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The Digital Divide, ICT,
and Broadband Internet

ICT - Information Communications Technologies

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.

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 most affected.

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.

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.

6. 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

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 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.

World Bank ICT Rankings Table


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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.

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.

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.

Rochester Institute of Technology
RIT'S 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 Initiative
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 include:
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.


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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 Digital Divide
Further reading on the Digital Divide


spacer( 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

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