According to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) By 2021, approximately 63 percent of the world’s population will be using the Internet, rising to nearly 800 million people as of 2019. However, this means that nearly three billion people around the world still live without access to it. It has become an important aspect of modern life. Of the 2.9 billion people who live completely offline, 96 percent are in developing countries, and urban areas have twice as many internet users as rural residents. The ITU also found that generations play an important role in internet access, with 71 percent of the world’s population between the ages of 15 and 24 using the internet, compared to only 57 percent of all age groups. Globally, 62 percent of men use the Internet compared to 57 percent of women, making women more likely to experience the effects of the digital divide.
The number of opportunities created by high-speed Internet access seems to be matched by just as many obstacles. Access to health care is linked to infrastructure issues. Educational advancement is cost prohibitive. The Internet has the potential to transform communities and the lives of those in them, but the obstacles in the way can often seem insurmountable. Governments around the world have both been working to connect with each other, and private enterprises have worked to bring about many advances. From finding innovative solutions such as submarine fiber optic cables, helium-filled balloons, satellites and drones, efforts are being made to close the digital divide.
For Hanif Lalani, this work is a passion project that he has spent his whole career preparing. For over thirty years he has been heavily involved in the IT and telecoms sector, leading much of the development of modern day communications in Britain. Starting as a young graduate trainee, Lalani worked his way up through the company and eventually came to hold several senior executive positions.
Lalani’s experience has been a perfect fit for his current work in networking with many countries around the world. Below, we explore what the digital divide is, its origins and evolution, and the challenges we face in closing it.
What is the digital divide?
In its most basic sense, the digital divide is the difference between those who use computers and the Internet and those who do not. However, it is important to recognize that the digital divide is not a binary concept and that there are many variations that cover this blanket. People often think that the digital divide has to do with accessibility, like rural communities having to travel miles for clean water or education, but the proliferation of computers and mobile devices makes this less of an issue. . Infrastructure is often a big hurdle, especially in underdeveloped regions and rural areas where installing things like cables or transmission towers doesn’t make financial sense for telecom companies.
The divide can be attributed to digital literacy or the ability to use the technology effectively once a person has access to it. On the subject, the ITU found that there are 40 countries where more than half of their residents do not know how to attach a file to email. In addition, Quality of Use may contain those that can regain access to the Internet, such as search engines, but lack the ability to distinguish sponsored ads from related content. A lack of digital skills can be just as much of a barrier as their ability to reach them.
The concept of the digital divide is complex and can be interpreted in different ways depending on what data set is being viewed. Regardless of Lalani’s meaning, what cannot be ignored are the negative effects these bars have on use. From public health information and resources to political participation to the vast economic opportunities that the Internet can bring, the problem of the digital divide, once solved, will create the dynamics that will shape societal progress for the world.
The history of the digital divide
Education used to be called “the great equalizer,” but in recent years, for many, that title has passed to technology. It has the potential to address inequalities in society, but the internet and related technologies, such as mobile devices, 5G and broadband internet, have seen rapid growth, and have only served to do the opposite, further widening the gap between investors. And those who don’t. The 2020 coronavirus pandemic has only served to further highlight how this problem creates societal barriers.
To know the exact origin of the digital divide, one can go back to the beginning of the telephone, but the term itself first began to appear in the discussions of researchers and policy makers at the end of the 20th century. The problem of digital controls has always been tied to information and communication technologies, the emergence of personal computers in the 1990s and the growth of information equality. From computers to mobile devices to broadband internet, every new technology creates a new barrier or gap to cross; As a result, gaps widen due to inability to keep up. For example, in many African countries, wired connections to the Internet have never been rolled out, leaving them two steps away from the new 5G technology that is said to revolutionize industries.
According to Lalani, the contrast with the digital divide has never been more apparent in 2020 when the coronavirus pandemic gripped the world. As shelter-in-place policies are enacted globally, half of the world has moved online, conducting business and communicating with loved ones, ordering groceries and restaurant meals for delivery online, and accessing vital public health information from apps and websites. But for the three billion people who aren’t online, these services and opportunities aren’t available, and inequality is exacerbated.
What can be done?
Tackling the digital divide requires a holistic approach, recognizing and developing solutions for all types of gaps, from the availability of the tools themselves to accessibility issues such as data and infrastructure costs to digital literacy and being able to use the tools to their full potential. It will require efforts from multiple directions: governments can deploy subsidies and encourage businesses to bring such technologies where they don’t exist, and Hanif Lalani, working in the CIS region, can develop innovative solutions to disrupt access for the private sector.
It is something that needs to be fought for every day to ensure that the gap created by digital inequality keeps getting narrower. It is necessary to make efforts from every part of the society to achieve a future where everyone can access the opportunities provided by information and communication technologies.