What is the Digital Divide? Many expressions were used to describe the dichotomy of people’s participation or not in the Information Society such as information poor/ rich or have/ have not, but the most widely spread now is the "Digital Divide". The term 'digital divide' describes the fact that the world can be divided into people who do and people who don't have access to - and the capability to use - modern information technology, such as the telephone, television, or the Internet. The digital divide exists between those in cities and those in rural areas. It also exists between the educated and the uneducated, between economic classes, and, globally, between the more and less industrially developed nations" (Whatis?com, 1999). "The digital divide is the "Differences based on race, gender, geography, economic status, and physical ability:
Why is there a Digital Divide? Exists for different reasons in different parts of the world Economic status Age IT infrastructure Cognitive and Digital Needs (Skills required to use the computer and other digital devices)
Evolution Of Digital Divide Typical measurements of inequality distribution used to describe the Digital Divide are the Lorenz Curve and Gini coefficient, however, the question of whether or not the digital divide is growing or closing is difficult to answer.Lorenz CurveGini coefficient In Bridging the digital divide: An opportunity for growth for the 21st century, examples of these ways of measuring are illustrated In the Lorenz curve, perfect equality of Internet usage across nations is represented by a 45- degree diagonal line, which has a Gini coefficient of zero. Perfect inequality gives a Gini coefficient of one. Therefore if you look at figures 2.4 and 2.5 in the document, both graphs show a trend of growing equality from 1997 to 2005 with the Gini coefficient decreasing. However, these graphs don’t show the important, detailed analysis of specific income groups. The progress represented is predominantly of the middle-income groups when compared to the highest income groups. The lowest income groups continue to decrease their level of equality in comparison to the high income groups. Therefore, there is still a long way to go before the digital divide will be eliminated.
Digital Divide and Education One area of significant focus was school computer access; in the 1990s, rich schools were much more likely to provide their students with regular computer access. In the late 1990s, rich schools were much more likely to have Internet access. In the context of schools, which have consistently been involved in the discussion of the divide, current formulations of the divide focus more on how (and whether) students use computers, and less on whether there are computers or Internet connections. Public libraries and afterschool programs have also been shown to be important access and training locations for disadvantaged youth. The E-Rate program in the United States (officially the Schools and Libraries Program of the Universal Service Fund), authorized in 1996 and implemented in 1997, directly addressed the technology gap between rich and poor schools by allocating money from telecommunications taxes to poor schools without technology resources. Though the program faced criticism and controversy in its methods of disbursement, E-Rate has been credited with increasing the overall number of public classrooms with Internet access from 14% in 1996 to 95% in 2005[. Recently, discussions of a digital divide in school access have broadened to include technology related skills and training in addition to basic access to computers and Internet accessE-Rate
Global digital Divide Canada: According to an Autumn 2001 Canadian Internet Use Survey, 73% of Canadians aged 16 and older went online in the 12 months prior to the survey, compared to 68% in 2005. In small towns and rural areas, only 65% of residences accessed the Internet, compared to 76% in urban areas. The digital divide still exists between the rich and the poor; 91% of people making more than $91,000/year regularly used the Internet, compared to 47% of people making less than $24,000. This gap has lowered slightly since 2005. China: China is the largest developing country in the world and therefore saw their Internet population grow by 20% in 2006. However, just over 19% of Chinese people have access to the Internet and the digital divide is growing due to factors such as insufficient infrastructure and high online Europe: A European Union study from 2005 conducted in 14 European countries and focused on the issue of digital divide found that within the EU, the digital divide is primarily a matter of age and education. Among the young or educated the proportion of computer or Internet users is much higher than with the old or uneducated. Digital divide is also higher in rural areas.European Union United States: According to a July 2008 Pew Internet & American Life report, “55% of adult Americans have broadband Internet connections at home, up from 47% who had high-speed access at home last year at this time ”. This increase of 8% compared to the previous year’s increase of 5% suggests that the digital divide is decreasing. However, the findings go on to show that low-income Americans’ broadband connections decreased
International Digital Divide The International Digital Divide, also sometimes call the global DD, is easy to understand but hugely difficult to overcome. Firstly, this divide is an infrastructure problem. For example, in all of Africa, there are fewer phone lines than in New York City alone and owning a phone is seen as a luxury item. The costs are enormous and this is why developing countries need support otherwise they might not even be able to give access to their population. The structural problem is not the only one. In developing countries, the majority of people besides wealthy individuals cannot currently afford the technology, even when it is available, so usage remains low. The World Bank also stresses this point "Roughly 90 percent of Internet host computers are located in high-income countries that account for only 16 percent of world population"(World Bank, 2000). It would be an error to consider the International Digital Divide as poor countries vs. rich ones problem. Even within the European Union, this gap exists. If in Sweden or the Netherlands two third of the population are Internet users, only less than 20 % are in Greece or Portugal (European Commission (2) 2001, p3). Domestic Digital Divide. Access within countries can be looked according following socio-economic factors: - Age - Income - Geographical location - Education - Race - Gender - Disability
Overcoming Digital Divide Projects like One Laptop per Child and 50x15 offer a partial solution to the global digital divide; these projects tend to rely heavily upon open standards and free open source software. The OLPC XO-1 is an inexpensive laptop computer intended to be distributed to children in developing countries around the world, to provide them with access to knowledge. Programmer and free software advocate Richard stallman has highlighted the importance of free software among groups concerned with the digital divide such as the World Summit on the Information Society.One Laptop per Child50x15open standardsopen source softwareOLPC XO-1laptop computeraccess to knowledgefree softwareWorld Summit on the Information Society Organizations such as Geekcorps, and Inveneo also help to overcome the digital divide. They often do so through the use of education systems that draw on information technology. The technology they employ often includes low-cost laptops/subnotebooks, handhelds (eg Simputer, E- slate,...), tablet PCs, Mini-ITX PCs and low-cost WiFi- extending technology as cantennas and WokFis. In addition, other information technology material usable in the classroom can also be made diy to lower expenses, including projectors.GeekcorpsInveneoinformation technology low-costsubnotebooksSimputerWiFicantennasWokFisdiyprojectors
Overcoming Digital Divide International cooperation between governments have begun, aiming at dealing with the global digital divide. For example, in an attempt to bridge this digital divide, an agreement between the United states Agency For International Development (USAID) and the Egyptian government emerged. The USAID funded state-of-the-art equipment for Egyptian education, their brilliance of knowledge in using such equipment caused such equipment to increase in use throughout the years. Now, Egyptian society is more computer literate and knowledgeable about computers than they used to be. Nonetheless it's a sign of progress that such attempts at bridging the digital divide are seriously being made. Additional participants in such endeavors include the United Nations global alliance for ICT and Development and the Digital alliance Foundation Some cities in the world have started programs to bridge the digital divide for their residents, school children, students, parents and the elderly. One such program, founded in 1996, was sponsored by the city of Boston and called the Boston Digital Bridge Foundation.It especially concentrates on school children and their parents, helping to make both equally and similarly knowledgeable about computers, using application programs, and navigating the Internet.
Digital Divide Criticisms The existence of a digital divide is not universally recognized. Compaine (2001) argues it is a perceived gap. Technology gaps are relatively transient; hence the digital divide should soon disappear in any case. The knowledge of computers will become less important as they get smarter and easier to use. In the future people will not need high-tech skills to access the Internet and participate in e-commerce or e-democracy. Thus Compaine argues that a digital divide "is not the issue to expend substantial amounts or funds nor political capital".