Digital Divide(s)

The digital divide essentially refers to the socioeconomic gap that exists between those with access to the internet and those without. In the present day, it seems like a majority of people with frequent access to the internet would agree that the internet is incredibly convenient in allowing us a direct line of communication to friends and family at whatever time of the day, access to news in real-time, as well as enables us with access to almost any piece of information or knowledge that one could seek. Although access to the internet has been a widespread, global phenomenon, there still remains an astounding 4.2 billion people worldwide who still do not have frequent access to the internet ( Without access to the internet, many people essentially face an information gap in which they may not be able to take advantage of the same knowledge that those who do have access to the internet can take advantage of (thus potentially lowering their abilities for social and economic mobilization). One of the issues pertaining to infrequent access to the internet is that there are many who simply can not afford the technology required to connect to the internet (such as computers and smartphones), can not afford the internet connection itself, or may also just not be in a location where capturing internet connection is not possible (thus pointing to some of the bigger developmental issues that exist in the world such as economic inequalities, or insufficient telecommunication technologies).

In the year 1999, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration released a report called Falling Through the Net: Defining the Digital Divide. The report essentially examined which American households had access to telecommunication technologies (such as the internet and telephones) as well as the households that did not. Overall, the report concluded that the digital divide seemed to be widening, particularly within groups such as “minorities, low-income persons, the less educated, and children of single-parent households, particularly when they reside in rural areas or central cities” (Falling Through the Net: Defining the Digital Divide, Introduction). What is unfortunate about the situation is that often time, the groups with infrequent access to the internet seem to be the disadvantaged groups that may benefit from internet access the most, since the information available on the web can empower these groups with further economic opportunities such as job openings for low-income persons.

With that being said, it is important for governments worldwide to realize the vital role that telecommunications can have on the global population. Bridging this technology gap will require governments to invest in providing the infrastructure for internet connection if need be, as well as require the government to create policies that heighten the probability of disadvantaged groups to have access to the internet (such as instilling more affordable connection plans, or even providing more widespread public facilities that can provide internet access for little to no cost).