The Digital Divide, or a Digital Abyss?
// Posted by Mia on 04/23/2014 (11:34 PM)
A map showing internet connections around the world. Source.
The digital divide is the inequality of access to, as well as use of or even knowledge of, information and communication technologies. This divide is usually based in socioeconomic inequality, but can also stem from other factors such as location. This divide can be recognized not only on a national level within a single country, but on a global level as well.
The term “Digital Divide” implies a problem within itself: there is a divide, an inequality, in access to digital technology. My research problem is to explore this divide more thoroughly with three main questions. 1) How much of an obstacle does the divide pose? 2) Should digital access be considered a basic human right? 3) Can the divide be solved/lessened? The main argument I’m focusing on is the question of whether or not digital access should be considered a basic human right, which I am arguing it should be.
On a human level, the digital divide looks like a single mother of 3 trying to find a job to provide for her family, but with little access or knowledge of computer, cannot apply to most positions because they require online applications. It looks like an intelligent 17 year old from a less developed neighborhood whose high school never taught her any form of computer literacy and who now has little confidence in moving on to higher education. It looks like an immigrant who doesn’t know he can call his family for free. The digital divide can manifest itself in an individual being unable to afford technology, them not knowing how to use technology, or them just not realizing the benefits of technology.
With nearly 7 billion people in the world, only about 30% of those people have ever even touched a computer before. The majority of the people who are digitally connected are concentrated in North America and Europe, well developed nations both socially and economically. This is a huge discrepancy in the representation of a global population within technology.
A map of connections around the world. Source.
If you zoom in on the issue of the digital divide within the scope of the United States, only 57% of individuals with an income less than $30,000 use internet, 80% with an income of $30,000-49,999, 86% with an income of $50,000-74,999, and 95% with an income of $75,000 or more. Again, there is an obvious gap in access to technology.
With my blog, I am exploring the who, what, where, when, how and why of the digital divide: what the digital divide even is, who it affects, where it is an issue, how long it has been and will continue to be an issue, how it can be solved, and why the digital divide even matters.
The majority of the information I have found so far is openly biased toward the idea of technology and access to the internet as a basic human right, which has been convenient since that is what the blog in general is advocating for. But it has been much more difficult to find resources that defend the opposing viewpoint, which is definitely something I want to include in my blog. I feel like an argument is not fully presented until it explores both the pros and the cons, so I still have some further research to do. But for the most part I want phase 2 of my blog to focus on potential ways to close the digital divide and testimonies as to why it is so important. For example, these two TedTalk videos give interesting perspectives on where the solution to the digital divide can be taken:
To keep up with my exploration, you can follow my blog at www.DAdivided.wordpress.com