ICTs have become an integral part of everyday life. People use them to access information, to connect with other people, and tackle challenges facing the world. The use and applications for ICTs have grown over the past several decades as technological innovations have produced new forms of information and communication technologies.
Back in 1985, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), an agency of the UN responsible for issues concerning ICTs, sponsored the Maitland Commission Report. The report identified a lack of telephone in developing countries compared to developed countries. This digital divide showed that developing countries were at a disadvantage due to this lack of access. A decade later, the US Department of Commerce charged the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) with identifying where in the US there may be a digital divide regarding Internet access, which had emerged as a fundamental pathway to access information. The report, Falling Through the Net, identified geographical areas where access to the Internet was limited, and therefore, the populations around those areas were at a disadvantage.
These disadvantages are not always determined by geography. Digital divides can arise from differences in income, culture/ethnicity, and development status as well. Some populations are more likely to be affected by digital divides and can greatly benefit from equal access to ICTs. ICTs not only can bridge the divide, but they can provide people with equal opportunities that are impossible otherwise. Persons with disabilities can benefit from ICTs in the areas of education and access. ICTs can be used to aid persons with intellectual abilities to learn at their own pace and in the ways that work best for each individual. Around access, ICTs can help people gain access to knowledge that is interpreted through a different platform, such as text to speech programs or captioning. ICTs have also been developed to help those with physical disabilities to find transportation that is best suited to them, which allows them to explore and move around as if they did not have a disability.
ICTs help monitor health statuses around the world, including food insecurity levels, which helps highlight vulnerable populations. Through ICTs, interventions are planned and evaluated to make the biggest impact in the communities where they are deemed most necessary. Without ICTs, it would be near impossible to keep track of all the health information for all the places around the world, which just proves how vital ICTs are to our society and the importance of having equal access to them.