Closing the Digital Divide

What is the digital divide? Who is it affecting? What efforts are being made to help close it? In simple terms, the digital divide refers to the gap between people who have access to the internet and modern communications and those who do not.

Who is being affected by the digital divide? Globally, the biggest difference is between developed and developing nations. In 2016. roughly 40% of the worlds population has access to an internet connection. North America has the highest internet penetration rate at close to 90% with Africa, the lowest rate, falling under 30%. Geographically, urban communities have higher rates to the internet compared to rural communities. The digital divide is also affected by generational, physical, economical and educational divisions.

http://www.internetlivestats.com/internet-users/

How can we overcome the digital divide?

Globally, governments and organizations are developing broadband policies to help erase the divide. This can be difficult due to the lack of understanding the relevance of providing access to developing nations. There is also the issue of lack of skills and confidence with technology once it is put in place. Another issue is affordability. With the implementation of the internet connection, there will be product, connection and access fees associated which will be difficult for countries with low income. By dealing with these complications, internet across the globe could become a reality.

With these issues in mind, companies across the world have created ways to get internet to people in cost affective ways. Some examples include:

Project Loon

Project Loon strives to provide Internet access to the half of the world who does not have access to the Internet. They do this by creating a network of balloons which travel “on the edge of space” and connect people to the internet in remote and rural areas.

One Laptop Per Child

One Laptop Per Child is an organization who’s mission is to provide and empower the world’s poorest children through education. They do this by providing students with low-powered, low-cost and connected laptops. By providing children with a tool to access the internet, this gets them engaged in self-education, learning and creativity which can be shared with peers all over the world.

Who benefits from increased access?

Communities with internet access have gained educational, economic and social advantages. Not only do they gain short term benefits but also long term economical benefits which help their surrounding communities.

Education is increased with access to internet. Governments are able to use internet for scholastic training which increases their workforces productivity. Educational institutions benefit by providing students with additional knowledge and providing information on topics which may not have been available otherwise. It also creates connections through different communities and provides cross-knowledge.

By having access to the internet it also creates possibility for better health care. It is now possible for doctors to assess a patient over the screen which saves time and lowers risks associated in rural environments where people are further away from access to health care.

Not only does increased internet access benefit the people whom the internet is reaching, it also benefits the providers that the internet is being used for. Companies whose platforms are purely online benefit from the increased user data base which is now being broadcasted in new environments. By providing internet in rural environments, companies such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram will be able to increase their platforms and grow their companies.

Sources:

http://whatis.techtarget.com/definition/digital-divide

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