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The Digital Divide Essay

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To what extent is there a global dimension to this divide? Is the divide narrowing or widening? The digital divide marks the gap between those who have access and utilize Information communication technologies and those who lack access or ability (reference). Causes for this division have traditionally stemmed through economic circumstance. Due to the existing disproportions between countries economic situations, a large global dimension exists within the digital divide. Socio-demographic factors also significantly affect ones positioning on the spectrum of the digital divide.

Through examination it becomes clear that the gap in some senses is showing signs of narrowing. On the other had however, these factors are enhancing the gap and widening the divide for some. The increasing advancements within Information communication technologies and explosion of Internet possibilities within developed countries are leaving developing nations behind. The 21st century has not hindered concern surrounding this digital divide within international agencies such as the United Nations Development Program (Norris 2000).

The disparities between developing societies and advanced are considered to be increasing and gap widening. This lends itself to putting countries at an economic advantage or disadvantage, leading to many flow-on effects. Poorer nations such as India, Africa, and southern parts of Asia have been in large, unable to invest in the internationally growing technologies, which would allow their nation to have and maintain Internet access, due to the initial start up investment necessary (Reference). A country not having Internet access in today’s digital age leads to a number of economic consequences.

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This can be highlighted through; schools being unable to educate or teach students IT skills, preventing them from taking advantage of the huge amounts of information accessible through the web. Therefore people are not growing up with the skills required to get ahead or keep up with this digital era. Ultimately this lack of IT skills results in the inability to compete within the global market or at an international level. Contrasting to this, richer countries are taking advantage of these advancing ICTs, benefiting from more highly trained people who will ultimately lead to higher economic growth (reference).

At a fundamental level, this concept illustrates the significant consequences for countries without access to the ICTs and the way in which the revolution of these has allowed developed countries to gallop ahead of those developing who still lack access. In correlation to this divide, at the disadvantage of the poor, the rich get richer. The digital divide works along side other forms of social inequality and is effecting people not only globally but with in a national sense also (Korupp & Szydlik 2005). It has been indicated that groups that are the most venerable in society are those who lack access to a computer.

They run the risk of being excluded from possible social, educational, cultural and economic benefits. This may have adverse effects on their educational outcomes, employment prospects and other aspects of wellbeing (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2003). These marginalized people have been deemed to fall into categories of; low income, elderly, lacking in education, and minorities (Winter 2000). The flow on effects of this proves to become more complex than one might initially perceive. Those who are able to afford access to the most advanced technologies and efficient versions are able to capitalize on their existence.

Findings support, in 1998, households with an income of $75,000 and above, were nine time as likely to have computer access, and twenty times more likely to have internet access than those of lower income levels (Norris 2000). This disparity can lead to increasing divides in an economic sense as mentioned, but also in a social context. For example, a West German, well educated male has a significantly higher chance of being on the favorable side of societies digital divide, in comparison to the likes of a Turkish women with a lower income and education (Korupp & Szydlik 2005).

Whilst there currently is lacking evidence to indicate a decline in other forms of social disparity due to computer and Internet access, these members at the adverse end of social classes are not benefiting through this digital emergence. Thus their position is remaining the same. On the other end of the spectrum however, there are indicators suggesting this emergence is helping to secure or even increase the favorable social position of these in higher social classes.

Thus the digital divide is arguable contributing towards further divisions among social classes, enhancing not only economic division, but social hierarchy on a national and international scale. Research suggest the environment in which a person is born into and raised, determines ones attitudes towards new technologies (reference). This is globally and most certainly influenced through geographic positioning, however also through the era in which one grew up.

Sackmann and Weymann (1995), developed an approached, depicting four ideal types; the pre-technical generation (born before 1939), the generation of household revolution (born between 1939 and 1948), the generation of advanced household technology (born between 1949 and 1964), followed by the computer generation (born after 1964). Evidence suggests those who were born in the computer generation are considerably more inclined to advance with these new information communication technologies, enhancing potential to benefit both socially and economically.

According to a 2008 survey, ninety percent of adults between the ages of eighteen to twenty nine use the internet, contrasting to this only thirty five percent of those over sixty five use the internet (Hwang 2008). This highlights the way the digital divide has widened as those from the pre-technical generation and generation of household revolution have fallen further and further behind (Korupp & Szydlik 2005). As a result, the division has worked at the advantage to those catorgised within the younger generation. It has enabled them with a potential competitive edge in the global market place.

Through efficient use of these information communication technologies it is now easier than ever before to compete on an international scale (reference). Incorporating these devices into ones lifestyle so readily has equipped younger generations with empowering opportunities. The gap between age groups within countries is still a dividing factor within digital usage, however it must be noted that the significance of this is declining (Chen, Wellman 2004). People are now being born into a world where the digital technologies such as the Internet are considered a tool for daily life, more intergraded than ever before.

Flow on effects of this have resulted in people incorporating a range of technologies into their lifestyle from a very young age, through this they are able to adopt with advancements made within technologies more readily (the children’s article). This the gap between digital divide within age groups is bridging as more and more people are being brought up surrounded by the concept, thus the divide in this sense can be seen to be narrowing. At the other end of the divide are those developing countries which lack access altogether.

As mentioned earlier, the gap here has been widening and continues to do so, however It can be argued that ultimately these digital technologies could in fact be of the most benefit to these currently missing out. They have the abilities to provide them with the opportunity to strengthen the voice of such minorities. For example, the Internet offers broader communication, which could enable small businesses from the likes of Africa or India to sell their products directly to customers internationally. This would exclude the current costly middlemen necessary for these products to be exchanged.

In turn, creating larger economic revenue and wider exposure with the opportunity to grow. In order for these countries to gain these potential benefits, a basic level of access is required which is still lacking, thus until this is occurs the gap will continue to widen (Norris 2000). Statistics do however show hope for these countries, which have initially been left with adverse effects of the digital divide. As Information communication technologies advance, basic assess becomes cheaper and more widely accessible. An example of this can be illustrated through the likes of South America.

During the year of 2000 South America had a approximately only one in ten people online. This is contrasting to 2012’s figures, which estimate 48. 2% on the population engaging with Internet penetration (http://www. internetworldstats. com/stats2. htm 2012). Furthermore, worldwide Internet users jumped from 1 billion in 2005, to approximately 2 billion in 2010. This trend is through numerous factors including; the spread of mobile phones with web capabilities, cheaper technologies, the growth and range of internet providers, and adoption of government investments within digital industries (reference).

Though there are still countries with entrenched digital exclusion such as Africa, which has a mere 15. 6%, online penetration, changes shown through the likes of South America, confirm that accessibility enhancement is occurring in a global dimension. The divide in this sense is continuing to widen between countries without access but narrowing in relation to the amount of countries and regions in which this is happening to.

In summary a degree of causes, consequences on both global dimensions and national levels surrounding the digital divide are highlighted. There are of course further factors and consequences that are effecting this division, however at a basic level the above provides understanding to the factors surrounding the digital divide. Through these analogies it is fair to say that whilst the digital divide can be seen as narrowing in a domestic sense, on wider global sense the gap will continue to widen until access is more readily available for all.

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