Digital divide is a concept used to describe the disparity between individuals, families, businesses, and geographic regions at poles apart socio-economic levels. This is with reference to their prospects in accessing information and communication technologies (ICT’s), as well as their utility of the internet for an extensive variety of activities(OECD, 2001). It entails the imbalance in physical access to technology as well capital and expertise required to efficiently take part as a “digital citizen” (OECD, 2001). The concept of global digital divide describes the discrepancy of access between countries with reference to the internet and mode of “information flow” (James, 2011).
The information revolution has been accompanied by a digital divide phenomenon as a vital predicament of the modern-day world. Nevertheless, this is not an autonomous occurrence, but a central part of the composition of inequality at every level: global, regional, national, and local. Digital divide is inclined to replicate the fundamental elements of the organization of inequality along the ranks of traditional prototypes of socio-economic stratification (James, 2011).
Policy makers in the global society are faced with massive challenges originating from unequal allocation of telecommunications infrastructure flanked by countries, as well as urban and rural regions (OECD, 2001). Despite the global accord on the remarkable developmental prospective of the information and communication technologies, up-and-coming technological centers in urban locations of several nations in Europe, Asia, and Latin America (with not many tentative exceptions in rural areas), aggravate the current marginalization of cosmic regions of the world and their inhabitants (James 2011). The majority of Africa, Latin America, huge landlocked regions of Asia, considerable areas of the past Soviet Union, and Eastern Europe are technologically barred (OECD, 2001).
Extent of the Digital divide
An individual residing in a high-income nation is more than 22 times prone to be an internet user compared to a person in a low-income nation. Protected internet servers, which roughly indicate electronic commerce, have spread more than100 times in high-income countries (Lengsfeld, 2011, p.145). Mobile phones are more rampant in high-income countries by 29 times, plus mainline infiltration, which is above 21 times that of low-income states. Somehow, the divide flanked by high and low-middle countries is remarkably lesser, yet, it is very huge with 2.3 billion inhabitants residing in low-income countries (Lengsfeld, 2011, p.145).
Charges for a 20-hour internet service is nearly double that of a high-income state, which is 2.5 times more than the regular monthly revenue. Internet accessibility relative to earnings is above 150 times better in high-income countries. In lower-middle-income nations, charges for 20 hours of inferior internet service are almost a third of the average income per month (Lengsfeld, 2011, p.145). Only high-income countries enjoy low cost of internet services reasonable for nearly all households and small companies. However, there exists an internal divide between urban and rural areas, sex, age and ethnic groups (Postnote, 2006). Furthermore, internet services in low-income countries are in bad condition when compared to those in high-income countries. Broadband connectivity is unavailable and poor networks regularly lead to inferior dial-up speeds and little reliability. The congestion of Backbone networks and intercontinental connections results to limited character-oriented applications that are more intricate to use. Generally, the internet experience is qualitatively special in developed nations (Post note, 2006).
The number of telephone mainlines; mobile telephony, PCs and use of internet imply a possible reduction in the digital divide calculated by disparity in these distributions. However, obvious inequality in ICT access and practice amid countries endure and remain substantial; for instance, less reliable internet use in a shared facility in low-income countries and the PCs are older models, less potent and communal in school or at work(Lengsfeld, 2011, p.151). High-speed, data-capable third generation mobile networks are not very frequent in low-income countries (Lengsfeld, 2011, p.152).
Bridging the digital divide
There are various ways of bridging the digital divide across various socio-economic climates. One of the major factors is improvement of human capital skills. The principal reason for this divide is the difference in educational opportunities and thus lack of quality workforce. This leads to absence of response to rapid economic and technological shift for higher-quality products and development of skills. Unique attempts to egg on young people, particularly women and girls, to take up science and technological subjects are underway (Lengsfeld, 2011, p.143).
Secondly, it is important to raise awareness and positive reception of science, technology, and innovation. Many developing countries do not have a concrete foundation for technology and innovation. Frequently, there is little knowledge and appreciation of importance of innovation for industry. The government can initiate awareness campaign embracing awards and official recognition programs to guarantee that technology realization disseminates the leading performers to others. The performers are as models to platform technological improvement. There should be increased public access centers and cyber communities especially in rural areas (Lengsfeld, 2011, p.153).
Finally, there can be implementation of ICT policies to bridge digital divide. A series of coordinated policy initiatives tailored to put up local capacity to master, acclimatize and apply ICTs efficiently are put in place (Post note, 2006). To achieve this, there must be efforts to expand a variety of local capabilities in communications, expertise, research, and the dispersion as well as development of trade services. Nationally, there is a central body mandated to synchronize and oversee all policy matters to guarantee policy consistency across diverse policy domains. High-level of task forces for implementation of ICTs can be commissioned like in Malaysia and Australia (OECD, 2001).
Importance of improving the digital divide between all countries of different socio-economic climates
Information communication technology forms the backbone of globalization in the world today. One of the reasons necessitating the improvement of digital divide is to promote international co-operation. ICT can play a key role in initiating an innovative approach. A real bottom up global awareness can be inspired by means of intense networks across regions, which will challenge the entrenched distrust at different political layers of the globe (Blignaut, 2009, p.584). There is a set of principles stipulated towards an inclusive information society by rallying a global power to democratize the presented global (economic and political) organization. Then there are undemocratic systems transformed through local and nationwide forces. Alliances founded on constricted geo-politics and power games faced through ICT applications exist. ICT ought not to be exclusively in the arms of the advantaged sections of the world (Blignaut, 2009, p.584). Digital divide must be bridged to confront unconstitutional global and regional power regimes and to achieve equal development and peace (Blignaut, 2009, p.587).
Digital divide is a sort of inequality emanating from social classes and economic differences. Therefore, it can be looked at as discrimination of persons in the marginalized societies. It is important to improve digital divide to ensure human rights are upheld in this information age and there is a need for this vision to transcend to the local content. Information goes a long way in protecting and facilitating human rights; it is a means through which they express their views, opinions, dislikes, or oppression and get to be heard. If they cannot access information, many of their rights are breached. The world needs to rise above the fundamentalism and cultural resurgence, which destabilize human equality and dignity, as well as the exploitation and oppression of people in marginal regions must be dabbed out. A WSIS (world summit on information systems) process can be used to resolve the vision for the global information society. These rights knowledge encompass issues regarding racial, cultural, chauvinism, and ageism. Rights of women, youth, children, disabled, immigrants, and internally displaced persons have to be looked into with regard to digital information.
Bridging digital divide can create an ample economic climate for information technology industry. The new economy is greatly built on the blocks of IT industry thus necessitating a vigorous, more established global financial environment to exploit its latent output growth and living standards of citizens in all nations. Digital divide should be improved to alleviate present depressing economic climates dominated by stock market instability, accounting fraud, terrorism, and trade barriers. The WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty (WPPI) ought to be held up (Economic and Social Council, 2006, p.17). Digital and information technology can only bring about sustainable development if the digital divide is bridged. ICT application can cause environmental hazards. Therefore, tangible policies should be put in place to grow renewable energy resources, mostly for far-flung communities, advance resource effectiveness, dematerialize and diminish waste, enhance the useful time of hardware, develop recycling provisions, guarantee safe dumping of superfluous ICT hardware and components and support the invention t of alternatives to lethal ICT components (Economic and Social Council, 2006, p.18).
There is a need to improve digital divide to enhance inter and intra-country policy research and institutionalize ICT as well as research and development partnership. Policy research should be carried across the divide encompassing social, cultural, and political features of all regions to capture the dynamics of “information society” (Ayanso &Lertwachara, 2010,p.308). Bridging digital divide will produce gender oriented digital technology policy which entails measures to eradicate institutionalized gender discrimination, and afford quick access to capital, education, skills, and markets. Digital technology should suit both the needs of the rural and urban poor women to effectively impact on the social-economic status and upgrade living standards. Rural agricultural and urban informal sector women ought to have technological expertise and right to use to their store of information (agricultural and marketplace information). Moreover, health and educational knowledge are constantly built by considering their everyday community relations network. Use of ICT to the given society interaction network will develop their social capital foundation using the diverse opportunities open by the information society (Ayanso &Lertwachara, 2010, p.306).
It is imperative to improve digital divide to promote inter-cultural dialogue and cultural hybridization using computer technology and applications. Culture plays a central role in development efforts and as a result, proper unification is indispensable. There is a need for an approach that uses incredibly comprehensive ICT educational programs to construct equality realization to rise above negative identity politics. This innovative type of knowledge ought to be ingrained in all sections of people (James 2011). Communication policies must replicate a pluralist vitality to encourage the blossoming of cultural diversity and guarantee self-respect to all human beings irrespective of their faith, culture, tradition and language and their innovative purpose to incorporate diverse cultural outlook and practices to their lifestyles (James 2011).
Improving digital divide will enable an establishment of an integrated development framework. Digital divide can endanger all attempts by governments everywhere in the world to institute an efficient and successful e-government environment (Bélanger, 2009, p.133). Therefore; governments should take a coordinated endeavor of awareness building on the significance of user acceptance of new-fangled ICT knowledge. Passing on technological expertise in the quarters of governmental service and participatory actions should be entrenched in this harmonized effort. This will improve the public contribution and involvement in the e-governance. Inventive ICT policies should be employed and a countrywide policy of implementation. ICT can be applied as an essential module of a comprehensive sectoral planning (Bélanger, 2009, p.135).
Improvement of digital divide can lead to establishment of a vertical and horizontal communication grid. To deliver efficient and competent services as well as provide the public with greater public access through state and international network centers, it is essential to link main cities, regional cities, urban hubs, and rural townships through vertical and horizontal communication networks (Wei &Hindman, 201, p.217). Congested cities can be converted into cyber cities through these networks and thus establishing a structure for techno-global conversion, which will amplify global consciousness, beginning from the bottom class(Wei &Hindman, 201, p.223). This is necessary to give power to the grass roots to alleviate the one-sided development of urban links, which primarily supply the welfare of multinational corporations. This objective can shatter the cycle of continuation of the gap between the core and periphery allowing fairer allocation of capital overall transfer of technology. Such a move defies the increasing paradox of the information world, which mirrors in the course of digital divide in the recounting gap of social spatial scale (Wei &Hindman, 201, p.226).
If the digital divide between societies is bridged, the application of ICT to increase the productivity efficiency of small and medium size industries can be achieved. Information and computer knowledge can be used to promote economic growth in the developing economies. Digital and information knowledge can help the SMEs establish a link with Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) for integration into global production process (WIPO, 2006). This knowledge will help them access e-finance and exploit their potential of e-commerce, plus generate efficiencies and output gains. The business can profit from e-commerce technologies since it is possible to assess the returns and risks of investments in B2B e-commerce in addition to their impacts and proceeds (WIPO, 2006). Furthermore, they require realistic training on digital format, incorporating logistics operations, financial management and production information and administration of a system of customers and suppliers (Post note, 2006). They should be able to understand the inference of giving out sensitive business process-related data and expensive information in supply chain administration. For business to grow in such economies it must be a combination of both physical capital and digital or ICT capital which lacks in such economies (WIPO, 2006). Business networks, like the African Virtual Business Association Network (AVBAN), can be developed to help medium and small-scale enterprises.
Information technology can be useful in developing strong triangular partnerships between governments, private sector, and civil society. This relationship is greatly important to all economies of the world due to generation of better economic growth, democracy and investments (Bélanger, 2009, p.131). However, this cannot be achieved in the face of digital divide and if it does, it will only benefit some part of the world that is technologically empowered. The partnership is needed to put in regional broadband satellite networks, partake in the physical network building, and service offering. This innovative triangular institutional structure should go beyond the national boundaries to inform each other of problems, constraints, and best practices (Bélanger, 2009, p.131). Improvement in digital divide will foster transfer of technology and intellectual property rights to enable access to expertise at affordable cost and special terms for the developing countries. This would assist the suppression of breach and allow for the safeguard of intellectual property rights.
From the above discussion, it is clear that digital divide is an important action to be taken among all countries of different socio-economic climates. Apart from enhancing rights, improving digital divide should be aimed at promoting democratic information society and global governance (Bélanger, 2009, p.131). From observations, the weakening of the contribution of personal internet users is because of the topical reform process of ICANN. Developing countries are not part of the global management of internet resources and increasing legislative control over the internet is tumbling individual human rights and freedoms of internet consumers. A good policy should be instituted to participation of all segments of the society and direct input into the local, national, and international process of decision-making (WIPO, 2006).
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