Digital Divide

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May 18, 2014 by Ozgur Ozden

Depending on the economic situation, countries and people have different levels of access to information on the web today. According to 2013 World Internet Usage and Population Statistics around 35% of world’s population is online today. This figure changes depend on the country and location. Europe has around 63%, Australia has 67%, North America has around 78% access to online resources. On the other hand Asia has 27% and Africa has 15% connectivity. This is actually what we call “Digital Divide”. OECD 2001 reports explains this divide as “ “digital divide” refers to the gap between individuals, households, businesses and geographic areas at different socio-economic levels with regard both to their opportunities to access information and communication technologies (ICTs) and to their use of the Internet for a wide variety of activities“
Digital Divide usually categorized and analyzed as: (Hilbert, 2011)
a) Companies, people, organizations, countries who uses this connectivity.
b) demographic and economic indications of connection. Such as age, income, sex, education level, location, race.
c) Types of connection. Cell phone, tablet, adsl, dial-up, smart TV.
d) Frequency of the connection. How frequent or wide the connection is.
e) Aim of the connection. Education, social media, e commerce, research.
Many people argue that digital divide is important and must be reduced. They see connectivity as one of the basic human right for each individual. They also claim that connection to information all over the globe will increase the level of education in the society. Some see internet as a necessity for a healthy democracy. People express and write their own ideas, spread them freely and read the others. Inventor of the web Tim Berners-Lee (1998) explains this as “The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect.”
In these days it seems like focus of these discussions are shifted from digital divide to quality of access and equality of access.
Quality of access: people who have access to the internet will developed more skills, comprehend, and learn more respect to the ones who has not connections. Quality of the accessed materials on the web is also being questioned also how to use these material. Equality of the Access must be provided for the people having low income and economical stability so they can benefit from the web.
If we take a look at the future of web, connectedness will increase immensely. Internet will be pervasive. Social networks, blogs, geolocations, databases all will be connected to each other. we will have more intelligent systems and more complicated artificial Intelligent systems. Web will be portable in the future. We will be able to connect to web via smart phones or “internet of things”. Even everyday objects will connect to web. Our car might connect to mechanic for a full update of its system or a refrigerator may connect to market to order the items, products about to finish in the fridge, even pay for it. We will have more personalized and custom made web in the future. custom websites, custom shopping and many more.
Being connected will be inseparable reality of our life in the future. People who have not this connection will not be able benefit from the above mentioned items.

References:
1- OECD Understanding the digital divide (2011) (online) Available at: http://www.oecd.org/sti/1888451.pdf [Accessed at: 16 June 2013]
2- David Junkel (2003) Second thoughts: toward a critique of the digital divide
(0nline) Available at: http://commons.lib.niu.edu/bitstream/10843/13143/1/secondthoughts.pdf [Accessed at: 16 June 2013]
3-Elory Rozner (1998) Haves, Have-Nots, and Have-to-Haves: Net Effects of the Digital Divide (0nline) Available at: http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/fallsem98/final_papers/Rozner.html [Accessed at: 16 June 2013]
4 – Hilbert, M. 2011. The end justifies the definition: The manifold outlooks on the digital divide and their practical usefulness for policy-making. Telecommunications Policy, 35(8), 715-736. Accessed at: [Accessed at: 16 June 2013] http://martinhilbert.net/ManifoldDigitalDivide_Hilbert_AAM.pdf

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