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The Digital Divide, ICT
and the 50x15 Initiative

ICT - Information Communications Technologies


Sky Bell

The Digital Divide, or the digital split, is a social issue referring to the differing amount of information between those who have access to the Internet (specially broadband access) and those who do not have access. The term became popular among concerned parties, such as scholars, policy makers, and advocacy groups, in the late 1990s.

Dimensions of the Divide
Broadly speaking, the difference is not necessarily determined by the access to the Internet, but by access to ICT (Information and Communications Technologies) and to Media that the different segments of society can use. With regards to the Internet, the access is only one aspect, other factors such as the quality of connection and related services should be considered. Today the most discussed issue is the availability of the access at an affordable cost and quality.

The problem is often discussed in an international context, indicating certain countries are far more equipped than other developing countries to exploit the benefits from the rapidly expanding Internet. Here is the latest
State of the Internet Report from Akamai, showing average and maximum connection speeds, Internet Penetration and Broadband adaption, Mobile usage, as well as trends in this data over time.

The digital divide is not indeed a clear single gap which divides a society into two groups. Researchers report that disadvantage can take such forms as lower-performance computers, lower-quality or high price connections (i.e. narrowband or dialup connection), difficulty of obtaining technical assistance, and lower access to subscription-based contents.

Bridging the Gap
The idea that some information and communication technologies are vital to quality civic life is not new. Some suggest that the Internet and other ICTs are somehow transforming society, improving our mutual understanding, eliminating power differentials, realizing a truly free and democratic world society, and other benefits.

In many countries, access to the telephone system is considered such a vital element that governments implement various policies to offer affordable telephone service. Unfortunately some countries lack sufficient telephone lines.

Literacy is arguably another such element, although it is not related to any new technologies or latest technological devices. It is a very widely shared view in many societies that being literate is essential to one's career, to self-guided learning, to political participation, and to Internet usage.

There are a variety of arguments regarding why closing the digital divide is important. The major arguments are the following:

1. Economic equality
Some think that the access to the Internet is a basic component of civil life that some developed countries aim to guarantee for their citizens. Telephone is often considered important for security reasons. Health, criminal, and other types of emergencies might indeed be handled better if the person in trouble has an access to the telephone. Another important fact seems to be that much vital information for people's career, civic life, safety, etc. are increasingly provided via the Internet. Even social welfare services are sometimes administered and offered electronically.

2. Social mobility
Some believe that computer and computer networks play an increasingly important role in their learning and career, so that education should include that of computing and use of the Internet. Without such offerings, the existing digital divide works unfairly to the children in the lower socioeconomic status. In order to provide equal opportunities, governments might offer some form of support.

3. Democracy
Some think that the 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.

4. Economic growth
Some think that the development of information infrastructure and active use of it would be a shortcut to economic growth for less developed nations. Information technologies in general tend to be associated with productivity improvements. The exploitation of the latest technologies may give industries of certain countries a competitive advantage.


Rural areas access
The accessibility of rural areas to the Internet is a test of the digital divide. But nowadays there are different ways to eliminate the digital divide in rural areas. Use of Power lines (PLT and PLC) and satellite communications offer new possibilities of universal access to the Internet, and lack of telephone lines will not limit access. Lower access prices are required to bridge the ICT divide.

Disabilities
Disabilities of potential Internet users constitute another type of divide and care should be taken to avoid that persons with disabilities be left out of Internet access.

"The power of the Web is in its universality.
Access by everyone regardless of disability
is an essential aspect."

-- Tim Berners-Lee, W3C Director and
inventor of the World Wide Web


Restictions vs Freedom
Powerful interests want to censor free speech, block the sharing of information,
hinder innovation and control how Internet users get online. Care is necessary.
When our freedoms in the networked world come under attack, the
Electronic
Frontier Foundation
is the first line of defense. EFF was founded in 1990, well
before the Internet was on most people’s radar, and continues today to confront
cutting-edge issues defending free speech, privacy, innovation, and consumer rights.

spacerTHE 50x15 INITIATIVE

spacerInternational Links, Resources and Partners

The 50x15 Initiative
The Digital Divide can and should be made smaller. This idea has found eco in many
private and public organizations. One of the organizations that has taken an active and
leading role in this effort is the
50x15 Foundation, initiative that consists of support
to empower 50 percent of the world’s population with Internet access by year 2015.

“Technology is only as powerful as it is accessible.
Broader access brings education, information, and
a sense of community that can help combat AIDS,
malnutrition, ignorance and neglect. The power of
a connected and enlightened world community
is just beginning.”

-- Hector Ruiz, ex-Chairman of the Board
and ex-President of AMD


Learning Labs from the 50x15 Initiative are already present in Brazil, China,
the Caribbean, and in Africa (Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Mali, Mauritius,
Rwanda, South Africa, Uganda) and many more are in the planning stage.


World Economic Forum

DONATE to re-building Haiti

See the Internet Growth History and Statistics (from 1995 till 2014)

spacerINFORMATION AND COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGIES - ICT

spacerThe Information Society

One Laptop per Child
Most of the more than one billion children in the emerging world don’t have
access to adequate education. The XO laptop is our answer to this crisis
and after nearly two years, we know it’s working.

APC - The Association for Progressive Communications
Information and communication technologies, ICT adoption
and implementation at national, regional and global levels.

European Commission - Information Society
While the ICT sector is itself worth 6-8% of the EU's GDP, ICTs are
much more important than that figure suggests, playing a key role in
everything from promoting innovation throughout the economy to
meeting the demographic challenge of an aging society.

First Digital Access Index - World ICT Rankings 2002

Digital Access Index - Country Ranking List

Broadband Usage Keeps Growing in the World

slow PC

spacerBRIDGING THE DIGITAL DIVIDE

spacer( Education and e-Learning )

Wikipedia Foundation
The Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. is a nonprofit charitable organization dedicated
to encouraging the growth, development and distribution of free, multilingual content,
and to providing the full content of these wiki-based projects to the public free of charge.

International Development Research Center
IDRC is a Canadian public corporation that works in close collaboration
with researchers from the developing world in their search for the means
to build healthier, more equitable, and more prosperous societies.

Blackboard
Blackboard is a provider of enterprise software and ASP services to the education
industry. The product line consists of five software applications bundled in two
suites, the Blackboard Academic Suite (TM) and the Blackboard Commerce
Suite (TM). Blackboard’s clients include colleges, universities, schools and
other education providers, as well as textbook publishers and student-focused
merchants that serve education providers and their students.

Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI)
WAI, in coordination with organizations around the world, pursues accessibility
of the Web through five primary areas of work: technology, guidelines, tools,
education and outreach, and research and development.

WebAIM
Web site featuring the basic concepts of accessibility and the specific
techniques for helping Internet access to people with disabilities.

World Economic Forum
The World Economic Forum is an independent international organization
committed to improving the state of the world by engaging leaders in
partnerships to shape global, regional and industry agendas.

Equal Access to Software and Information - EASI
EASI's mission is to serve as a resource by providing information and guidance
in the area of access-to-information technologies by individuals with disabilities.
EASI collects information about developments and advancements within the
adaptive computer technology field and spreads that information to colleges,
universities, K-12 schools, libraries and into the workplace.

@lis online Initiative
The Europe Latin America Cooperation Portal
on the Information Society.

Close the Gap Initiative
Companies wanting to replace their computers, can
donate their used IT-equipment to Close the Gap.

Social, Economical and Political Change
Web site of The Global Social Change Research Project.

spacerTHE KNOWLEDGE SOCIETY

spacer( International Websites )

United Nations Economic Commission for Europe

OECD - Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development

The ICAAP Global Change Reports
A series of reports on Global Social Changes.

The Global Digital Divide is Narrowing
The "digital divide" between rich and poor nations is
narrowing fast, according to a World Bank report.

Open Net Initiative

Wikipedia - the Free Encyclopedia
Further reading on the Digital Divide


spacerECONOMIC GROWTH INITIATIVES

spacer( International Economic Developement Organizations )

African Development Bank

Asian Development Bank

Asian Development Bank Institute

Caribbean Development Bank

Development Bank of Southern Africa

Inter-American Development Bank

Islamic Development Bank



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