The Digital Divide

The Digital Divide

Do we need the internet to survive?
What would happen if the internet shut down?
Does everyone have access to the internet?
Is online access a right?

Digital Divide: The gap between people who have access to digital technology and those who don’t – Digital technology – computers, internet, mobile phones.

Some people have fast, cheap, or easy access to digital technology.

For others, digital technology is expensive, slow or difficult to access.

Digital Inclusion: The incorporation of information technologies into the community in order to promote education and improve the quality of life.

Technology Gap: The difference in technologies used and / or developed in two companies, ethnic groups, etc, where one is more advanced than the other.

Access to Broadband (Source:
One in five households worldwide have a fixed broadband connection.
At the end of 2008, 21 countries had broadband connections in at least 50% of homes.
South Korea: 86%.
France: 63%.
Singapore: 63%.
Australia: 55%.
US: 63%.

Although many mature markets will see a slowing down of broadband rates as connectivity reaches saturation, many emerging markets are still in the early stages of broadband deployment and will see rapid growth in adoption rates.

Gartner predicts that over the next five years, the emerging markets (China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, Latin American countries, Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa) will collectively provide twice as many new consumer broadband connections as mature markets: 135 million vs. 62 million connections, respectively.

Brazil, Russia, India and China (BRIC) will account for 92 million (68 percent) of the increased 135 million household broadband connections in the emerging markets, meaning that BRIC accounts for almost half (47 percent) of the total global increase in connections. China takes first place in contributing the greatest number (62 million, or 46 percent) of the 135 million new broadband connections in emerging markets.

Twenty seven million U.S. households will make up a large share of new broadband connections in mature markets between 2008 and 2013, with Japan accounting for almost 10 million, Germany with 5 million and the U.K. with slightly over 3 million connections. However, despite the significant growth in connections in emerging markets, Gartner analysts said that households in emerging markets will continue to outnumber those in mature markets by 4-to-1. Consequently, it is unlikely that broadband household penetration in the emerging markets will catch up with mature markets within the next 10 years, and Gartner estimates that the digital divide will remain in the 50 to 54 percent range for the foreseeable future.

"Broadband services represent the core of all fixed-line household communications services; hence, communications providers will be able to continue their reliance on broadband subscription revenue to offset revenue loss from other services in their portfolio offerings," Ms. Sabia said. "Equipment manufacturers (modems, routers and PCs) and providers of carrier infrastructure will benefit by having more connections to supply equipment and services to. Government, medical and educational institutions alike will have alternative access to their customers via the household broadband connection.”

Old VS New:

‘Old’ Digital divide – Divide between those who have access to technology and those who do not. = Circumstance

‘New’ Digital Divide – Divide between those who use technology and those who do not. = Choice

Over recent years the physical digital divide has been closing.

However a new divide is opening up: people who use digital technology and those who don’t.

Some people have access to digital technology, but choose not to use it.

The Digitally Challenged:
- Don’t know how to search online.
- Don’t know how to validate / verify online information.
- Don’t know how to use social media.
- Can’t remix or mashup digital media.
- Don’t appreciate that learning is a continual process, not an achievement.

The Digitally Savvy:
- Know how to utilize technology and the new information channels smartly.

Why Is There A New Digital Divide?
1. 21st Century Literacy / New Media Literacy
2. Access restrictions that have nothing to do with access to technology.
3. Socioeconomic barriers.
4. Personal fears, resistances, concerns about privacy and security.

The Digitally Excluded and the E-solated:
- Digital natives
- Digital immigrants
- Those who lack digital opportunities
- Conscientious objectors

"Students of today have spent their entire lives surrounded by and using computers, video games, digital music players, video cameras, cell phones, and all the other toys and tools of the digital age. Today’s average college grads have spent less than 5,000 hours of their lives reading, but over 10,000 hours playing video games (not to mention 20,000 hours watching TV). Computer games, email, the Internet, cell phones and instant messaging are integral parts of their lives. It is now clear that as a result of this ubiquitous environment and the sheer volume of their interaction with it, today’s students think and process information fundamentally differently from their predecessors. These differences go far further and deeper than most educators suspect or realize."
- Marc Prensky, On The Horizon. NCB University Press Vol 9 No 5, Oct 2001.

Government And The Internet:
Estonia, France & Finland have made internet access a human right.
France's highest court, the Constitutional Council, ruled that access to the internet is a "fundamental human right", in striking down a controversial "three strikes" anti-piracy law called Loi Hadopi, according to a report. 
Were such an opinion agreed upon by other governments around the world, the implications would be striking.

Some countries are adopting legal measures to ensure internet access.
Many governments are increasingly using the Internet to reach their citizens.

Argument: If the Government is putting information on the internet, and using it to reach its citizens, shouldn't they also provide those citizens with free / cheap internet access? Otherwise, how would people see the messages? How would people be able to respond to those messages?
Argument: Shouldn't Internet Access be a basic human right?

Poverty And The Internet:
Poor people, such as the homeless, are using blogs / social media to highlight their situation.
Poor people can get access to the Internet via PCs in libraries / public places for free.
But, some public places are trying to deter the poor from using them.

Education And The Internet:
It is widely acknowledged that computers are essential in today’s classroom.
But what is less well accepted is that students need the opportunity, and perhaps to gain the skills and confidence they need to participate online.

“You can’t just throw a bunch of computers into a library and be done with it.”
“Access to today’s participatory culture functions as a new form of the hidden curriculum, shaping which youth will succeed and which will be left behind as they enter school and the workplace.” - Henry Jenkins

The Benefits Of A Participatory Culture:
1. Peer to peer learning.
2. Diversification of cultural expression.
3. Development of skills valued in today’s workplace.
4. Empowered citizenship.

Issues And Fears:
1. Fear of social media
2. Perceived need to filter pornography and violent material.
3. Issues of privacy.
4. Issues of piracy.

Literacy In The 21st Century:
"No prior technological advance has had such a profound cognitive impact as computing." - Susan E. Fox (Source:

For many, computers remain so complicated that they couldn’t work out how to use one even if they were given one for free.

65 million Americans never go online. Only 5 per cent cite lack of funds as the reason; 39 per cent feel it would be a waste of time.

Many people are held back by fears of privacy invasion or concerns about breaches of security to their bank accounts, etc.

Some don’t feel comfortable about putting their ideas and thoughts ‘out there’ for all to see.