What is Digital Divide?
Have you heard the term “Digital divide”? Originally, this term was originally referred to gaps in access to computers. Later, when the Internet became accessible in society the term was defined as the gap between those who have and do not have access to computers and the Internet.
The common current opinion among policy makers and the public at large is that the digital divide is multifaceted and includes many factors such as access, affordability, quality, and relevance. Here are some of the things that lead to disparities in Internet access:
Availability: Is there available access to the Internet in your area? Is there a nearby point of connection to the Internet? If yes, this is just the first step to having Internet access.
Affordability: Is that access affordable? How does the cost compare to other essential goods? What percentage of your income do you need to pay for access?
Quality of service: Are the upload and download speeds sufficient for the local needs of Internet users?
Relevance: Does the connected community have the necessary skills and technologies? Is there local interest and understanding of the relevance of Internet access? Are there locally available mobile apps? Is there content in the local language and relevant to the people in the community?
Additional divides: Other areas that can create digital inequality include security, interconnectivity, digital literacy, and access to equipment.
These gaps in availability, affordability, interest, and digital literacy exist at the international level as well as the neighborhood level.
Countries that have high overall connectivity rates often still have stark inequalities in rural, remote, and even urban areas. Often these gaps fall along other disparities such as income and gender-based inequality.
Is there a solution for the Digital Divide?
Although there is no simple solution to the digital divide, there are programs and proposals that have helped reduce it significantly.
Community networks can meet the challenges of the many digital divides, bringing affordable Internet access to those who need it the most. Beyond making the Internet available and affordable, community networks help address some of the other divides mentioned above.
For instance, bringing Internet access to a community improves health disparities by making affordable telehealth options available to rural areas. Other communities have seen changes in different areas at once through connectivity, such as education, healthcare, and agriculture.
The community network deployment process also shows that community members who are involved in building their networks also strengthen their shared digital literacy skills.
Fortunately, there are very interesting projects focused on reducing the aforementioned gaps to make a more equal world for all. If you are interested in learning about these projects, do not hesitate to take a look.