Nowadays we are living in a communication flow. Most people in the western world can’t imagine themselves living without information and communication technologies. Even though it seems that our society is connected 24/24 hours and 7/7 days per week, we have to remind ourselves that this is not the case for everybody. The different access to the Internet’s resources that exists between people, countries, etc. is a big issue and is called “the digital divide”.
The concept of Digital Divide can be described simply as an invisible border between those who can afford and have access to information and communication technologies (ICTs) and those who have not. In broader terms, it concerns the inequalities in the access to the Internet, knowledge of search strategies, extent of use, quality of social support and technical connections, diversity of uses and the ability to evaluate the quality information.
The Internet today extends rapidly around the world. Still, people often have misguided ideas about how the Internet users are spread around the world. Below, we have an interesting and surprising visual support that should help you have a better and more concrete image of the situation.
This map represents the Internet population and penetration. If we look more closely we can observe that the country size is proportional to the number of users of the Internet in this country, which makes it more visual. The question of the author is the following: “how would the world look if countries were as big as their online populations?”
As we observe, some parts of the world are bigger than their real size whereas others are smaller which shows the inequality in terms of the Internet penetration. For example, Africa is a country where most of people don’t have access to the net. In the USA the Internet plays an important part and in China more and more people are getting online.
In a broader approach we can observe the differences between continents. As we can see on the graph below, Asia has the highest Internet user rate followed by Europe and America. Further behind are Oceania and Africa.
Digital divide continues to be a big issue, therefore more and more solutions are proposed by international, national and local organizations around the world. The various solutions depend on the factors that influence the digital divide (such as: gender, age, infrastructure, income, education, human rights etc.). If the issue is the result of an economical problem, providing locals with places equipped with computers where people could come, would be a good way to weaken the digital divide. If the problem is education, training would be an excellent way to reduce the gap. If we are talking about the age factor, we would find new possibilities implemented to solve the issue as inter-generational help in the use of Internet.
Interesting projects exist, like one implemented to reduce the digital gap influenced by the age factor in countries such as the UK, Belgium and also other places around the world. The idea of the project is to help build mutual assistance between young and elderly. Taking into account that, the young generation is immersed in technology, using their knowledge to help old people interact online, and thus reduce their possibility of being affected by loneliness is a great way to reduce the digital gap between generations. A few organizations of this kind are born in England such as YouthNet and Age UK. The idea is to “deliver an innovative new service which will see 700 young volunteers help 10,000 isolated older people to get online.
The Internet and all new technologies are evolving at a pace unprecedented in the history of human kind. This changes dramatically the society that we live in and inevitably has a big impact of everybody’s life. Thus, it is crucial for each and every one of us to be ready to constantly evolve in this information society. Even though we might find cases in which individuals deliberately don’t want to be part of this society, there are more cases of people that want to get involved and cannot due to various reasons (also mentioned throughout this practice). This is when the issue of digital divide intervenes. Even though some of us might not realize it, the inequalities regarding the access to information and communication technologies plays an important role in our society and it a matter that shouldn’t be treated lightly.