Digital Divide(s)

As we dove further into the Digital Divide, I realized that physical access to ICT’s is just one small piece of a much larger puzzle. As with most development issues there are layers of complexity. I was particularly moved by the MacBride Report and its affects. There are so many issues with the media and accessing information that the report highlighted. I was particularly struck by the United States’ reaction to the report. The US was so offended by the communication problems that the report unearthed, like the concentration and commercialization of media, that they actually left UNESCO. This reaction exposes a deep, underlying issue in the Digital Divide and why it exists. Since all media outlets are in the North, the Global South has no control over the type of information they receive through the media. They have no agency over the information that is considered important or newsworthy. And furthermore, states like the US intend to keep the divide, hence the visceral reaction to the MacBride report. This creates a huge development challenge. What good is physical access to ICT’s if the intellectual material is still dictated by another? Just because someone has physical access to computers and internet does not mean that the Digital Divide is solved.

Another issue with the Digital Divide is the skills divide and the knowledge divide. Both of these divides highlight the continued commitment that needs to be made to truly bridge the gap between those who have access to technology and those who do not. If you do not know how to use the technology, then the skills divide will prevent you from accessing any information at all. Furthermore, if information is not available in your language, or reflects your political views, interests etc., then technology is not really accessible to you either. Technology should provide the opportunity for all to thrive and be connected. However, if you cannot access information that is relevant to you, then all the technology in the world is useless to you. This is a huge challenge for solving the Digital Divide, especially with languages. As more and more people gain access to technology, it will have to be adapted in more languages. It is not just the keypad or interfaces that needs to adjust, but the information itself. If there is no online content in your language, then the physical technology holds no purpose. The complexity of the Digital Divide goes far beyond physical access to ICT’s and it will take a lot of innovation and investment from the international community to solve this divide.