Digital divide is a term that refers to the gap between demographics and regions that have access to modern information and communications technology, and those that don’t or have restricted access. This technology can include the telephone, television, personal computers and the Internet.
The idea of the “digital divide” refers to the growing gap between the underprivileged members of society, especially the poor, rural, elderly, and handicapped portion of the population who do not have access to computers or the internet; and the wealthy, middle-class.
The digital divide typically exists between those in cities and those in rural areas; between the educated and the uneducated; between socioeconomic groups; and, globally, between the more and less industrially developed nations.
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Even among populations with some access to technology, the digital divide can be evident in the form of lower-performance computers, lower-speed wireless connections, lower-priced connections such as dial-up, and limited access to subscription-based content.
The reality of a separate-access marketplace is problematic because of the rise of services such as video on demand, video conferencing and virtual classrooms, which require access to high-speed, high-quality connections that those on the less-served side of the digital divide cannot access and/or afford. And while adoption of smartphones is growing, even among lower-income and minority groups, the rising costs of data plans and the difficulty of performing tasks and transactions on smartphones continue to inhibit the closing of the gap.
Factors affecting Global Digital Divide
Poverty & Poor Infrastructure
Poverty is the core factor in the digital divide (Tiene, n.d.).
In a world where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, the developing countries certainly are not able to acquire sufficient funding to purchase the telecommunication infrastructure and equipment.
Instead, they are more concerned with health care and the other social infrastructure such as water and electricity. Subsequently, the underdeveloped telecommunication infrastructure has limited their ICT availability and thus information-deprived.
Corruption & Bureaucracy
According to a survey carried out by the Global Information Infrastructure Commission on individuals around the world from private sector, it shows that an inefficient and corrupt bureaucracy can impede and deviate away much needed funds for bridging digital divide.
Lack of government regulations and proper surveillance are so discouraging that they can be deterrence to potential funders and investors. These combined circumstances make the telecommunications environments so restrictive and stagnant that reformation is difficult to be materialized (Tiene, n.d.).
Educational Exposure & Technical Support
Providing education in ICT is a big hindrance because ICT is expensive and fund-exhausting.
With the infrastructure already in a poor state, surges in electrical lines can damage hardware and or low bandwidth connection limits the Internet access very much.
Usually, school budgets are overall quite restraining and getting funding for instructional technology is challenging. Thus, they usually purchase used equipment or rely on donated hardware that have low functionality.
In addition, lack of technical support to install the systems and repair the equipment can be problematic and troublesome. Especially with the deficiency of technical expertise, school teachers are often without guidance and little experience with technology as to how to utilize the existing equipment and integrate into the curriculum. Therefore, students are not able to receive sufficient technological skills.
In many cases, the efforts to institute instructional technologies to the developing countries have adversely failed.
Such unsuccessful efforts have put the poor country further indebted with the considerable sunk cost of technology-based projects. One of the common mistakes usually made is overambitious and too optimistic on the projects.
Some projects which lack detailed findings whether local community can adapt to their approach usually only raise even more problems. Teachers were indisposed to those approaches and the students soon lost interest. Without the support of the key participants, these efforts eventually became obsolete (Tiene, n.d.).
Household or individual income has been identified as an important determinant of the presence of computers and the internet penetration in homes. Income distribution is particularly vital in the diffusion of new technology; with higher income groups acquire ICTs earlier (OECD, 2001).
As urban centres are progressively building high-speed broadband networks, many rural and remote areas are neglected because the cost and difficulty associated with wiring the rural locations are often expensive and prohibitive.
Language barriers & lack of local cultural diversity contents
Most of the websites available are dominated by English while websites with local languages are scarce. Some people especially those who’s English is not their native language may feel discouraged and unable to participate fully using the English language (Akbar, n.d.).
Moreover, low availability of local and social issues and web contents that are sufficiently enriched with cultural diversity also contributed to the digital divide. Local users are deprived from accessing local information and services as required.