Digital divide: what is it and what are the measures to counteract it?
The concept of “digital divide” has existed ever since the 80’s, and the struggle to fight against it has become part of the agenda of many governments and institutions around the world.
There is no doubt that computing and the Internet offer us many options that can improve our lives. The Internet provides multiple opportunities for people who are lucky enough to have access to the network, such as access to information, communication, employment, education and all sorts of services. However, you must remember that not everyone is able to have access to all of these opportunities. And that poses a serious issue.
Digital divide is not only a serious issue today, but it enlarges over time, increasing the differences among people. Thus, there is a tendency that those who make use of digital technologies the most, continue to increase their use of the wide range of benefits they are offered, while people who do not do it end up falling behind. As a consequence, the gap between both groups becomes even bigger.
In this article, we are going to broaden our knowledge about digital divide and some of the measures to fight against it. Let’s begin!
What is the digital divide?
We call digital divide to the difference of accessibility and usage of digital technologies for certain people or groups. Of course, firstly, we have to understand that not everyone can have access to the network or use it on equal terms, and although for some people it might be a simple everyday habit, for others it can be difficult or plainly impossible.
There are several causes to the origin of digital divide. It may be a matter of socio-economic conditions, geographical situation, gender, age, cultural issues, etc.
Hence, it is understood that people living in certain remote or disadvantaged geographical areas will have many more difficulties to access the network than those who live, for example, in a western city. Or, within the same city, those who have less economic resources will also find greater difficulties than those whose incomes are higher.
But that’s not all, the breadth of the gap does not always depend on economic factors. For example, older people may have more difficulties to use the Internet due to a lack of habit or knowledge, which can prevent them from reaching out to many opportunities which could useful in their daily lives.
In addition, we should take into account that the digital divide does not only involve differences in access and use of Internet, but also the content generated within the network itself. As you may guess, most of the content that can be found there will be directed, precisely, to groups who have more opportunities of access and use, which creates a group of people who are often left forgotten and suffer the consequences of this gap on a larger scale.
Some ideas to counteract the digital divide
Being a reality that affects an elevated number of people, many governments, institutions and individuals have tried to eliminate or reduce the depth of the digital divide, through several initiatives that have had more or less success.
– Training programs.
It is one of the key points in several fields. For years, some institutions have implemented plans to teach members of different groups, such as older people or children living in disadvantaged areas the use of new technologies. This intends to teach these people how to use these technologies and incorporate them in their everyday life.
-Community access sites.
These initiatives, which usually take place at a local level, provide places in which users can access the network using devices that are provided by public institutions. Libraries, schools, and other spots in towns and cities make this type of service available, which can be very useful, both for specific uses and to accustom people to the use of the network.
– Access to technology at reasonable prices.
Similarly, both public and private institutions have launched ideas and programs to facilitate technology access at affordable prices, so that people who have less economic resources can also have access to technological devices.
– Network extension.
On many occasions, difficult access to the Internet does not only happen due to socio-economic limitations, but also due to technical shortcomings, whether because the network is insufficient, or because there are certain areas where network coverage is not provided.
In this kind of situation, the solution would be providing Internet access to as many areas as possible, so that the network can be used satisfactorily.
“Technological volunteering”is usually involved in training tasks, but also in other initiatives, such as distributing devices among disadvantaged people. The number of people participating in these programs has increased over the last few years. In fact, for example, it is becoming more frequent for people who worked in the technology sector and have retired to selflessly teach others. Or there are even some people who donate devices such as computers or cell phones to other people who can use them.
Probably, we will continue hearing about the concept of digital divide for many years, and that is because fighting against inequality is not easy at all. Although you, dear reader, may have some good ideas to provide.
Have you come up with any ideas to fight against digital divide? Would you like to share them with the readers of this blog? You can do it very easily, leaving a message in the comment box that is located at the end of this article.