What is the Digital Divide?

When people use the term the digital divide they are referring to the social gap between people who have internet access and those who have little to none. The divide isn’t just limited to the internet though, it can be any type of media segment that general society is using. The term came to be in the late 1990’s as internet access started to become more important in different aspects of personal life and business. The digital divide isn’t just limited demographics but can also be caused by racial divides and lack of education.

Who is missing from the web?

There is a huge range in the different types of people that are missing from the web. This can range from people in developing countries, different ethnic origins, disabilities, lack of funds, the elderly, ex-offenders and many more people with different types social and physical disadvantages. The issue is that in todays society the web comes with so many opportunities and without access to this, the divide grows larger and larger. Many of these people face challenges such as illiteracy, vision problems and no access to a computer.

How can we bridge this gap?

Three main ways to bride the gap are;

Digital Literacy is a universal skill that can not only begin to bridge the gap in the world of technology but also in many other aspects of life.

Communication with the people in need of this access will increase awareness of the issues involved, which can lead to resolving them.

Affordability for people in all areas of the world is crutial to bridge the gap and allowing all people access to the benefits of the world wide web. Affordability can include things such as devices to access the web and accessing the internet through an affordable connection.

What initiatives are being taken to overcome the digital divide?

Different areas of the world take on different types of initiatives that work for their part of the globe. A good example that all areas of the world can learn from is the initiatives happening in Detroit, where less than 40% of household have broadband access.

Several years ago the Knight Foundation set out to find ways to bridge the large divide happening in Detroit.

They first started their initiatives with a closer focus on three main areas that have high poverty rates. They set out to fund a broadband network there in addition to digital literacy training.

In the end they were able to to do the following

Provide computers: While digital literacy was key, free or low-cost computers removed another significant barrier in Detroit. They were able to provide 1,700 through a donation from Blue Cross/Blue Shield. The computers also offered a good incentive for taking a digital literacy course.

Remove financial barriers: Internet providers usually require credit checks before supplying routers and modems. This makes it harder for low-income families get service. Nonprofits should focus on finding a way to pay for those upfront costs.

Partner for success: Partnerships between local community organizations, private companies, libraries and government. These were essential steps to this project, and included a federal grants that brought in additional funding, and the donated, refurbished laptops.

“The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect.”

- Tim Berners-Lee, W3C Director and inventor of the World Wide Web

Sources

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