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The Global Digital Divide

Info: 2707 words (11 pages) Essay
Published: 16th Nov 2021 in Information Technology

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The phrase global digitial divide has become a global pheneomon and taken the world by storm. What exactly does this term mean and what does it entail?

This phenomenon became current during the mid 1990's and is defined as the segregation between those who have access to advanced forms of technology and those who do not have access to advanced forms of technology specifically between the developing and non developing world (Ragnedda & Ruiu, 2017, pg. 2-3).

The global digital divide is an ongoing debate that includes a variety of contributing factors that will be discussed in this paper such as cultural, political, and economic issues specifically within the context of how two African nations South Africa and Mauritius are combating the global digital divide (Pee, Kankanhalli & Show, 2010, page 1-3).

Moreover, this paper will utilize the success story of Mauritius as a comparison of how once government institutions and powers are actively involved within communities by providing subsidized internet access the division caused by the global digital divide is minimized.

Furthermore, this specific case study of Mauritius provides hope and ambition to other African states specifically in the context of South Africa, that if a community is supported with powerful institutions and federal resources combating the global digital divide is possible.

Likewise, this paper will focus on both the quantitative and primarily the qualitative research measures that differ between how Mauritius successfully combated the global digital divide along with the obstacles which hindered South Africa's potential success of combating the digital divide; the challenges which prevented the success of South Africa.

Additionally, Mauritius is a small island nation within the Sub-Saharan region of Africa.

Mauritius has a population of about 1.2 million and an estimated 70% of the nation's population are aged between 15-64 as well as an estimated 88% are literate. Despite English being the official language, it is spoken by less than 1% of the population, while the majority (80%) speaks Creole.

Interestingly enough, Mauritius was previously colonized by both the Dutch and French, although either french or dutch are prominent languages in Mauritius.

Mauritius adapted towards establishing an English speaking nation after the colonial period which has significantly helped them in the world trading market and ultimately increased the nation's literacy rate to 88%. (Pee, Kankanhalli & Show, 2010, page 2-4). As well as "These efforts havebeen acknowledged in the e-government readiness ranking by United Nations"​ (2010, page 3).

Furthermore, the government of Mauritius proposed a five year National ICT Strategic Plan during 2007. This plan aspires to convert Mauritius into a favoured hot spot for ICT skills, expertise and employment in the region. Additionally, once Mauritius is converted into an ICT hub this will allow Mauritius to have the necessary skills they need to access the Internet without any challenges. Therefore, once this is established the strategic plan also aims to target social indicators by the year 2011 which includes increasing personal ownership by at least 12,000 in primary schools, 20,000 in households, increasing broadband internet penetration by at least 250,000, and establishing 150 public internet kiosks across the island (2010, page 4).

Furthermore, the targeted installment of kiosks throughout Mauritius primarily in geographically located areas such as rural neighbourhoods has been positively linked with ICT use. Findings include that perceived usefulness and subjective norm are both factors which lead to the positive use of ICT (2010, page 10).

Perceived usefulness can be defined as "a degree to which anindividual believes that using a particular technology would enhance performance" ​(2010, page 10).

In order to guarantee the relevance of internet kiosks a diverse range of sources such as internet browsing, word processing, health care and e-mail are more efficient compared to third party sources which typically come at a cost. Thus, these advances are more likely to encourage the use of publicly subsidized kisos (2010, page 10).

Additionally, subjective norm is positively linked to ICT use. Subjective norm can be defined as "an individual's perception of the extent towhich important social referents would desire the performance of a behavior"​ (2010, page 10), this factor is relevant in Mauritius. For example, if a relative or friend suggest the use of public internet kiosks is helpful and encourages one to make use of it, the individual is more likely to believe his or her friend or relative and in return has the motivation and intention to use the public internet kiosk (2010, page 12).

Moreover, this essay will focus on a case study of South Africa and the challenges that this nation faces with combating the global digital divide. In the article Addressing the digital divide. Online information review (2001).

Cullen highlights that a major issue is the lack of physical access to ICT's. The constraints with physical access to ICT use in South Africa is that the majority of ICT centres and hubs are located in major cities as opposed to geographically isolated areas such as rural neighbourhoods. Similarly, constantly commuting back and forth to these locations are not feasible along with another obstacle which is the challenges that disabled people encounter. Therefore, not only are an absence of ICT use in rural areas but the commute cost is to the ICT centres are not feasible along with the significant challenges that these commutes can be for disabeled people (Cullen, 2011, pg. 4-5). Also, according to statistics on world connectivity, findings show that during the year 2000 South Africa's number was 440,000 compared to Mauritus's number of 1.8 million (2011, pg. 8).

Likewise, in the article Reevaluating the global digital divide: Socio-demographic and conflict barriers to the internet revolution. Sociological Inquiry (2010).

Robinson and Crenshaw, highlight a vital constraint towards Internet connectivity which is often times dismissed. This constraint is the impact and influence that political leaders have on the nation. Nations which have liberal and democratic leaders are more likely to have citizens that are proactive and engaging in internet activity (Robinson & Crenshaw, 2010, pg. 8). Similarly, these leaders are also more likely to incorporate activities and programs which motivate ICT use similarly like Mauritius Strategic Plan. Moreover, the turm oil of the post apartheid conflict in South Africa is still significantly relevent in today's society.

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Although, this conflict occurred over 20 years ago, South Africa's trajectory was stagnant for a few years and it hasn't been until recent presidential figures where democratic values became acceptable (2010, pg. 8-11). Thus, this greatly impacts political institutions to confidently and successful incorporate and introduce ICT use simply because South Africa's primary concern was moving past an apartheid government, basic values such as marrying someone of the opposite race and freedom of speech were primary concern rather than Internet connectivitiy.

Additionally, in the article Information access for development: A case study at a rural community centre in South Africa (2006).

Jacobs and Hersleman argue the barriers which restrict ICT use in South Africa. These barriers include, "lack of awareness of the benefits of ICTs" ​ ​and"lack of ICT skills andsupport"​ (Jacobs & Herselman, 2006, pg. 2). As mentioned above, South Africa is progressing rather slowly post apartheid. This plays a significant role in the barriers of ICT use because, although they may have established ICT hubs in populated cities Capetown, Durban and Soweto there is one problem which contributes to both the lack of awareness of benefits and lack of ICT skills and support.

This constraint is that, "Facilities like community centers can assist byincreasing user's familiarity with technology in non-threatening, social settings"​ (2006, pg. 3). Therefore, utilizing the staff and volunteers at community centres is imperative in increasing the motivation and engagement of ICT use, especially because incorporating ICT use at facilities such as community centres do not provide much use if the community is unaware that these resources are available to them and how exactly they can access these resources (2006, pg. 3-5).

Furthermore, in the article Time machines and virtual portals: The spatialities of the digital divide. Progress in development studies ​ ​(2011).

Graham highlights that cultural barriers play a significant role in contributing towards the lack of Internet connectivity, information and access. English is commonly spoken throughout South Africa, however it is not spoken outside of main cities such as Capetown and Durban.

Also, not only is English not commonly spoken outside of these main cities, the degree of English which is used on computers or kiosk and other forms of ICT are not at a beginner level.

Ultimately, this creates a significant barrier to access on the Internet. Another challenge in South Africa is that has 10 main languages which are spoken throughout the country excluding English.

The languages spoken depending on which region or part of South Africa an individual is in (Graham, 2011, pg. 221-223). Unlike Mauritius, English is not the most common and main language spoken in South Africa, therefore an alternative can be to provide translators at community centres or providing installing alternative language options on computer or kiosk settings.

Moreover, in the article The impact of connectivity in Africa: Grand visions and the mirage of inclusive digital development. The Electronic Journal of Information Systems in DevelopingCountries ​(2017).

Friederici, Ojanperä and Graham highlight that "telecommunication services have beenfound to lessen the financial vulnerability and susceptibility to shocks of poor households in South Africa" ​ (Friederici, Ojanperä & Graham, 2017, pg. 4). Although, the poorest households may not necessarily benefit simply because they do not have access to telecommunication services.

These constraints could be because they poor households reside in rural areas which do not have telecommunication services nearby and the commute cost is out of their means as well as the comprehension of English is poor (2017, pg. 3-5). Unlike the Mauritius case study, the government and other institutions placed publicly subsidized kiosks in both rural and urban areas to mitigate lack of mobility and accessibility as a constraint.

Overall, the highlighted challenges that South Africa faces in order to combat or mitigate the global digital divide is the lack of physical access; ICT's are not placed in geographically isolated areas such as rural neighbourhood, thus making the commute costly and challenging for those with disabilities.

Another challenge that South Africa faces is that there is a significant lack of awareness of present or available ICT's and how exactly one can navigate ICT's; community members do not encompass sufficient skills in order to navigate ICT's. Furthermore, a final constraint that South Africa faces is lack of English literacy.

English is spoken throughout South Africa, however it is not the dominant language and providing ICT's with intricate level of English is a barrier which prevents successful ICT use. Comparingly, Mauritius was successful in mitigating the global digital divide because English is their main language and they placed publicly subsidized kiosks in rural areas as well as provide the necessary skills needed to navigate kiosks.

Moreover, as mentioned above there are a variety of contributing factors which have been constraints in South africa's success to combating the global digital divide. The supporting articles of the challenges that South Africa faces in this essay provides significant support of both quantitative and primarily quantitative research.

Throughout, the articles surrounding South Africa, there has not been a great deal of statistical data as opposed to Mauritius. Additionally, South Africa's recent history with geopolitical affairs and conflict plays a significant role in their trajectory towards combating the global digital divide.

Evidently, it is clear the Mauritius had both less geopolitical and post colonization obstacles compared to South Africa. As well as, suggestions for South Africa are to place ICT's in geographically isolated regions with different language options as well as advertising where ICTs can be found along with having staff or volunteers at the ICT locations that are knowledgeable on how to successfully navigate ICT's trajectory towards combating the global digital divide.

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Evidently, it is clear the Mauritius had both less geopolitical and post colonization obstacles compared to South Africa which allowed them to be successful in combating the global digital divide, further research is needed to determine the current status of South Africa's trajectory with the global digital divide. In conjunction, this paper demonstrates that if the government understands the need and importance of combating the global digital divide by in incorporating publicly subsidized kiosks and other forms of ICT's, it is possible to strengthen internet connectivity.

References

Cullen, R. (2001). Addressing the digital divide. ​Online information review​​, ​25​​(5), 311-320. Retrieved from ​https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED459714.pdf

Robison, K. K., & Crenshaw, E. M. (2010). Reevaluating the global digital divide: Socio-demographic and conflict barriers to the internet revolution. ​Sociological Inquiry​​, ​80​​(1), 34-62. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Edward_Crenshaw/publication/227734740_Reevaluat ing_the_Global_Digital_Divide_Socio-Demographic_and_Conflict_Barriers_to_the_Intern

​Pee, L. G., Kankanhalli, A., & Show, V. O. (2010). Bridging the digital divide: use of public internet kiosks in mauritius. ​Journal of Global Information Management (JGIM)​,​ ​18​​(1), 15-38. Retrieved from https://www.ntu.edu.sg/home/peelg/publications/Bridging%20the%20Digital%20Divid e.pdf

Jacobs, S. J., & Herselman, M. E. (2006). Information access for development: A case study at a rural community centre in South Africa. ​Issues in Informing Science & Information Technology​,​ ​3​. Retrieved from ​http://www.1is.us/proceedings/InSITE2006/IISITJaco113.pdf

Graham, M. (2011). Time machines and virtual portals: The spatialities of the digital divide. ​Progress in development studies​​11​(3), 211-227. Retrieved from https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/146499341001100303?casa_token=JORuqbVeTegAAAAA:pe8-mylvG0OYQM5iNqWqUAm6XzCCnsKmC859d5Cov6pfPOmIFBgYT9i1oSHWsenv57DcOv72Dgy-2g

Friederici, N., Ojanperä, S., & Graham, M. (2017). The impact of connectivity in Africa: Grand visions and the mirage of inclusive digital development. ​The Electronic Journal of Information Systems in Developing Countries​​, ​79​​(1), 1-20. Retrieved from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1002/j.1681-4835.2017.tb00578.x

 

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