Digital divide is ‘the existence of gaps in society between those who use technology and those who don’t’ (Ball, 2011).
VIDEO 1 : What is Digital Divide?
The cause of the issue is the unequal access to technology which includes one’s ability to own technology as well as the ability to keep it up-to-date. This reason is driven by economics or an individual’s financial standing. Another reason is a person’s motivation to become involved in technology for example, the elder generation sometimes feel there is no need for them to use technology so they separate themselves from the digital world and therefore widening the gap. Lastly, one’s ability to use the technology. If they don’t have strong skills or knowledge to use the web they won’t be able to access technology to its fullest abilities, this is driven by education rather than wealth.
When I visited Cuba last summer, I was shocked with the lack of internet access they had. The internet in Cuba stagnated since its introduction in the late 1990s because of lack of funding, tight government restrictions, the U.S. embargo and high costs. Starting in 2007 this situation began to slowly improve. In 2015, the Cuban government opened the first public Wi-Fi hotspots in 35 public locations (Stan, 2015). Not having access made me appreciate the luxury we have in developed countries with Wi-Fi being available everywhere. It also showed how dependent we have become on the web as my entire family felt the need to use the web for at least one point e.g. Instagram upload or googling a restaurant.
Figure 1: When walking the streets of Cuba, we saw hordes of people gathered around using tablets, phones and laptops and realised that was because the spot was one of the very few that had Wi-Fi.
Valdes and Ashdown (2012) noticed that as technology is advancing quickly with costs increasing, it becomes difficult for the poor within a nation to catch up. They say digital divide is not a function of politics, but of income.
The affects this has on education and business use is that individuals in less developed countries with limited access to social media compared to a developed country with unlimited access will have less chance of employability. Even though someone from Cuba may be just as or more qualified than someone from UK. This is unethical because without access to technology, education is undermined and therefore opportunities in the future are also compromised due to a smaller audience and being less informed.
This video explains the issue in another perspective and also suggests ways in which the digital divide can be alleviated e.g. charitable organisations.
If you are interested in hearing more ideas about the digital divide, I would recommend watching the below videos which I found to be engaging and insightful:
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Ball, J.W. (2011) ‘Addressing and overcoming the digital divide in schools.’ Academic Journal. [Accessed: 23 November 2016].
Kelion, L. (2013) ‘UK jumps up internet scoreboard as digital divide grows.’ BBC News [Accessed: 23 November 2016].
Stan, A.M. (2015) ‘Bridging the digital divide in Cuba — and Baltimore.’ The American Prospect. [Accessed: 23 November 2016]
Manor, I. (2015) ‘In digital diplomacy, A narrowing digital divide-part 2.’ WordPress.com [Accessed: 23 November 2016].
San Pedro, E. (2016) ‘Cuba internet access still severely restricted.’ BBC News [Accessed: 23 November 2016].
P Valdes, Ashdown, N., Sue (2012) ‘Cuba, the embargo and the digital divide.’ Counterpunch [Accessed: 23 November 2016).
Scott Nordquist (2008) ‘The digital divide.’ YouTube [Accessed: 23 November 2016].
Alyssa Wiedor (2013) ‘Technology ethics: The digital divide and education.’ YouTube [Accessed: 23 November 2016].