Our world is facing another challenge: the so-called digital divide. This term is used to describe the growing technological disparity between certain countries or social strata, the gap in technology access between the richer areas and those who didn’t luck out.
The divide can be caused by several factors:
- Physical location. Lack of imported gadgets or parts, low economic development, remote and/or inaccessible regions, isolated economies, little to no infrastructure all contribute to the digital divide.
- Low income. Many people cannot use new technology simply because they cannot afford it. 24% of adult people with household incomes below $30,000/year don’t own a smartphone. 40% of those with lower incomes don’t have home broadband services or don’t own a PC. Location influences income also, with certain regions being poorer and/or experiencing low purchasing power.
- Low literacy. College graduates have a much better grasp on tech due to their education, and they usually own more gadgets.
- Low motivation. Some people possess the necessary income and education to use the full potential of technology, but choose not to. Mostly this is due to the lack of motivation (“I don’t need it”) and age (“This is too different from what I’m used to”). Luckily, there are one-button gadgets like Senstone Scripter, but they are far and few.
All of the above can be countered with policies, reforms, and awareness campaigns. While such sweeping measures can seem too drastic, they are completely justified.
Why Closing the Digital Divide Is Worth the Effort
The digital divide concerns everyone, even those who don’t experience its immediate effects. Since the industry has become globalized, with supply chains spanning the entire planet, a physically distant event or phenomenon can influence the unsuspecting citizens around the globe.
Let’s consider a city that experiences a bad case of digital divide, such as the lack of internet access. It creates all sorts of problems for the state:
- problems implementing digital solutions such as eID, remote education, billing, mobile banking
- creating a real-life divide between those who can access technology and those who can’t
- fewer citizens can become skilled workers
- low income cycle: cannot afford new technology – cannot make money using it – cannot afford new technology
uninformed voters are easier to manipulate into supporting backwards and/or harmful policies
Reversing the trend will bring a lot of benefits to the tech industry of the city and, by extension, the rest of the world.
- more clients
- more demand
- more skilled workers
- more opportunities
The community will directly profit from the policies aiming to close the digital divide, and the effects are going to last for generations.
- better education
- higher income
- job opportunities
- easier communication
How to Bridge the Digital Divide?
The digital divide is a relatively recent trend, and governments and companies are only just starting to catch up with reality.
In the US, policies are being implemented to ensure access to the broadband internet for all Americans. The issues are mostly local, with rural and tribal areas overrepresented in the statistics, and the percent of Americans without broadband access ranges between 6 and 12% depending on the study.
The US solution can be boiled down to a few bullet points:
- federal programs that help cover the cost of communication services
- broadband service discounts
- promoting mobile and satellite internet
- avoid unnecessary regulation of ISPs
- e-learning vouchers for students
Other countries, like India, where the digital divide problem is much more severe (half the Indians don’t have access to broadband), have had moderate success when dealing with it. A lesson we can learn from them is simple: lack of systemic approach undermines all effort.
To conclude, it’s important to remember that the digital divide can be reversed, but fighting it has to become the business of policymakers. As regular netizens, we can do our best to draw attention to the problem and support the candidates who focus on communities and infrastructure.
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