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Main article: Digital divide

The global digital divide is a term used to describe “great disparities in opportunity to access the Internet and the information and educational/business opportunities tied to this access … between developed and developing countries”.[1] Unlike the traditional notion of the "digital divide" between social classes, the "global digital divide" is essentially a geographical division.

The global digital divide versus the digital divideEdit

Within countries around the world there is a gap that exists among those that have access to information and communication technology (Azam, 2007), including computers and the Internet, and those that do not. This term has been coined the “digital divide”. In addition to access, it is noted that the ability to use these technologies, as well as find and produce relevant content, define the “digital divide” as well (Azam, 2007).

The "global digital divide" is distinguishable from the "digital divide", in that “Internet has developed unevenly throughout the world” (Guillen, M. F. & Suarez, S. L. 2005, p. 681) causing some countries to fall behind in technology, education, labor, democracy, and tourism. The concept of the “digital divide” was originally popularized with regard to the disparity in Internet access between rural and urban areas of the United States of America. The “global digital divide” relates to disparity among less developed nations from developed nations. Unlike the case in many classical economic analyses of income disparity, there is no claim in this case that the developed nations' advances in information and communication technologies (ICT) have fed off the labor or resources of developing nations. Conversely, there is generally no claim that developing nations are faring absolutely worse because developed nations are doing better. The "global digital divide" also contributes to the inequality of access to goods and services available through technology. Computers and internet provide users with improved education and higher wages and therefore those nations and people with limited access are disadvantaged. (Krueger 1993; Attewell and Battle 1999).

The geographical divideEdit

See also: Digital divide#Global digital divide

It is argued that developed nations with the resources to invest in and develop ICT infrastructure are reaping enormous benefits from the information age, while developing nations are trailing along at a much slower pace. One of the main differences in correlation between developing and developed nations is that developing nation’s technology level is more influenced by FDI and government initiatives, while wealthier nations’ technology level is more associated with labor force participation of women and educational variables. (Pick & Azari, p. 24). This difference in rates of technological adoption has been blamed for widening the economic disparity between the most developed nations of the world (primarily Canada, the United States, Japan, South Korea, Western Europe and Australasia) and the underdeveloped and developing ones (primarily some Latin American countries, Africa, and Southeast Asia), thus creating a digital (that is, digitally-fostered) divide. This global divide is often characterized as falling along what is sometimes called the north-south divide of "northern" wealthier nations and "southern" poorer ones.

Obstacles to overcoming the global digital divideEdit

Many argue that basic necessities need to be considered before achieving digital inclusion, such as an ample food supply and quality health care. Minimizing the global digital divide requires considering and addressing the following types of access:

  • Physical Access

Involves, “the distribution of ICT devices per capita…and land lines per thousands” (Wilson, III. E.J., 2004, p. 306). Individuals need to obtain access to computers, landlines, and networks in order to access the Internet. This access barrier is also addressed in Article 21 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities by the United Nations.

  • Financial Access

The cost of ICT applications, technician and educator training, software, maintenance and infrastructures require ongoing financial support.

  • Cognitive Access

In order to use computer technology, a certain level of information literacy is needed. Further challenges include information overload and the ability to find and use reliable information.

  • Design Access

Computers need to be accessible to individuals with different learning and physical abilities including complying with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act as amended by the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 in the United States(Section508.gov).

  • Institutional Access

In illustrating institutional access, Wilson (2004) states “the numbers of users are greatly affected by whether access is offered only through individual homes or whether it is offered through schools, community centers, religious institutions, cybercafés, or post offices, especially in poor countries where computer access at work or home is highly limited” (p. 303).

  • Political Access

Guillen & Suarez (2005), argue that that “democratic political regimes enable a faster growth of the Internet than authoritarian or totalitarian regimes” (p. 687). The Internet is considered a form of e-democracy and attempting to control what citizens can or cannot view is in contradiction to this. Recently situations in Iran and China have denied people the ability to access certain website and disseminate information. Iran has also prohibited the use of high-speed Internet in the country and has removed many satellite dishes in order to prevent the influence of western culture, such as music and television (Tait, 2006).

  • Cultural Access

Many experts claim that bridging the digital divide is not sufficient and that the images and language needed to be conveyed in a language and images that can be read across different cultural lines (Carr 2007).

Concrete examples of the global digital divideEdit

In the early 21st century, residents of First World countries enjoy many Internet services which are not yet widely available in Third World countries, including:

SolutionsEdit

Main article: Information and Communication Technologies for Development

Using previous studies (Gamos, 2003; Nsengiyuma & Stork, 2005; Harwit, 2004 as cited in James), James asserts that in developing countries, “internet use has taken place overwhelmingly among the upper-income, educated, and urban segments” (James, 2008, p. 58) largely due to the high literacy rates of this sector of the population. As such, James suggests that part of the solution requires that developing countries first build up the literacy/language skills, computer literacy, and technical competence that low-income and rural populations need in order to make use of ICT.

It has also been suggested that there is a correlation between democrat regimes and the growth of the Internet. One hypothesis by Gullen is, “The more democratic the polity, the greater the Internet use...Government can try to control the Internet by monopolizing control" and Norris et al also contends, "If there is less government control of it, the Internet flourishes, and it is associated with greater democracy and civil liberties (Pick & Azari, 2008).

From an economic perspective, Pick & Azari (2008) state that “in developing nations…foreign direct investment (FDI), primary education, educational investment, access to education, and government prioritization of ICT as all important” (p. 112). Specific solutions proposed by the study include: “invest in stimulating, attracting, and growing creative technical and scientific workforce; increase the access to education and digital literacy; reduce the gender divide and empower women to participate in the ICT workforce; emphasize investing in intensive Research and Development for selected metropolitan areas and regions within nations” (Pick & Azari, p. 111).

There are projects worldwide that have implemented, to various degrees, the solutions outlined above. Many such projects have taken the form of Information Communications Technology Centers (ICT centers). Rahnman explains that “the main role of ICT intermediaries is defined as an organization providing effective support to local communities in the use and adaptation of technology. Most commonly an ICT intermediary will be a specialized organization from outside the community, such as a non-governmental organization, local government, or international donor. On the other hand, a social intermediary is defined as a local institution from within the community, such as a community-based organization” (Rahman, 2006, p. 128).

Other proposed solutions that the Internet promises for developing countries are the provision of efficient communications within and among developing countries, so that citizens worldwide can effectively help each other to solve their own problems. Grameen Banks and Kiva loans are two microcredit systems designed to help citizens worldwide to contribute online towards entrepreneurship in developing communities. Economic opportunities range from entrepreneurs who can afford the hardware and broadband access required to maintain Internet cafés to agribusinesses having control over the seeds they plant.

At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the IMARA organization (from Swahili word for "power") sponsors a variety of outreach programs which bridge the Global Digital Divide. Its aim is to find and implement long-term, sustainable solutions which will increase the availability of educational technology and resources to domestic and international communities. These projects are run under the aegis of the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) and staffed by MIT volunteers who give training, install and donate computer setups in greater Boston, Massachusetts, Kenya, Indian reservations the American Southwest such as the Navajo Nation, the Middle East, and Fiji Islands. The CommuniTech project strives to empower underserved communities through sustainable technology and education.[2][3][4]

Building on the premise that any effective solution must be decentralized, allowing the local communities in developing nations to generate their own content, one scholar has posited that social media -- like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter -- may be useful tools in closing the divide. [5] As Amir Hatem Ali (2011) suggests, “the popularity and generative nature of social media empower individuals to combat some of the main obstacles to bridging the digital divide” (p. 188). Facebook’s statistics reinforce this claim. According to Facebook, more than seventy-five percent of its users reside outside of the US (Facebook Statistics, 2011). Moreover, more than seventy languages are presented on its website (Facebook Statistics, 2011). The reasons for the high number of international users are due to many the qualities of Facebook and other social media. Amongst them, are its ability to offer a means of interacting with others, user-friendly features, and the fact that most sites are available at no cost (Ali, 2011). The problem with social media, however, is that it can be accessible, provided that there is physical access (Ali, 2011). Nevertheless, with its ability to encourage digital inclusion (Ali, 2011), social media can be used as a tool to bridge the global digital divide.

Some cities in the world have started programs to bridge the digital divide for their residents, school children, students, parents and the elderly. One such program, founded in 1996, was sponsored by the city of Boston and called the Boston Digital Bridge Foundation.[6] It especially concentrates on school children and their parents, helping to make both equally and similarly knowledgeable about computers, using application programs, and navigating the Internet.[7][8]

See alsoEdit


Notes Edit

  1. Lu, Ming-te (2001). Digital divide in developing countries. Journal of Global Information Technology Management (4:3), pp. 1-4.
  2. Cf. Fizz and Mansur, MIT Tech Talk, June 4, 2008
  3. IMARA Project at MIT
  4. Fizz, Robyn, "CommuniTech Works Locally to Bridge the Digital Divide", IST News, MIT, April 8, 2011
  5. Amir Ali "The Power of Social Media in Developing Nations: New Tools for Closing the Global Digital Divide and Beyond". Harvard Human Rights Journal, Volume 24, issue 1
  6. (Boston) Digital Bridge Foundation
  7. "Mayor Menino, Boston Digital Bridge Foundation Host Evening on the Bridge 2.0 Celebration", Mayor's Office, Boston, Press Release, September 26, 2002
  8. "City of Boston Receives $4.3 Million Grant That Will Give Training, Computers and Opportunity to Underserved Communities", City of Boston press office, September 14, 2010


  • 1. ^ Lu, Ming-te (2001). Digital divide in developing countries. Journal of Global Information Technology Management (4:3), pp. 1-4.
  • 2. ^ Cf. Fizz and Mansur, MIT Tech Talk, June 4, 2008
  • 3. ^ IMARA Project at MIT
  • 4. ^ Fizz, Robyn, "CommuniTech Works Locally to Bridge the Digital Divide", IST News, MIT, April 8, 2011
  • 5. ^ Amir Ali "The Power of Social Media in Developing Nations: New Tools for Closing the Global Digital Divide and Beyond". Harvard Human Rights Journal, Volume 24, issue 1
  • 6. ^ (Boston) Digital Bridge Foundation
  • 7. ^ "Mayor Menino, Boston Digital Bridge Foundation Host Evening on the Bridge 2.0 Celebration", Mayor's Office, Boston, Press Release, September 26, 2002
  • 8. ^ "City of Boston Receives $4.3 Million Grant That Will Give Training, Computers and Opportunity to Underserved Communities", City of Boston press office, September 14, 2010


ReferencesEdit

  • Ali, A. H. (2011). The Power of Social Media in Developing Nations: New Tools for Closing the Global Digital Divide and Beyond. Harvard Human Rights Journal , 24 (1), 186 – 219.
  • Azam, M. (2007). Working together toward the inclusive digital world. Digital Opportunity Forum. Unpublished manuscript. Retrieved July 17, 2009, from http://www.dof.or.kr/pdf/Bangladesh%5BPPT%5D.pdf
  • Borland, J. (1998, April 13). “Move Over Megamalls, Cyberspace Is the Great Retailing Equalizer.” Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News.
  • Brynjolfsson, Erik and Michael D. Smith (2000). The great equalizer? Consumer choice behavior at Internet shopbots. Journal article, July 2000. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA.
  • Fizz, Robyn; Mansur, Karla (2008-06-04), "Helping MIT neighbors cross the 'digital divide'", MIT Tech Talk (Cambridge: MIT): 3, http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2008/techtalk52-28.pdf 
  • Carr, Deborah (2007). The Global Digital Divide. Contexts, 6(3), 58-58. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.qa.proquest.com/docview/219574259?accountid=14771.
  • Facebook. (2011). Statistics. Retrieved from http://www.facebook.com/press/info.php?statistics
  • Guillen, M. F., & Suárez, S. L. (2005). Explaining the global digital divide: Economic, political and sociological drivers of cross-national internet use. Social Forces, 84(2), 681-708.
  • James, J. (2004). Information Technology and Development. New York, NY: Routledge.
  • James, J. (2008). Digital Divide Complacency: Misconceptions and Dangers. The Information Society, 24, 54-61.
  • Lu, M. (2001). Digital divide in developing countries. Journal of Global Information Technology Management, 4(3), 1-4.
  • Norris, P. (2001) Digital Divide : Civic Engagement, Information Poverty, and the Internet Worldwide, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
  • Pick, J. & Azari, R. (2008). Global Digital Divide: Influence of Socioeconomic, Governmental,and Accessibility Factors on Information Technology. Information Technology for Development, 14(2), 91-115
  • Rahman, H. (2006). Empowering Marginal Communities and Information Networking.Hershey, Pennsylvania: Idea Group Publishing.
  • Section 508 (1998). United States Government. http://www.section508.gov/index.cfm?fuseAction=Laws
  • Tait, R. (2005, Wednesday, October 25). Iran bans fast internet to cut west's influence. The Guardian, Retrieved July 17, 2009 from http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2006/oct/18/news.iran
  • Wilson, III. E.J. (2004). The Information Revolution and Developing Countries. Cambridge,MA: The MIT Press.
  • World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS). (2005). What's the state of ICT accessaround the world? Retrieved July 17, 2009 from http://www.itu.int/wsis/tunis/newsroom/stats/index.html
  • World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS). (2008). ICTs in Africa: Digital Divide to Digital Opportunity. Retrieved July 17, 2009 from http://www.itu.int/newsroom/features/ict_africa.html

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit

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