The digital divide problem strongly relates to last week’s topic regarding rapid communication technologies. It is a problem we see mainly in poor rural areas and economically depressed inner cities. The digital divide refers to the gap in access to communication technologies and the internet, and this is a problem many development practitioners and multinational organizations have had to deal with. This is because it’s been widely accepted that, for development to occur, this gap needs to close.
Many argue that the world got along just fine before the digital age. This may be true, but we have now reached an era where these modern technologies have become seamlessly integrated into every aspect of our lives, and that fact simply cannot be ignored. People can now finish tasks and achieve goals so much more rapidly, and the exchange of knowledge taking place over these systems is beneficial to many. That being said, much of the world is being left out of these processes that enhance quality of life since they don’t have access.
It is important to look at the digital divide as a whole, but also through the lens of the different demographics being excluded. As discussed in other weeks of the class, recognizing the intersectionality of different demographics in development speeds up the process. We see gaps in the digital divide between different minorities, and also based on gender and economic status, for example. A lot of people overlook the fact or simply don’t know about how large the digital divide actually is, but we have entered an era where these types of technologies are almost needed to survive.
One of the biggest challenges to getting access for everyone, especially in rural areas, is devising ways to put in the needed infrastructure for such technologies to be usable in the first place. Many of these areas don’t have electricity, fiberoptic cables, computers, or even roads for deliveries. There are many things we take for granted and don’t even think about that make access nearly impossible in many excluded areas, so work on this needs to be done from the ground up.