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Daisy Garcia

SBS 2020

12/02/2015

The Digital Divide

In the last twenty years we have made incredible leaps in the field of

technology that have enabled unthinkable achievements for mankind. As with any innovation,

we have readily applied technology to improving our quality of life. Since the dawn of the

internet, the digital field has changed our concept of globalization and communication. Today,

we are so influenced by these technological advances it is impossible to revert to a world without

them. Despite their popularity and the necessity of these, not everyone holds equal access to

these resources. Access to these resources are being dominated by the ability to purchase them

but the skills that these enable are being required a on a global scale. As we propel the world

further into a digital dependency, it becomes our responsibility to make it accessible to all so as

to not leave anyone in the dark.

The issues that the digital divide present are most prominently the effect of limited

internet access, security and capacity. The divide is most felt by the people in regions with no

access at all. Developing countries cannot contribute to the 21st century economy without

infrastructure necessary to support data. A lack of infrastructure also limits social mobility and

keeps large masses oppressed. A responsible citizen is one who not only looks after the

wellbeing of him or herself but also that of others and in instanced of disparity attempts to close

the gap through personal changes that contribute to a much larger and global change. In the

context of technology, our responsibility would be to include everyone in the digital era by

treating the accurate use of technology as important as having a literate population.


The advancements of technology have affected every possible aspect of our life,

especially the way in which we learn and communicate. Education is changing in the way in

which we acquire information and perform ordinary tasks. Classes require the capacity of online

research and the ability to type papers as basic abilities from students. For students without

access to a desktop, they lose on the ability of performing these tasks which further inhibits them

from achieving the same progress as those students who do have access to computers and

internet. Students with limited access to these have resorted to using their mobile devices to meet

their class requirements. Although a mobile phone, granted it is connected to an internet

connection, can enable students to do some of the tasks required of them it does not teach them

the skills that real computers can. Often these mobile devices do not come with software such as

Microsoft that competitive jobs require knowledge of. Although students can do research and

access the internet, they do not learn basic software skills.

There is also an issue of accessing the internet. Data plans are costly and place another

limit on internet access. The speeds of wireless networks also factors into the effectiveness of the

internet they provide. In recent years, businesses have included wireless internet access in their

establishments. These include places like Starbucks, McDonalds, and other major food vendors.

These establishments provide an extra opportunity for internet access but raise safety concerns

such as loitering and curfews. As well as safety issues, it raises the ultimate concern of internet

access only being granted to those who can afford to purchase it and thereby privatizing it. These

establishments often require a minimum purchase to remain within the building and can place

their own rules on how much time you can spend there. Other public places like libraries do

provide internet and computer access at no extra cost but face the same issues of overcrowding

and broadband capacity.


In the case of developing countries, their most challenging aspect is the complete lack of

accessibility. There are several reasons that contribute to this and they include the cost of data as

well as a lack of infrastructure necessary to provide connectivity. The countries are largely based

in geographical areas including Asia, South America and Africa. According to research done by

Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, Africa is the least connected in

terms of internet users where North American is leading1. Africas lack of access is a leading

example of how the rest of the world is continuing to rush forward in digitally dominated world

while a large population of it is being left behind. The internet provides access to a worldwide

knowledge base that allows people to receive and contribute to the formation of knowledge. To

be cut off from this knowledge base inhibits people from progressing forward and also makes it

more challenging for them to adapt to new technologies which they may also reject entirely.

Recently, more attention has been put on the digital divide as a global issue. Major

communication companies and internet providers have realized the importance of closing the

gap. Facebook alongside a French satellite operator launched a campaign that would enable a

majority of Africa to connect to the web via satellites. These satellites would reduce costs in

providing internet and would make it more accessible to a bigger majority of people which

would then be able to become connected and a part of the digital era. These satellites would

target areas in Sub-Saharan Africa where connectivity is the lowest and would enable both

companies to "pursue their ambition to accelerate data connectivity for the many users deprived

of the economic and social benefits of the Internet"2. Although these companies have been

praised for doing so they have also been called into question as their internet service would

1
(2002). Retrieved December 7, 2015, from http://www.oecd.org/dsti/sti/prod/Digital_divide.pdf

2
Whitney, Lance. "Facebook to Beam Free Internet to Africa - CNET." CNET. October 5, 2015. Accessed
December 10, 2015. http://www.cnet.com/news/facebook-to-beam-free-internet-to-africa/.
ultimately differ from that of the rest of the worlds. Facebook and Eutalsat Communications

could edit what information their users have access to and also only show what they would want

their consumers to see which ultimately raises the question of ethics in internet.

This form of free internet has already been put into place in other developing countries by

Facebook and has mostly been a positive improvement. Through their global incentive of fee

internet they have been able to provide internet in a large part of South America and Asia already

where internet would have otherwise been unaffordable or unavailable3. The issues that this

kind of free internet raises not only pertain to net neutrality but also its capacity and security.

3
Whitney, Lance. "Facebook to Beam Free Internet to Africa - CNET." CNET. October 5, 2015. Accessed December
10, 2015. http://www.cnet.com/news/facebook-to-beam-free-internet-to-africa/.