What does Digital Divide mean? It refers to the number of people who use technology to connect to the internet vs. the number of people that without the capability to connect to the internet. There is a distinctive gap between those that are engaged in the use of connected technology via mobile devices and hard lines and those that are not connected. The Digital Divide is not just affecting those here in the US; the entire world is part of this have and have not world. The inception of the World Wide Web has seen a large gap between the haves and have-nots; this was also the case with the telephone, radio and TV in each of their inceptions.
Dictionary.com defines divide as; to separate into parts, groups, sections, etc. It defines inequality as; the condition of being unequal; lack of equality; disparity: inequality of size.
Digital Divide: The gap between those who have access to digital technologies and those who do not; or the gap between those who use digital technologies and those who do not understood in binary terms distinguishing the “haves” from the “have-nots” (Hargittai 2003)
According to USA Today, (2011), Fifty-one percent of Hispanics and 46% of blacks use their phones to access the Internet, compared with 33% of whites, according to a July 2010 Pew poll. Forty-seven percent of Latinos and 41% of blacks use their phones for e-mail, compared with 30% of whites. The figures for using social media like Facebook via phone were 36% for Latinos, 33% for blacks and 19% for whites.
Peter Chow-White, an assistant communications professor at Simon Fraser University and co-author of “Race After the Internet.” States, “As long as you have structural inequalities in society, you cannot expect to have anything less than that on the Internet,” he says. “The Internet is not a separate space from the world, it’s intricately connected to everyday life and social institutions.”
In the western hemisphere the Digital Divide has a distinctive gap when comparing North, Central, and South America. The US and Canada have 4 times the mobile use and 6 times the internet connection as Central and South America. The US has more then twice the number of Internet users than the remaining 42 countries in the America’s. Brazil, Canada, and the US make up 80% of the Internet users in all the America’s. Mobil use in the US is only at about 60%, while some countries in the have 100% mobile penetration (USA Today, (2011).
The general public is unaware of the significant problem that not only our great country faces but all developed and developing counties face. We are staring at a revolution that is leaving many behind, even with the greatest intentions of our government, nationally and locally.
The encouraging aspect of this is that as the market grows so does the availability of Internet access as long as pricing is kept in check. The gaps are getting smaller as we move forward in the Internet connected generation. Research also shows that that cell phone service prices have dropped almost 25% in the last decade and Internet service has only come down 4%. The electronic devises that are available for connectivity has increased steadily over the last decade and show no signs of slowing down and prices have come down with the influx of new technology, but connection prices have not come down to match. As wonderful as this new technology is, it does no good for connectivity if the Internet service provider has priced most of America out of the market. Along those lines, with the purchase of new technology, the user will need to understand how to operate the new technology to its fullest potential. Without the understanding of how to use the Internet other then to be the end user, the user does not gain the full potential of being connected.
There are ways of correcting the Digital Divide we face in the US so as to ensure our competitive edge in the global market.
- The first comes with education by enforcing the knowledge of communication and understanding of how to use technology as a means to improving our way of life.
- Keep the cost of equipment and Internet service down to an affordable level for all economic levels.
- Recycling used equipment to be refurbished and sold at a discounted price to those that cannot afford new equipment.
- The last would come from training individuals on how to use the technology for more then just being the end user, to have a more proactive role in the Internet.
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