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Digital Divide, ICT,
and Broadband Internet
ICT - Information Communications
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
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.
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.
Unfortunately, in the world there are still 757 million adults including
115 million youths who cannot read or write a simple sentence. Explore
the interactive literacy data to see which countries are
There are a variety of arguments regarding why closing the
digital divide is important. The major arguments are the
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.
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.
5. 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 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
7. Restrictions 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.
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
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
meeting the demographic challenge of an aging society.
World Bank ICT Rankings
BRIDGING THE DIGITAL
Education and e-Learning )
Foundation, Inc. is a nonprofit charitable organization dedicated
to encouraging the growth, development and distribution of free,
and to providing the full content of these wiki-based projects to
the public free of charge.
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)
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.
featuring the basic concepts of accessibility and the specific
techniques for helping Internet access to people with disabilities.
World Economic Forum
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.
Rochester Institute of Technology
is one of the top universities in the nation working at the intersection of technology,
the arts and design. RIT is a university that is shaping the future and improving the
world through creativity and innovation.
Close the Gap
Close the Gap is an international social enterprise
that aims to bridge the digital divide by offering high-quality, pre-owned computers donated
by European companies to educational, medical and social projects in developing and emerging
countries. Companies wanting to replace their computers, can
donate their used IT-equipment to Close the Gap.
The Digital Divide Council
Five initiatives we need to narrow the digital gap
1. Increase digital literacy
2. Provide operational incentives to information and communication technology entities.
3. Develop relevant and local content in addition telecommunications infrastructure.
4. Encourage the establishment of cyber clubs.
5. Establishment of workable partnerships between all information and communication technology stakeholders.
6. Promote innovations geared towards overcoming the digital divide.
International Websites )
United Nations Economic Commission
OECD - Organisation for Economic Co-operation and
The ICAAP Global Change
A series of reports on
Global Social Changes.
The Global Digital Divide
The "digital divide" between rich and poor nations is
narrowing fast, according to a World Bank report.
Open Net Initiative
Wikipedia - the Digital
Further reading on the Digital Divide
Further reading on the Digital Divide
Digital Divide Council
Digital Divide Throughout the World
7 Examples of the Digital Divide
BBC Articles About the Digital Divide
Three Stages of the Digital Divide
Digital Inclusion - Marconisociety