The digital divide is a manifestation of the disparities that exist in the access and use of ICTs. While there are those who have adequate access to information and communication technologies, a minority composite of the American populace are unable to harness ICTs and reap from the wide range of benefits inherent in the information superhighway. The factors that promote the existence of this divide are as varied as the solutions that exist to minimize the divide. Knowledge based societies are driving the use of e commerce as a major stimulant for economic growth and no country can afford to be left behind. This paper offers an analysis on the causes of digital divide and the interventions that can be used to minimize the extent of this divide.
Digital divide basically encompasses three primary integral components; equality of access, literacy and information literacy. It therefore refers to the gaps that exist in the understanding and ability to use information technology, access to these technologies and finally the capability to maximally exploit information technology in this age of digital communication and information revolution. While there exists legislations that govern the right of access to information technology and consequently information literacy, the digital divide has persisted for decades. The digital divide can also be viewed as a reflection of the socioeconomic differences among individuals.
The Global Digital Divide (GDD) is a major component of globalization. In the world today, economic prosperity is being driven by the concept of knowledge based economy. Telecommunication and ICT empowers nations to speed up their acquisition of relevant information infrastructure and industrial applications. Moreover, Internet and ICT is becoming the most predominant strategy employed in stimulating foreign direct investments (FDI), research and development as well as technology transfer (Jusawalla, 2003). Digital divide among counties manifests itself as disparities in the level of economic development because knowledge and adoption of information technology are significant in production and service provision.
Initially, access to telecommunication technology was the main characteristic of the digital divide but the advent of Internet Communication Technologies (ICT) has served to strain the divide even further widening the gap between the information haves and have nots. To effectively institute policies and regulations that can curb the ongoing trend, it is prudent to understand the underlying factors that facilitate the digital divide and what specific parameters can be used to measure the extent of the digital divide. Principally, the presence requisite communication infrastructure is the first determinant of access to telecommunication and ICT services, the availability of computers, internet access and other communication gadgets such as mobile phones and television sets determine the level of access among households, businesses institutions as well as nations. Income and education levels are the main factors that determine the speed of adoption of information technologies (OECD, 2001).
To redress the global inequalities inherent in the variance in the level of access to communication technologies, enormous investments in communication technology infrastructure as well as the harnessing of human resources so as to bridge the digital divide is required. Key players in this industry especially manufactures as well as the programmers hold they to reducing the digital divide. These players need to embrace innovative technologies and come up with products that are affordable to people with low income levels. The MIT’s $100 laptop effort and the open source free software are cases in point of exemplary effort to reduce the digital divide. Despite the magnitude of the task, the socio economic benefits are enormous and hence acting as a catalytic factor to strive towards reducing the digital divide (Jusawalla, 2003). Human resources can only be provided by IT professionals who possess the intellectual capacity to provide and promote information and communication technologies. IT companies have been instrumental in laying the infrastructural framework, training IT professionals in addition to advocating for policy changes aimed at spurring developments in ICT.
Technologically advanced nations such as the United States of America are at a better place in reducing the digital divide through market liberalization and regulation of the information industry. The private sector has been at the forefront in establishing infrastructures necessary in reducing the digital divide through rapidly increasing access to low income residents and minority groups who are by the nature of their income unable to adopt information technologies in their everyday lives. Civil society and non governmental organizations are continually involved community education programs that promote ICTs. Additionally, advocacy for policies that promote liberalization in ICT industry will not only drive competition but also stimulate more investments in the sector hence increasing access and adoption of information and communication technologies as well as stimulating a new wave of economic activity due to electronic commerce (Davis et al., 2007).
Basically, technology has never been a quick fix to poverty and its associated complications but ensuring that everybody is accessible to information and communication technologies is the first step increasing literacy level through access to education. A knowledge based society is a prerequisite to the improvement of the quality of lives of the American populace.
Davis, Alana., Qureshi, Sajda. (2007). Overcoming the Digital Divide through Electronic Commerce: Harnessing Opportunities in IT for Development. HICSS. Proceedings of the 40th Annual Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences. IEEE Computer Society. Washington DC. USA.
Jusawalla, Meheroo and Taylor, D. Richard.(2003). Information Technology Parks off the Asia Pacific. Lessons for the Regional Digital Divide
OECD. Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.( 2001). Understanding the Digital Divide.