, Solomon Islands, Somalia, Sudan, Togo, Tuvalu, Uganda, United Republic of Tanzania, Vanuatu, Yemen and Zambia.
For more information • www.digitaldivide.net • www.digitaldivide.org • www.ntia.doc.gov • www.digitaldividenetwork.org