Historically, people were divided into rich and poor when it comes to money
. The same concept applies today when it comes to information technology. For instance, there are fortunate people who have access to the internet and unfortunate ones who do not have access to the internet. The digital divide is a new term used to describe people who have access to information compared with people who do not have access to information through the internet
. Just as money has its social impact on the day to day life of rich and poor, equally, the digital divide has its social impact among the connected and disconnected.
The digital divide was at first a world wide concern between developed countries and developing countries in the mid 90s. Connected countries had an advantage while disconnected countries had a disadvantage. Both parties wanted to bridge the gap, otherwise, the digital gap would become larger and the disconnected would be left behind. For example, Arab
countries were slow at connecting to the internet, primarily because of political and social reasons. In the beginning, most Arab governments saw the internet as a threat to the stability of their governments, but eventually, the internet came in after governments relaxed their paranoia. Unofficial statistics place Arab net users between 30 to 40 million users.
The internet reap a host of benefits for people who use it, among the benefits are
s, personal correspondence
and information gathering
, and shopping
. In each of these benefits, doing them online is cheaper and faster than doing them off line. Clearly, people who are disconnected are at a disadvantage in an increasingly connected world.
Countries can be divided into two categories when examining the digital divide, low income and high income countries. High income countries have nothing to worry about, as they have the resources and skills to get connected. Low income countries lack the skills and funding to develop a healthy network.
The digital divide is not only a world wide concern between countries. It is also a social concern inside each individual nations. For instance, in the US, high income
families can easily get connected, while low income
families and minorities
have a hard time getting connected. In addition, urban areas have easier and faster access to the internet while suburban areas are catching up by wiring it to urban areas.
There is research that further divide the digital divide into subgroups instead of the classical connected and disconnected group. One recent survey found that 58% of Americans are connected, 24% are disconnected, 10% are drop outs, and 8% are evaders.
The digital divide is wider than people think it is, more than 80% of the world population never heard of a dial tone and are left behind. UN secretary general Kofi Anan
said, "People lack many things: jobs, shelter, food, health care and drinkable water. Today, being cut off from basic telecommunications services is a hardship almost as acute
as these other deprivations." While attending telecom 99
summit in Geneva
In brief, the digital divide describe countries and individuals that have access compared with countries and individual that do not have access to the internet. It is a social concern to world governments who want to better the lives of their citizens by getting the general public connected to make the nation benefit from the internet.