Digital Divide(s)

In today’s world, success is strongly correlated to Internet access. It is extremely unfortunate, but without technology and an online presence, there is very little anyone can do to get ahead. If everyone is to have access to the same opportunities in life, that automatically requires that everyone have access to a computer and an Internet connection. The importance of technology’s role keeps increasing daily and at incredible speeds. If a country or if individuals cannot keep up, they are left behind in a blink of an eye.

Although it appears at first glance that the majority of the world, or even the majority of the United States, has access to the net, this is not true. There is in fact a fairly large divide between the “haves” and the “have-nots” (Irving). Despite the social advancements that have been made, the groups of society that tend to lack access are still for the most part minority and disadvantaged groups based on age, education, location, race and gender. While not immediately visible in all contexts, this gap or divide is quite large. One of the main obstacles to achieving access is the lack of proper infrastructure to deliver the services. Having access depends on many different factors that have to come together. It is in this area that the link between the SDGs and WSIS is key in ensuring that these physical factors are provided to those parts of the world and groups in society that lack the basic infrastructure to access the various technologies necessary to succeed in today’s world.

As connectivity and penetration increases and access becomes more widespread, the issue then becomes one of how much access do you have? Is it fast? Is it wireless? Basic access is no longer enough (Falling Through the Net #3). In order to be able to achieve even the things that are considered “basic” it requires one to have the latest technology. Therefore, we need to build awareness on why access is important and we need to encourage the build out of broadband networks to all. Unfortunately, even though in recent a year the disparity has shrunken between groups and the access to computers and Internet has grown quickly, another problem exists and that is that the groups that were already connected are now even more connected. Therefore, although the size of the gap may have shrunken, the divide is deeper in a sense and those left behind are even farther behind now.

Beyond this issue of access and connectivity, is the problem of content on the web. Once people have access to the Internet, are they able to access the information they want? Is there a variety published or is all the content controlled by one entity or region of the world? The MacBride Commission Report touches upon this problem. In recent years it has been brought to attention the fact that the global north controls much of the access to images and media production, and that most of the information online is heavily influenced by the more developed countries. This should not be the case. Each country, each group, should have the ability to create and publish images and information about themselves. Information should not be consolidated and created by the hands of few. As we advance and more people gain access, this is another issue we have to tackle to ensure that proper access in ensured.