Technology is one of the pillars of the future. Access to technology is greatly unequal throughout the United States as well as the world. This is the heart of the concept “digital divide.” I, as an upper middle class white male, have had almost no limitations to what I want in regards to technology. I get a new iPhone every year or two, as well as a new laptop or tablet device. I have access to large amounts of digital libraries through my university, something that many people do not have access to if they do not go to a large, liberal arts university. I live in a place where I have access to efficient public transportation. A lot of people in the United States do not have the access to the technology that I do, let alone the rest of the world. This lack of access to the internet and other digital technologies, something that is extremely convenient and beneficial, is socioeconomically detrimental. It blocks many people from reaching their full potential and staying competitive in this day and age.
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration wrote a report in 1995 titled “Falling Through the Net.” That report focused on a disparity between the “haves” and “have nots” in the United States, a prominent digital divide. The report states that “while Americans are becoming increasingly connected, there are still significant discrepancies in Access.” The United States is one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world, with many new innovations being patented every day. Even though many people have access to laptops, smartphones, and other technologies, many others do not. But how do we overcome this economic inequality and repair the digital divide? This is part of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – goal #9 focuses on innovation and infrastructure while goal #10 centers on reducing inequalities within and between countries. The combination of these two goals will help to reduce the digital divides that exist. With less inequality between and within countries, more people will have equal access and opportunities, one of which being access to digital technologies. With innovation and infrastructure, this access will be more readily available and accessible for everyone.
An older report, the McBride Report “Many Voices, One World” (1980), also highlights the major inequalities between countries considered “developed” and “developing” in regards to information technology. Everywhere we look, we can see these discrepancies. In order to overcome them, we have to put the infrastructure in place. Technology needs to be more accessible to overcome these digital divides. The SDGs do well in providing an outline to follow, but now we just need to follow it.
Looking at the US and many other western countries, there is a large assumption that most people have technology. I am wondering if the argument could be made that within these areas technology has lead to further inequalities? For instance, someone who doesn’t have a laptop or cell phone would have serious issues trying to enter the competitive job market than those who do have those things.