The Great Wall of Digital Divide
“WHAT! I REFRESHED THE PAGE 4 MILLION TIMES! This internet sucks. There’s no connection. Why is this happening to me? I have an assignment due! I have the worst luck in the world.” We have all had this conversation to our computer screens, tablets, cell phones and any other internet dependent electronic device. We feel so disconnected from the world when we are not connected to the internet. Most people wouldn’t know how to get home, cook dinner, plan a vacation, do homework and much more without the internet. But how about the people who have zero access to the internet?
Wake up every one! The digital divide is real people! This is not about the bad connection you get while you’re in an elevator, this is about the gap between people who have internet and those who do not. Digital divide is referred to the gulf between demographics and areas that have access to modern technology for communication and information providing purposes. Can you imagine having no access to any internet? Personally, it’s hard to imagine a life without at least basic cable!
There are many factors that cause the divide. Usually the groups that have access to the internet are young, able-bodied, and wealthy individuals from urban regions and developed countries. Of course all people that have access to the internet are not going to have every single one of these characteristics, but these are the main identifiers of people who do have access to the internet. The groups that normally do not have access to the internet are older or disabled and do not usually come from wealthy families. A majority of people who are on the internet lacking side of the divide come from rural areas and developing countries.
The bridge between this gap can be overcome through teamwork. Many large companies have taken it into their own hands to create programs that will bring wireless internet to developing countries. Let’s talk about some of these.
A Google initiative to provide internet around the world through the power of… balloons. The goal is to cast off a fleet of balloons to provide internet coverage to those accessing it from the ground. Every balloon provides coverage within 5000 square kilometers! These balloons are scheduled to take flight at 30 minute intervals. To date, the longest balloon life was 187 days floating in the stratosphere. Google is connecting with multiple telecommunications companies to extend connectivity to remote and rural areas. Any LTE enabled device should be able to connect to the internet from the balloons. Google also kept the environment in mind when it came to these balloons. Once a balloon is out of service a lifting gas is released and a parachute is opened. Google’s recovery team will then retrieve the balloon for reuse.
This project is an international non-profit organization. The goal of this program is to bridge the divide by providing high-quality, used computers to educational, medical, commercial and social groups in developing countries. These computers are donated by medium to high ranking companies and public establishments. Since 2003, 250 000 computers have been donated from Europe alone! The organization understands that the people receiving the technology will most likely not understand how the devices work. To resolve this knowledge gap, the organization has teamed up with companies to provide comprehensive software and hardware solutions to the people receiving the technology. To date, 2500 projects have been supported by Close the Gap worldwide.
In helping close the digital divide, we are not only helping the internet naïve population, we are helping our own. Benefits to diminishing the digital divide include increasing the number of literate people in the world, a sense of (and maybe soon actual) equality around the world, social progress, economic quality and growth. If more people in these countries knew what was happening in the world by reading and learning about the sides of other countries, there could be potential for less wars, less attacks and more peace. Closing this divide benefits everyone. The world is always a better place when we are united.