The Digital Divide: are we ready to breach the chasm?

August, 2013


Friedman in his 2005 epic book “The World is Flat” argues that convergence of personal computer with fiber-optic micro cable, along with the rise of work flow software, will have a flattening effect on world commerce and trade. It will create a level playing field, where developing economies will be able to compete with developed economies on even terms, leveraging converged Information & Communication Technology (ICT). However critic of Friedman, including noble prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz were critical of Friedman’s book. In “Making Globalization Work” Stiglitz writes: “Friedman is right that there have been dramatic changes in the global economy and global landscape; in some directions, the world is much flatter than it has ever been, with those in various parts of the world being more connected than they have ever been, but the world is not flat. Not only is the world not flat: in many ways it has been getting less flat.” The reason for this is the worldwide “Digital Divide” that is being manifested by the rapid deployment of ICT. The digital divide is an inequality or gap between groups, broadly construed, in terms of access, use and knowledge of ICT. Not only is this divide widening between developed and developing economies, but is also manifest within a developed economy like US. This divide is visible within the US population when one analyses usage of ICT against factors such as education and income levels, age, sex and race.

Digital Divide- What are we talking about?

Access to technology is access to knowledge. No nation can prosper with inadequate access and familiarity about it, by its citizen. An inequitable distribution of digital resources is a mammoth hindrance to a nation’s inclusive growth plans. The US Department of Commerce in all its wisdom recognized this early and started as far back as 1995 to take a closer look at the disparities in access to telephone and computer use by its citizens.”Falling through the Net: A survey of the “Have Nots” in Rural and Urban America”, a report produced by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) gained new insights about the “information disadvantaged”, with a view to empower them in the future. One of their observations was the most enthusiastic users of on-line services were from the most disadvantaged groups. Low income, minority, young and less educated computer households engaged actively in searching for employment, taking educational classes and accessing government reports, online. The concept of digital divide started off by being defined as this disparity in internet access between rural and urban areas of the United States of America.
This article was originally published on Outsource Magazine.