The Global Issue of Digital Divide

photo by Anonymous/Pexels

Image: Person sitting at desk, in front of their computer and iPad looking down at their iPhone. 

Being as privileged as we are, we often forget that despite the globalization of technology and efforts to make all aspects of it accessible, many people are still left out of this digital bubble we have created for ourselves. Access to an internet connection is not the only thing that restricts people from access to the digital world. There are currently four predominant factors responsible for the digital divide: global issues, geographical location, physical disabilities, and generational knowledge.

Where a person lives is a major factor in their access to the digital world. Naturally, developed countries have better access to digital technologies than developing countries because they have an abundance of  resources at their disposal to spend on their citizens. Developing countries often have bigger issues to deal with before they try to close the digital divide. Many of these countries are fighting war, fixing poverty, dealing with health crises, etc. Giving everyone access to this digital world is not their top priority. In consequence, the digital world is only available to the most affluent members of society. Further, urban and rural areas have very different levels of  access to digital technologies; money for technological and digital innovation is put into areas with the most population, this tends to be in cities. Rural areas are usually the last to receive new technologies because of their distance from metropoles and the sparsity of population. These rural areas have many more restrictions to the Internet and in turn to a lot of contemporary technologies.

When talking about digital accessibility, individuals’ physical and mental capacities are often overlooked. The digital world is designed for able-bodied people and there have only recently begun to be remarkable efforts to make it accessible to people with disabilities. Imagine trying to use technology if you were blind, or def, or paralyzed in some way, or even illiterate. Imagine all of the above. Digital technology is very dependent on imagery, sounds, movements and words to function and communicate with us; I can’t even begin to imagine how difficult it would be trying to navigate through our digital system as a disabled person.On top of that, many people who did not grow up in this digital era do not possess the knowledge or even interest to be able to access and use the types of technology contemporary youth would in their daily life!

As I said earlier, there have been efforts to make digital technologies more accessible for everyone. Organizations like One Laptop Per Child (OLPC), founded around 2005, have been raising money to send laptops to children around the word who would not normally have access to information found on the internet or a very developed education. Project Loon is a project launched by Google that will essentially provide Internet access to EVERYONE (even people in remote locations) by providing “balloon-powered Internet”. Companies like Facebook are also working towards providing affordable Internet connectivity to even the most impoverished people in the world. The province of Ontario even has the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) that provides guidelines for websites to follow in order to be as inclusive as possible and provide equal opportunities for all.

All in all, access to digital technologies is a very important factor in achieving global equality. It has been stated many times that knowledge is power and these types of technologies provide the world’s population with infinite amounts of knowledge. However, more people having access to Internet and other digital technologies also means more profits for providers and other big corporations.

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