A digital divide is any uneven distribution in the access to, use of, or impact of information and communication technologies (ICT) between any number of distinct groups. These groups may be defined based on social, geographical, or geopolitical criteria, or otherwise. The divide within countries (such as the digital divide in the United States) may refer to inequalities between individuals, households, businesses, or geographic areas, usually at different socioeconomic levels or other demographic categories. The divide between differing countries or regions of the world is referred to as the global digital divide, examining this technological gap between developing and developed countries on an international scale.
Some people are concerned that people without access to the internet and other information and communication technologies will be disadvantaged, as they are unable or less able to shop online, search for information online, or learn skills needed for technical jobs. This results in programs to give computers and related services to people without access. However, a reverse divide is also happening, as poor and disadvantaged children and teenagers spend more time using digital devices for entertainment and less time interacting with people face-to-face compared to children and teenagers in well-off families.
The term digital divide describes a gap in terms of access to and usage of information and communication technology. It was traditionally considered to be a question of having or not having access, but with a global mobile phone penetration of over 95%, it is becoming a relative inequality between those who have more and less bandwidth and more or fewer skills. Conceptualizations of the digital divide have been described as "who, with which characteristics, connects how to what":
Different authors focus on different aspects, which leads to a large variety of definitions of the digital divide. "For example, counting with only 3 different choices of subjects (individuals, organizations, or countries), each with 4 characteristics (age, wealth, geography, sector), distinguishing between 3 levels of digital adoption (access, actual usage and effective adoption), and 6 types of technologies (fixed phone, mobile... Internet...), already results in 3x4x3x6 = 216 different ways to define the digital divide. Each one of them seems equally reasonable and depends on the objective pursued by the analyst". The "digital divide" is also referred to by a variety of other terms which have similar meanings, though may have a slightly different emphasis: digital inclusion, digital participation, basic digital skills, media literacy  and digital accessibility.
The National Digital Inclusion Alliance, a US-based nonprofit organization, has found the term "digital divide" to be problematic, since there are a multiplicity of divides. Instead, they chosen to use the term "digital inclusion", providing a definition: Digital Inclusion refers to the activities necessary to ensure that all individuals and communities, including the most disadvantaged, have access to and use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). This includes 5 elements: 1) affordable, robust broadband internet service; 2) internet-enabled devices that meet the needs of the user; 3) access to digital literacy training; 4) quality technical support; and 5) applications and online content designed to enable and encourage self-sufficiency, participation and collaboration.
The infrastructure by which individuals, households, businesses, and communities connect to the Internet address the physical mediums that people use to connect to the Internet such as desktop computers, laptops, basic mobile phones or smartphones, iPods or other MP3 players, gaming consoles such as Xbox or PlayStation, electronic book readers, and tablets such as iPads.
Traditionally the nature of the divide has been measured in terms of the existing numbers of subscriptions and digital devices. Given the increasing number of such devices, some have concluded that the digital divide among individuals has increasingly been closing as the result of a natural and almost automatic process. Others point to persistent lower levels of connectivity among women, racial and ethnic minorities, people with lower incomes, rural residents, and less educated people as evidence that addressing inequalities in access to and use of the medium will require much more than the passing of time. Recent studies have measured the digital divide not in terms of technological devices, but in terms of the existing bandwidth per individual (in kbit/s per capita).
As shown in the Figure on the side, the digital divide in kbit/s is not monotonically decreasing, but re-opens up with each new innovation. For example, "the massive diffusion of narrow-band Internet and mobile phones during the late 1990s" increased digital inequality, as well as "the initial introduction of broadband DSL and cable modems during 2003–2004 increased levels of inequality". This is because a new kind of connectivity is never introduced instantaneously and uniformly to society as a whole at once, but diffuses slowly through social networks. As shown by the Figure, during the mid-2000s, communication capacity was more unequally distributed than during the late 1980s, when only fixed-line phones existed. The most recent increase in digital equality stems from the massive diffusion of the latest digital innovations (i.e. fixed and mobile broadband infrastructures, e.g. 3G and fiber optics FTTH). Measurement methodologies of the digital divide, and more specifically an Integrated Iterative Approach General Framework (Integrated Contextual Iterative Approach – ICI) and the digital divide modeling theory under measurement model DDG (Digital Divide Gap) are used to analyze the gap existing between developed and developing countries, and the gap among the 27 members-states of the European Union.
Instead of tracking various kinds of digital divides among fixed and mobile phones, narrow- and broadband Internet, digital TV, etc., it has recently been suggested to simply measure the amount of kbit/s per actor. This approach has shown that the digital divide in kbit/s per capita is actually widening in relative terms: "While the average inhabitant of the developed world counted with some 40 kbit/s more than the average member of the information society in developing countries in 2001, this gap grew to over 3 Mbit/s per capita in 2010."
The upper graph of the Figure on the side shows that the divide between developed and developing countries has been diminishing when measured in terms of subscriptions per capita. In 2001, fixed-line telecommunication penetration reached 70% of society in developed OECD countries and 10% of the developing world. This resulted in a ratio of 7 to 1 (divide in relative terms) or a difference of 60% (divide in measured in absolute terms). During the next decade, fixed-line penetration stayed almost constant in OECD countries (at 70%), while the rest of the world started a catch-up, closing the divide to a ratio of 3.5 to 1. The lower graph shows the divide not in terms of ICT devices, but in terms of kbit/s per inhabitant. While the average member of developed countries counted with 29 kbit/s more than a person in developing countries in 2001, this difference got multiplied by a factor of one thousand (to a difference of 2900 kbit/s). In relative terms, the fixed-line capacity divide was even worse during the introduction of broadband Internet at the middle of the first decade of the 2000s, when the OECD counted with 20 times more capacity per capita than the rest of the world. This shows the importance of measuring the divide in terms of kbit/s, and not merely to count devices. The International Telecommunications Union concludes that "the bit becomes a unifying variable enabling comparisons and aggregations across different kinds of communication technologies".
However, research shows that the digital divide is more than just an access issue and cannot be alleviated merely by providing the necessary equipment. There are at least three factors at play: information accessibility, information utilization and information receptiveness. More than just accessibility, individuals need to know how to make use of the information and communication tools once they exist within a community. Information professionals have the ability to help bridge the gap by providing reference and information services to help individuals learn and utilize the technologies to which they do have access, regardless of the economic status of the individual seeking help.
Internet connectivity can be utilized at a variety of locations such as homes, offices, schools, libraries, public spaces, Internet cafe and others. There are also varying levels of connectivity in rural, suburban, and urban areas.
Common Sense Media, a nonprofit group based in San Francisco, surveyed almost 1,400 parents and reported in 2011 that 47 percent of families with incomes more than $75,000 had downloaded apps for their children, while only 14 percent of families earning less than $30,000 had done so.
The gap in a digital divide may exist for a number of reasons. Obtaining access to ICTs and using them actively has been linked to a number of demographic and socio-economic characteristics: among them income, education, race, gender, geographic location (urban-rural), age, skills, awareness, political, cultural and psychological attitudes. Multiple regression analysis across countries has shown that income levels and educational attainment are identified as providing the most powerful explanatory variables for ICT access and usage. Evidence was found that Caucasians are much more likely than non-Caucasians to own a computer as well as have access to the Internet in their homes. As for geographic location, people living in urban centers have more access and show more usage of computer services than those in rural areas. Gender was previously thought to provide an explanation for the digital divide, many thinking ICT were male gendered, but controlled statistical analysis has shown that income, education and employment act as confounding variables and that women with the same level of income, education and employment actually embrace ICT more than men (see Women and ICT4D). However, each nation has its own set of causes or the digital divide. For example, the digital divide in Germany is unique because it is not largely due to difference in quality of infrastructure.
One telling fact is that "as income rises so does Internet use ...", strongly suggesting that the digital divide persists at least in part due to income disparities. Most commonly, a digital divide stems from poverty and the economic barriers that limit resources and prevent people from obtaining or otherwise using newer technologies.
In research, while each explanation is examined, others must be controlled in order to eliminate interaction effects or mediating variables, but these explanations are meant to stand as general trends, not direct causes. Each component can be looked at from different angles, which leads to a myriad of ways to look at (or define) the digital divide. For example, measurements for the intensity of usage, such as incidence and frequency, vary by study. Some report usage as access to Internet and ICTs while others report usage as having previously connected to the Internet. Some studies focus on specific technologies, others on a combination (such as Infostate, proposed by Orbicom-UNESCO, the Digital Opportunity Index, or ITU's ICT Development Index). Based on different answers to the questions of who, with which kinds of characteristics, connects how and why, to what there are hundreds of alternatives ways to define the digital divide. "The new consensus recognizes that the key question is not how to connect people to a specific network through a specific device, but how to extend the expected gains from new ICTs". In short, the desired impact and "the end justifies the definition" of the digital divide.
During the mid-1990s the US Department of Commerce, National Telecommunications & Information Administration (NTIA) began publishing reports about the Internet and access to and usage of the resource. The first of three reports is entitled "Falling Through the Net: A Survey of the ‘Have Nots’ in Rural and Urban America" (1995), the second is "Falling Through the Net II: New Data on the Digital Divide" (1998), and the final report "Falling Through the Net: Defining the Digital Divide" (1999). The NTIA’s final report attempted to clearly define the term digital divide; "the digital divide—the divide between those with access to new technologies and those without—is now one of America's leading economic and civil rights issues. This report will help clarify which Americans are falling further behind, so that we can take concrete steps to redress this gap." Since the introduction of the NTIA reports, much of the early, relevant literature began to reference the NTIA’s digital divide definition. The digital divide is commonly defined as being between the "haves" and "have-nots."
The Facebook Divide, a concept derived from the "digital divide", is the phenomenon with regard to access to, use of, or impact of Facebook on individual society and among societies. It is suggested at the International Conference on Management Practices for the New Economy (ICMAPRANE-17) on February 10–11, 2017. Additional concepts of Facebook Native and Facebook Immigrants are suggested at the conference. The Facebook Divide, Facebook native, Facebook immigrants, and Facebook left-behind are concepts for social and business management research. Facebook Immigrants are utilizing Facebook for their accumulation of both bonding and bridging social capital. These Facebook Native, Facebook Immigrants, and Facebook left-behind induced the situation of Facebook inequality. In February 2018, the Facebook Divide Index was introduced at the ICMAPRANE conference in Noida, India, to illustrate the Facebook Divide phenomenon.
An individual must be able to connect in order to achieve enhancement of social and cultural capital as well as achieve mass economic gains in productivity. Therefore, access is a necessary (but not sufficient) condition for overcoming the digital divide. Access to ICT meets significant challenges that stem from income restrictions. The borderline between ICT as a necessity good and ICT as a luxury good is roughly around the "magical number" of US$10 per person per month, or US$120 per year, which means that people consider ICT expenditure of US$120 per year as a basic necessity. Since more than 40% of the world population lives on less than US$2 per day, and around 20% live on less than US$1 per day (or less than US$365 per year), these income segments would have to spend one third of their income on ICT (120/365 = 33%). The global average of ICT spending is at a mere 3% of income. Potential solutions include driving down the costs of ICT, which includes low cost technologies and shared access through Telecentres.
Furthermore, even though individuals might be capable of accessing the Internet, many are thwarted by barriers to entry such as a lack of means to infrastructure or the inability to comprehend the information that the Internet provides. Lack of adequate infrastructure and lack of knowledge are two major obstacles that impede mass connectivity. These barriers limit individuals' capabilities in what they can do and what they can achieve in accessing technology. Some individuals have the ability to connect, but they do not have the knowledge to use what information ICTs and Internet technologies provide them. This leads to a focus on capabilities and skills, as well as awareness to move from mere access to effective usage of ICT.
The United Nations is aiming to raise awareness of the divide by way of the World Information Society Day which has taken place yearly since May 17, 2006. It also set up the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Task Force in November 2001. Later UN initiatives in this area are the World Summit on the Information Society, which was set up in 2003, and the Internet Governance Forum, set up in 2006.
In the year 2000, the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme launched its Online Volunteering service, which uses ICT as a vehicle for and in support of volunteering. It constitutes an example of a volunteering initiative that effectively contributes to bridge the digital divide. ICT-enabled volunteering has a clear added value for development. If more people collaborate online with more development institutions and initiatives, this will imply an increase in person-hours dedicated to development cooperation at essentially no additional cost. This is the most visible effect of online volunteering for human development.
Social media websites serve as both manifestations of and means by which to combat the digital divide. The former describes phenomena such as the divided users demographics that make up sites such as Facebook and Myspace or Word Press and Tumblr. Each of these sites host thriving communities that engage with otherwise marginalized populations. An example of this is the large online community devoted to Afrofuturism, a discourse that critiques dominant structures of power by merging themes of science fiction and blackness. Social media brings together minds that may not otherwise meet, allowing for the free exchange of ideas and empowerment of marginalized discourses.
Attempts to bridge the digital divide include a program developed in Durban, South Africa, where very low access to technology and a lack of documented cultural heritage has motivated the creation of an "online indigenous digital library as part of public library services." This project has the potential to narrow the digital divide by not only giving the people of the Durban area access to this digital resource, but also by incorporating the community members into the process of creating it.
To address the divide The Gates Foundation began the Gates Library Initiative. The Gates Foundation focused on providing more than just access, they placed computers and provided training in libraries. In this manner if users began to struggle while using a computer, the user was in a setting where assistance and guidance was available. Further, the Gates Library Initiative was "modeled on the old-fashioned life preserver: The support needs to be around you to keep you afloat."
In nations where poverty compounds effects of the digital divide, programs are emerging to counter those trends. Prior conditions in Kenya—lack of funding, language and technology illiteracy contributed to an overall lack of computer skills and educational advancement for those citizens. This slowly began to change when foreign investment began. In the early 2000s, The Carnegie Foundation funded a revitalization project through the Kenya National Library Service (KNLS). Those resources enabled public libraries to provide information and communication technologies (ICT) to their patrons. In 2012, public libraries in the Busia and Kiberia communities introduced technology resources to supplement curriculum for primary schools. By 2013, the program expanded into ten schools.
Community Informatics (CI) provides a somewhat different approach to addressing the digital divide by focusing on issues of "use" rather than simply "access". CI is concerned with ensuring the opportunity not only for ICT access at the community level but also, according to Michael Gurstein, that the means for the "effective use" of ICTs for community betterment and empowerment are available. Gurstein has also extended the discussion of the digital divide to include issues around access to and the use of "open data" and coined the term "data divide" to refer to this issue area.
Once an individual is connected, Internet connectivity and ICTs can enhance his or her future social and cultural capital. Social capital is acquired through repeated interactions with other individuals or groups of individuals. Connecting to the Internet creates another set of means by which to achieve repeated interactions. ICTs and Internet connectivity enable repeated interactions through access to social networks, chat rooms, and gaming sites. Once an individual has access to connectivity, obtains infrastructure by which to connect, and can understand and use the information that ICTs and connectivity provide, that individual is capable of becoming a "digital citizen".
In the United States, research provided by Sungard Availability Services notes a direct correlation between a company's access to technological advancements and its overall success in bolstering the economy. The study, which includes over 2,000 IT executives and staff officers, indicates that 69 percent of employees feel they do not have access to sufficient technology in order to make their jobs easier, while 63 percent of them believe the lack of technological mechanisms hinders their ability to develop new work skills. Additional analysis provides more evidence to show how the digital divide also affects the economy in places all over the world. A BCG Report suggests that in countries like Sweden, Switzerland, and the U.K., the digital connection among communities is made easier, allowing for their populations to obtain a much larger share of the economies via digital business. In fact, in these places, populations hold shares approximately 2.5 percentage points higher. During a meeting with the United Nations a Bangladesh representative expressed his concern that poor and undeveloped countries would be left behind due to a lack of funds to bridge the digital gap.
The digital divide also impacts children's ability to learn and grow in low-income school districts. Without Internet access, students are unable to cultivate necessary tech skills in order to understand today's dynamic economy. Federal Communication Commission's Broadband Task Force created a report showing that about 70% of teachers give students homework that demand access to broadband. Even more, approximately 65% of young scholars use the Internet at home to complete assignments as well as connect with teachers and other students via discussion boards and shared files. A recent study indicates that practically 50% of students say that they are unable to finish their homework due to an inability to either connect to the Internet, or in some cases, find a computer. This has led to a new revelation: 42% of students say they received a lower grade because of this disadvantage. Finally, according to research conducted by the Center for American Progress, "if the United States were able to close the educational achievement gaps between native-born white children and black and Hispanic children, the U.S. economy would be 5.8 percent—or nearly $2.3 trillion—larger in 2050".
In a reverse of this idea, well-off families, especially the tech-savvy parents in Silicon Valley, carefully limit their own children's screen time. The children of wealthy families attend play-based preschool programs that emphasize social interaction instead of time spent in front of computers or other digital devices, and they pay to send their children to schools that limit screen time. American families that cannot afford high-quality child care options are more likely to use tablet computers filled with apps for children as a cheap replacement for a babysitter, and their government-run schools encourage screen time during school.
Furthermore, according to the 2012 Pew Report "Digital Differences", a mere 62% of households who make less than $30,000 a year use the Internet, while 90% of those making between $50,000 and $75,000 had access. Studies also show that only 51% of Hispanics and 49% of African Americans have high-speed Internet at home. This is compared to the 66% of Caucasians that too have high-speed Internet in their households. Overall, 10% of all Americans don't have access to high-speed Internet, an equivalent of almost 34 million people. Supplemented reports from the Guardian demonstrate the global effects of limiting technological developments in poorer nations, rather than simply the effects in the United States. Their study shows that the rapid digital expansion excludes those who find themselves in the lower class. 60% of the world's population, almost 4 billion people, have no access to the Internet and are thus left worse off.
Since gender, age, racial, income, and educational digital divides have lessened compared to the past, some researchers suggest that the digital divide is shifting from a gap in access and connectivity to ICTs to a knowledge divide. A knowledge divide concerning technology presents the possibility that the gap has moved beyond access and having the resources to connect to ICTs to interpreting and understanding information presented once connected.
The second-level digital divide also referred to as the production gap, describes the gap that separates the consumers of content on the Internet from the producers of content. As the technological digital divide is decreasing between those with access to the Internet and those without, the meaning of the term digital divide is evolving. Previously, digital divide research has focused on accessibility to the Internet and Internet consumption. However, with more and more of the population gaining access to the Internet, researchers are examining how people use the Internet to create content and what impact socioeconomics are having on user behavior. New applications have made it possible for anyone with a computer and an Internet connection to be a creator of content, yet the majority of user-generated content available widely on the Internet, like public blogs, is created by a small portion of the Internet using population. Web 2.0 technologies like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Blogs enable users to participate online and create content without having to understand how the technology actually works, leading to an ever-increasing digital divide between those who have the skills and understanding to interact more fully with the technology and those who are passive consumers of it. Many are only nominal content creators through the use of Web 2.0, posting photos and status updates on Facebook, but not truly interacting with the technology.
Some of the reasons for this production gap include material factors like the type of Internet connection one has and the frequency of access to the Internet. The more frequently a person has access to the Internet and the faster the connection, the more opportunities they have to gain the technology skills and the more time they have to be creative.
Other reasons include cultural factors often associated with class and socioeconomic status. Users of lower socioeconomic status are less likely to participate in content creation due to disadvantages in education and lack of the necessary free time for the work involved in blog or web site creation and maintenance. Additionally, there is evidence to support the existence of the second-level digital divide at the K-12 level based on how educators' use technology for instruction. Schools' economic factors have been found to explain variation in how teachers use technology to promote higher-order thinking skills.
|Worldwide Internet users|
|World population||6.5 billion||6.9 billion||7.4 billion|
|Users in the developing world||8%||21%||41.3%|
|Users in the developed world||51%||67%||81%|
Source: International Telecommunications Union.
|Internet users by region|
|Asia and Pacific||9%||23%||43.9%|
Source: International Telecommunication Union.
|Worldwide broadband subscriptions|
|World population||6.6 billion||6.9 billion||7.3 billion|
Source: International Telecommunication Union.
|Broadband subscriptions by region|
|Asia and Pacific||3%||6%||8%|
|Asia and Pacific||3%||7%||23%|
Source: International Telecommunications Union.
The global digital divide describes global disparities, primarily between developed and developing countries, in regards to access to computing and information resources such as the Internet and the opportunities derived from such access. As with a smaller unit of analysis, this gap describes an inequality that exists, referencing a global scale.
The Internet is expanding very quickly, and not all countries—especially developing countries—are able to keep up with the constant changes. The term "digital divide" doesn't necessarily mean that someone doesn’t have technology; it could mean that there is simply a difference in technology. These differences can refer to, for example, high-quality computers, fast Internet, technical assistance, or telephone services. The difference between all of these is also considered a gap.
In fact, there is a large inequality worldwide in terms of the distribution of installed telecommunication bandwidth. In 2014 only 3 countries (China, US, Japan) host 50% of the globally installed bandwidth potential (see pie-chart Figure on the right). This concentration is not new, as historically only 10 countries have hosted 70–75% of the global telecommunication capacity (see Figure). The U.S. lost its global leadership in terms of installed bandwidth in 2011, being replaced by China, which hosts more than twice as much national bandwidth potential in 2014 (29% versus 13% of the global total).
The global digital divide is a special case of the digital divide, the focus is set on the fact that "Internet has developed unevenly throughout the world":681 causing some countries to fall behind in technology, education, labor, democracy, and tourism. The concept of the digital divide was originally popularized in regard to the disparity in Internet access between rural and urban areas of the United States of America; the global digital divide mirrors this disparity on an international scale.
The global digital divide also contributes to the inequality of access to goods and services available through technology. Computers and the Internet provide users with improved education, which can lead to higher wages; the people living in nations with limited access are therefore disadvantaged. This global divide is often characterized as falling along what is sometimes called the north-south divide of "northern" wealthier nations and "southern" poorer ones.
Some people argue that basic necessities need to be considered before achieving digital inclusion, such as an ample food supply and quality health care. Minimizing the global digital divide requires considering and addressing the following types of access:
Involves "the distribution of ICT devices per capita…and land lines per thousands".:306 Individuals need to obtain access to computers, landlines, and networks in order to access the Internet. This access barrier is also addressed in Article 21 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities by the United Nations.
The cost of ICT devices, traffic, applications, technician and educator training, software, maintenance and infrastructures require ongoing financial means. Financial access and "the levels of household income play a significant role in widening the gap" 
Empirical tests have identified that several socio-demographic characteristics foster or limit ICT access and usage. Among different countries, educational levels and income are the most powerful explanatory variables, with age being a third one.
While a Global Gender Gap in access and usage of ICT's exist, empirical evidence show that this due to unfavorable conditions with respect to employment, education and income and not to technophobia or lower ability. In the contexts under study, women with the prerequsites for access and usage turned out to be more active users of digital tools than men.
In order to use computer technology, a certain level of information literacy is needed. Further challenges include information overload and the ability to find and use reliable information.
Computers need to be accessible to individuals with different learning and physical abilities including complying with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act as amended by the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 in the United States.
In illustrating institutional access, Wilson states "the numbers of users are greatly affected by whether access is offered only through individual homes or whether it is offered through schools, community centers, religious institutions, cybercafés, or post offices, especially in poor countries where computer access at work or home is highly limited".:303
Guillen & Suarez argue that "democratic political regimes enable a faster growth of the Internet than authoritarian or totalitarian regimes".:687 The Internet is considered a form of e-democracy and attempting to control what citizens can or cannot view is in contradiction to this. Recently situations in Iran and China have denied people the ability to access certain websites and disseminate information. Iran has prohibited the use of high-speed Internet in the country and has removed many satellite dishes in order to prevent the influence of Western culture, such as music and television.
Many experts claim that bridging the digital divide is not sufficient and that the images and language needed to be conveyed in a language and images that can be read across different cultural lines. A 2013 study conducted by Pew Research Center noted how participants taking the survey in Spanish were nearly twice as likely to not use the internet.
In the early 21st century, residents of developed countries enjoy many Internet services which are not yet widely available in developing countries, including:
There are four specific arguments why it is important to "bridge the gap":
While these four arguments are meant to lead to a solution to the digital divide, there are a couple other components that need to be considered. The first one is rural living versus suburban living. Rural areas used to have very minimal access to the Internet, for example. However, nowadays, power lines and satellites are used to increase the availability in these areas. Another component to keep in mind is disabilities. Some people may have the highest quality technologies, but a disability they have may keep them from using these technologies to their fullest extent.
Using previous studies (Gamos, 2003; Nsengiyuma & Stork, 2005; Harwit, 2004 as cited in James), James asserts that in developing countries, "internet use has taken place overwhelmingly among the upper-income, educated, and urban segments" largely due to the high literacy rates of this sector of the population.:58 As such, James suggests that part of the solution requires that developing countries first build up the literacy/language skills, computer literacy, and technical competence that low-income and rural populations need in order to make use of ICT.
It has also been suggested that there is a correlation between democrat regimes and the growth of the Internet. One hypothesis by Gullen is, "The more democratic the polity, the greater the Internet use...Government can try to control the Internet by monopolizing control" and Norris et al. also contends, "If there is less government control of it, the Internet flourishes, and it is associated with greater democracy and civil liberties.
From an economic perspective, Pick and Azari state that "in developing nations…foreign direct investment (FDI), primary education, educational investment, access to education, and government prioritization of ICT as all important".:112 Specific solutions proposed by the study include: "invest in stimulating, attracting, and growing creative technical and scientific workforce; increase the access to education and digital literacy; reduce the gender divide and empower women to participate in the ICT workforce; emphasize investing in intensive Research and Development for selected metropolitan areas and regions within nations".:111
There are projects worldwide that have implemented, to various degrees, the solutions outlined above. Many such projects have taken the form of Information Communications Technology Centers (ICT centers). Rahnman explains that "the main role of ICT intermediaries is defined as an organization providing effective support to local communities in the use and adaptation of technology. Most commonly an ICT intermediary will be a specialized organization from outside the community, such as a non-governmental organization, local government, or international donor. On the other hand, a social intermediary is defined as a local institution from within the community, such as a community-based organization.:128
Other proposed solutions that the Internet promises for developing countries are the provision of efficient communications within and among developing countries, so that citizens worldwide can effectively help each other to solve their own problems. Grameen Banks and Kiva loans are two microcredit systems designed to help citizens worldwide to contribute online towards entrepreneurship in developing communities. Economic opportunities range from entrepreneurs who can afford the hardware and broadband access required to maintain Internet cafés to agribusinesses having control over the seeds they plant.
At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the IMARA organization (from Swahili word for "power") sponsors a variety of outreach programs which bridge the Global Digital Divide. Its aim is to find and implement long-term, sustainable solutions which will increase the availability of educational technology and resources to domestic and international communities. These projects are run under the aegis of the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) and staffed by MIT volunteers who give training, install and donate computer setups in greater Boston, Massachusetts, Kenya, Indian reservations the American Southwest such as the Navajo Nation, the Middle East, and Fiji Islands. The CommuniTech project strives to empower underserved communities through sustainable technology and education. According to Dominik Hartmann of the MIT's Media Lab, interdisciplinary approaches are needed to bridge the global digital divide.
Building on the premise that any effective solution must be decentralized, allowing the local communities in developing nations to generate their own content, one scholar has posited that social media—like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter—may be useful tools in closing the divide. As Amir Hatem Ali suggests, "the popularity and generative nature of social media empower individuals to combat some of the main obstacles to bridging the digital divide".:188 Facebook’s statistics reinforce this claim. According to Facebook, more than seventy-five percent of its users reside outside of the US. Moreover, more than seventy languages are presented on its website. The reasons for the high number of international users are due to many the qualities of Facebook and other social media. Amongst them, are its ability to offer a means of interacting with others, user-friendly features, and the fact that most sites are available at no cost. The problem with social media, however, is that it can be accessible, provided that there is physical access. Nevertheless, with its ability to encourage digital inclusion, social media can be used as a tool to bridge the global digital divide.
Some cities in the world have started programs to bridge the digital divide for their residents, school children, students, parents and the elderly. One such program, founded in 1996, was sponsored by the city of Boston and called the Boston Digital Bridge Foundation. It especially concentrates on school children and their parents, helping to make both equally and similarly knowledgeable about computers, using application programs, and navigating the Internet.
Free Basics is a partnership between social networking services company Facebook and six companies (Samsung, Ericsson, MediaTek, Opera Software, Nokia and Qualcomm) that plans to bring affordable access to selected Internet services to less developed countries by increasing efficiency, and facilitating the development of new business models around the provision of Internet access. In the whitepaper realised by Facebook's founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, connectivity is asserted as a "human right", and Internet.org is created to improve Internet access for people around the world.
"Free Basics provides people with access to useful services on their mobile phones in markets where internet access may be less affordable. The websites are available for free without data charges, and include content about news, employment, health, education and local information etc. By introducing people to the benefits of the internet through these websites, we hope to bring more people online and help improve their lives."
However, Free Basics is also accused of violating net neutrality for limiting access to handpicked services. Despite a wide deployment in numerous countries, it has been met with heavy resistance notably in India where the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India eventually banned it in 2016.
Several projects to bring internet to the entire world with a satellite constellation have been devised in the last decade, one of these being Starlink by Elon Musk's company SpaceX. Unlike Free Basics, it would provide people with a full internet access and would not be limited to a few selected services. In the same week Starlink was announced, serial-entrepreneur Richard Branson announced his own project OneWeb, a similar constellation with approximately 700 satellites that has already procured communication frequency licenses for their broadcast spectrum and could possibly be operational as early as in 2019.
The biggest hurdle of these projects is the astronomical financial and logistical costs of launching so many satellites. After the failure of previous satellite-to-consumer space ventures, satellite industry consultant Roger Rusch said "It's highly unlikely that you can make a successful business out of this." Musk has publicly acknowledged this business reality, and indicated in mid-2015 that while endeavoring to develop this technically-complicated space-based communication system he wants to avoid overextending the company and stated that they are being measured in the pace of development.
One Laptop per Child (OLPC) is another attempt to narrow the digital divide. This organization, founded in 2005, provides inexpensively produced "XO" laptops (dubbed the "$100 laptop", though actual production costs vary) to children residing in poor and isolated regions within developing countries. Each laptop belongs to an individual child and provides a gateway to digital learning and Internet access. The XO laptops are designed to withstand more abuse than higher-end machines, and they contain features in context to the unique conditions that remote villages present. Each laptop is constructed to use as little power as possible, have a sunlight-readable screen, and is capable of automatically networking with other XO laptops in order to access the Internet—as many as 500 machines can share a single point of access.
Andy Carvin was National Public Radio's senior product manager for online communities. He accepted a position at First Look Media in February, 2014. Carvin was the founding editor and former coordinator of the Digital Divide Network, an online community of more than 10,000 Internet activists in over 140 countries working to bridge the digital divide. He is also an active blogger as well as a field correspondent to the vlog Rocketboom.
Carvin lives in Silver Spring, Maryland.Center to Bridge the Digital Divide
The Center to Bridge the Digital Divide (CBDD) was a self-sustaining outreach unit of the Washington State University Extension. Founded in 2001, the CBDD was an ICT4D organization committed to assisting under-served populations leverage information communication technologies (ICT) to better their lives and achieve desired goals. Unlike traditional digital divide initiatives, the CBDD's strategic focus was not on gaining access to technology but on helping target communities achieve successful application of ICT.
The CBDD was a project-based non-academic unit working with rural communities in Washington State, Community Technology Organizations in the State of Washington, as well as eleven African countries and Afghanistan. This focus on domestic rural communities in tandem with developing countries is another special distinction that made the Center to Bridge the Digital Divide unique among its peers.
The Center's main offices were located on the Washington State University Spokane campus with additional offices on the main campus in Pullman, in Olympia, Kirkland, and Kabul Afghanistan.Computer literacy
Computer literacy is defined as the knowledge and ability to utilize computers and related technology efficiently, with a range of skills covering levels from elementary use to computer programming and advanced problem solving. Computer literacy can also refer to the comfort level someone has with using computer programs and other applications that are associated with computers. Another valuable component is understanding how computers work and operate. Computer literacy may be distinguished from computer programming which is design and coding of computer programs rather than familiarity and skill in their use.Digital Divide Network
The Digital Divide Network (DDN) is an online community of activists, policymakers, researchers and concerned citizens interested in sharing knowledge to help bridge the digital divide. It is a spinoff of Helping.org (Helping.org later changed its name to Network for Good). TakingITGlobal in Toronto, Ontario, Canada produces and coordinates DDN.Digital citizen
A digital citizen refers to a person utilizing information technology (IT) in order to engage in society, politics, and government. K. Mossberger, et al. define digital citizens as "those who use the Internet regularly and effectively". Digital citizens understand digital citizenship, which is the appropriate use of technology.People characterizing themselves as digital citizens often use IT extensively, creating blogs, using social networks, and participating in online journalism. Although digital citizenship potentially begins when any child, teen, and/or adult signs up for an email address, posts pictures online, uses e-commerce to buy merchandise online, and/or participates in any electronic function that is B2C or B2B, the process of becoming a digital citizen goes beyond simple Internet activity. In the framework of T.H. Marshall's perspective on citizenship's three traditions (liberalism, republicanism, and ascriptive hierarchy), digital citizenry can occur alongside the promotion of equal economic opportunity, as well as increased political participation and civic duty. Digital technology can lower the barriers to entry for participation as a citizen within society.
Highly developed states possess the capacity to link their respective governments with digital sites. Such sites function in ways such as illuminating recent legislation, educating current and future policy objectives, lending agency toward political candidates, and/or allowing citizens to voice themselves in a political way. Likewise, the generation of these sites has been linked to increased voting advocacy. Lack of access toward becoming a digital citizen can be a serious drawback, since many elementary procedures such as tax report filing, birth registration, and use of Web sites to support candidates in political campaigns (E-democracy) etc. have been transferred to only be available via the Internet. Furthermore, many cultural and commercial entities only publicize information on web pages. Non-digital citizens will not be able to retrieve this information and this may lead to social isolation or economic stagnation. The gap between digital citizens and non-digital citizens is often referred to as the digital divide. Currently, the digital divide is a subject of academic debate as access to the Internet has increased, but the place in which the Internet is accessed (work, home, public library, etc.) has a significant effect on how such access will be utilized, if even in a manner related to citizenry. Recent scholarship has correlated the desire to be technologically proficient with greater belief in computer access equity, and thus, digital citizenship (Shelley, et al.).
In developing countries digital citizens are more sparse. They consist of the people in such countries who utilize technology to overcome their localized obstacles including development issues, corruption, and even military conflict. Examples of such citizens include users of Ushahidi during the 2007 disputed Kenyan election, and protesters in the Arab Spring movements who used media to document repression of protests.Digital divide by country
The digital divide is an economic and social inequality with regard to access to, use of, or impact of information and communication technologies (ICT). Factors causing the divide can vary depending on the country and culture, as can the potential solutions for minimizing or closing the divide.
The following is a list of countries that have a digital divide along with contributing factors and steps the country is taking to resolve the issue.Digital divide in China
Over the past decade, there has been an increase in the use of information and communications technologies (ICTs) in China. As the largest developing country in the world, China faces a severe digital divide, which exists not only between Mainland China and the developed countries, but also among its own regions and social groups.Digital divide in the United States
The digital divide in the United States refers to inequalities between individuals, households, and other groups of different demographic and socioeconomic levels in access to information and communication technologies ("ICTs") and in the knowledge and skills needed to effectively use the information gained from connecting. The global digital divide refers to inequalities in access, knowledge, and skills, but designates countries as the units of analysis and examines the divide between developing and developed countries on an international scale.Although the digital divide in America has decreased considerably, there are still certain groups of Americans with limited access. These groups include certain income brackets, ethnicities, and less educated people. The digital divide for children is different. While adults in poor households are less likely to have access to the internet, children in wealthy families are less likely to be permitted to have any screen time or to use digital technologies than children in middle-class and lower-class families.
As of 2016, approximately 11.5% of the total U.S. population did not have Internet access. Out of the 324,118,787 Americans, there were 286,942,362 total Internet users (88.5%).Digital literacy
Digital literacy, also known as digital literacies, refers to the shared cultural practices of encoding and decoding meaning on the world through multiple modalities produced or transferred using information digitally recorded and stored . Digital literacies encompass a bricolage of skills, attitudes, and dispositions as participants negotiate meaning and identity in a networked society and may include, but is not limited to, an individual's grammar, composition, writings, images, audio, video, podcasting, remixing and designs using technology.
Digital literacy, first coined in 1997 by Paul Gilster built on the expanding role of anthropological research in the field of literacy as well on concepts of visual literacy , computer literacy , and information literacy, Overall digital literacy shares many defining principles with other fields that use modifiers in front of literacy to define ways of being and domain specific knowledge. The term has grown in popularity in education and higher education settings and can be found used in International and national standards . Similar to other expanding definitions of literacy that recognize cultural and historical ways of making meaning digital literacy does not replace traditional forms of literacy, instead building upon the skills that form the foundation of traditional forms of literacy.Digital native
The term digital native describes a person who has grown up in the digital age, rather than having acquired familiarity with digital systems as an adult, as a digital immigrant. Both terms were used as early as 1996 as part of the Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace. They are often used to describe the digital gap in terms of the ability of technological use among people born from 1980 onward and those born before.European Computer Driving Licence
European Computer Driving Licence (ECDL), also known as International Computer Driving Licence (ICDL) in non-European countries, is a computer literacy certification programme provided by ECDL Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation.
ECDL / ICDL certification is a globally recognised information and communication technology (ICT) and digital literacy qualification. Other than the name, there is no difference between ECDL and ICDL and they are recognised as equivalent. According to ECDL Foundation, over 14 million people in over 100 countries had registered as candidates for ECDL.In 1995, the ECDL certification programme was developed through a task force of the Council of European Professional Informatics Societies (CEPIS) and was recommended by the European Commission High Level Group, ESDIS, to be a Europe-wide certification scheme. The task force compared several national certification schemes and chose the CDL from Finland as the basis for piloting and later adoption into the ECDL.In the UK, it is used by the National Health Service as the benchmark IT qualification and as such it is available without charge to all staff.Global Internet usage
Global Internet usage refers to the number of people who use the Internet worldwide, which can be displayed using tables, charts, maps and articles which contain more detailed information on a wide range of usage measures.International Telecommunication Union
The International Telecommunication Union (ITU; French: Union Internationale des Télécommunications (UIT)), originally the International Telegraph Union (French: Union Télégraphique Internationale), is a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN) that is responsible for issues that concern information and communication technologies. It is the oldest among all the 15 specialised agencies of UN.
By means of a system of conferences, including the Plenipotentiary Conference held every four years, the ITU coordinates the shared global use of the radio spectrum, promotes international cooperation in assigning satellite orbits, works to improve telecommunication infrastructure in the developing world, and assists in the development and coordination of worldwide technical standards. The ITU is active in areas including broadband Internet, latest-generation wireless technologies, aeronautical and maritime navigation, radio astronomy, satellite-based meteorology, convergence in fixed-mobile phone, Internet access, data, voice, TV broadcasting, and next-generation networks. The agency also organizes worldwide and regional exhibitions and forums, such as ITU Telecom World, bringing together representatives of government and the telecommunications and ICT industry to exchange ideas, knowledge and technology.
ITU, based in Geneva, Switzerland, is a member of the United Nations Development Group, and has 12 regional and area offices in the world. ITU has been an intergovernmental public–private partnership organization since its inception. Its membership includes 193 Member States and around 800 public and private sector companies, and academic institutions as well as international and regional telecommunication entities, known as Sector Members and Associates, which undertake most of the work of each Sector.Jon Hall (programmer)
Jon "maddog" Hall (born 7 August 1950) is the Board Chair for the Linux Professional Institute, and CEO of OptDyn, makers of Subutai P2P Cloud Platform.Knowledge society
A knowledge society generates, shares and makes available to all members of the society knowledge that may be used to improve the human condition. A knowledge society differs from an information society in that the former serves to transform information into resources that allow society to take effective action while the latter only creates and disseminates the raw data. The capacity to gather and analyze information has existed throughout human history. However, the idea of the present-day knowledge society is based on the vast increase in data creation and information dissemination that results from the innovation of information technologies. The UNESCO World Report addresses the definition, content and future of knowledge societies.Telecentre
A telecentre is a public place where people can access computers, the Internet, and other digital technologies that enable them to gather information, create, learn, and communicate with others while they develop essential digital skills. Telecentres exist in almost every country, although they sometimes go by a different names including public internet access center (PIAP), village knowledge center, infocenter, Telecottage, Electronic Village Hall, community technology center (CTC), community multimedia center (CMC), multipurpose community telecentre (MCT), Common/Citizen Service Centre (CSC) and school-based telecentre. While each telecentre is different, their common focus is on the use of digital technologies to support community, economic, educational, and social development—reducing isolation, bridging the digital divide, promoting health issues, creating economic opportunities, and reaching out to youth for example.World Digital Library
The World Digital Library (WDL) is an international digital library operated by UNESCO and the United States Library of Congress.
The WDL has stated that its mission is to promote international and intercultural understanding, expand the volume and variety of cultural content on the Internet, provide resources for educators, scholars, and general audiences, and to build capacity in partner institutions to narrow the digital divide within and among countries. It aims to expand non-English and non-western content on the Internet, and contribute to scholarly research. The library intends to make available on the Internet, free of charge and in multilingual format, significant primary materials from cultures around the world, including manuscripts, maps, rare books, musical scores, recordings, films, prints, photographs, architectural drawings, and other significant cultural materials.The WDL opened with 1,236 items. As of early 2018, it lists more than 18,000 items from nearly 200 countries, dating back to 8,000 BCE.World Summit on the Information Society
The World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) was a two-phase United Nations-sponsored summit on information, communication and, in broad terms, the information society that took place in 2003 in Geneva and in 2005 in Tunis. One of its chief aims was to bridge the global digital divide separating rich countries from poor countries by spreading access to the Internet in the developing world. The conferences established 17 May as World Information Society Day.
The WSIS+10 Process marked the ten-year milestone since the 2005 Summit. In 2015, the stocktaking process culminated with a High-Level meeting of the UN General Assembly on 15–16 December in New York.Zipit wireless messenger (Z2)
The Zipit wireless messenger is a small clamshell device originally produced by Aeronix, which is now under the spin-off Zipit Wireless, Inc., that enables Instant Messaging (AOL Instant Messenger, Yahoo! Messenger, MSN Messenger). The newer Z2 also supports SMS while on Wi-Fi wireless networks. The Zipit Wireless Messenger received the iParenting Media Award in 2005 and the Zipit Z2 was awarded “DigitalLife 2007 Best of Show – Portable Gear” by PC Magazine. The Z1 was also recognized by the InnoVision Technology Awards as an award winner in the Technology Application category. They are $49.99.
Geekcorps, a humanitarian organization trying to bridge the Digital Divide has proposed the Zipit as a leading low-cost communication device.
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