This research paper investigates the “digital divide” a term used in the past years as technology advances worldwide. This advance in technology has allowed many to access the digital world. However, as technology grows so does this gap. Worldwide this is due to either economic, societal, educational or structural factors within one’s life. This inequality due to such factors creates what we now know as the digital divide. This paper will examine these factors which may contribute with the digital divide and the what worldwide has been done to improve the divide.
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The term “digital divide” was first mentioned by the U.S. Vice-President Al Gore. He used it to emphasise that the united states were “beginning to close the digital divide” (Office of the Vice-President, 1996). This gap was affected by many factors such as the knowledge, income, race and location of the person would cause a divide. However, through Al Gore the world knew of this divide and could finally work to close it.
In our modern era we presume that there is global access to the cyberspace across the globe. This access allows for interaction, commerce and learning through the technologies that allow for its access. However, the most common factor which creates a vast divide is poverty. People who are unable to afford the most basics of needs will also be unable to afford the luxuries of phones or personal computers. With our modern era developing vast amounts of smart devices each which need their link to the cyberspace people must own an expensive device or a monthly fee to a service provider. Households in Australia shows that over the past few years this divide has lessened however there are still 5% of households lacking access to internet with children under 15 stretching up to a 20% lack of access to the internet in households with children under 15. That is 1/5th of the households in Australia that are part of this digital divide. With first world countries experiencing this issue the location of people in third world countries which lack both the infrastructure and wealth to have access to the divide furthermore increases the digital divide in our current era. Even the United States of America where most of the internet is hosted is not safe from this divide. Due to their governments student loan system where many students are unable to repay their debts along with other racial issues in the United States these people fall into severe debt and throughout their lives are unable to access the internet. According to recent statistics there are approximately “34 million US citizens who are unable to access the internet as what is offered to them is far too expensive” (Jim Sevier, Bridging the Digital Divide). This poverty thus prevents them from being able to even step foot into the digital world. Due to the current ISP system in many countries having a monopoly over what they do they are able to easily control and provide consumers with the bare minimum speeds that are required to access the net. Australia has taken strides to install a new National Broadband Network (NBN) however since its proposed plan in 2012 various changing governments and their lack of understanding on how signals work the current plan may be easily outdated in the next 5-10 years or so with other countries propping up 5G networks.
The infrastructure that the country itself has is a huge factor to how the digital world delivers information to others. It is predicted over the next decade or so 95% of the worlds economics will be done digitally. This means that countries without a connection to the digital world will be heavily left out of this circle of economic growth. Further increasing the divide between their citizens and the information that they value and need. Rural areas such as farms and towns are also heavily impacted by the digital divide. Since most internet service providers see no profit in investing their money for internet around the farms most farmers are forced to build their own broadband network if they wish to connect themselves to the digital world. In Australia one such man called Luke Baker from Bundaberg built his own broadband network after getting frustrated with Australia’s current NBN network speeds. The network he has built with a few of his friends delivers at their best “200 megabits per second, which is double the NBN’s retail offering” (Baker, Bundaberg man Luke Baker Builds own Broadband Network). This dissatisfaction in the infrastructure which the government supplies in 2017 shows how the companies which hold a monopoly in Australia love to intentionally provide slow speeds. Optic fibre networks in other countries deliver up to 1 gigabyte speeds while Australia’s NBN has decided to use a mix of optic fibre and copper. This not also increases costs but also makes it inefficient as full optic fibre is not only resistant to external electromagnetic interference but also easily deliver speeds through light instead of slow electrical signals. However, Australia is not the only country to have issues with their networking. Though a metropolitan man got fed up with internet service providers and ran his own for double their speeds British farmers have also built their own network. This network nets to be around 2000 miles of optic fibre cable. To save money on infrastructure ISPs utilises a wireless mast to deliver data to farmers. However, as trees grew taller the broadcasting of the network were absorbed by the trees wood. Eventually no signal existed. Local farmers assisted Chris Conder as he pioneered to deliver optic fibre to all farms. When he succeeded, he delivered internet speeds as high as 1 gigabit per second, well above the UK’s average 28.9 megabits per second. This job done by a man showed how the current infrastructure of most countries developed through greed for profit from its citizens by large corporations shows how we lack infrastructure worldwide for first world countries. Third world countries however lack both the wealth and infrastructure to even step foot into this digital world. Their citizens are unable to digital world thus preventing them from obtaining valuable information that could reshape their lives. This digital divide is further emphasised as they lack the time to even comprehend the digital world as they struggle to survive on with their lives.
However, that is not the only issue. Though wealth & location are major factors in creating this digital divide the education of a person will also determine if they are able to access the internet. Most teenagers of the modern era can easily and swiftly access the data within a digital device. Growing up around these devices most teens have developed the technical skills to use these technologies effectively. However, as the old saying goes an old dog cannot learn new tricks it is very difficult for the elderly to even be able to access and retain memory of using modern technologies. So far that even modern films use the phrase “its like talking to my parents” to make jokes at scenes where characters fail with technology (Penguins Of Madagascar, 2014). Thus, the lack of technical skill adds to digital divide. However, a major factor to this is also education. In the US alone one out of every 4 adults are illiterate due to the American educational system. This means they are unable to learn or even comprehend on how to use modern devices. Coupled with technical skills the divide begins to widen between the age gaps. This widening also widens the digital divide even in a first world country. However, the Australian government and the movement of most of their services to the modern web has allowed most elderly to gain a hang of accessing the digital world however due to their lack of technical skill its is still quite hard for them to do so. In Australia it is shown that “more than nine in ten people aged between 15 to 54 are internet users, the number drops to eight in ten of those aged 55-64 years, and to under six in ten of those over 65 years.” (The Conversation, Australia’s Digital Divide is not Going Away). These statics show that even with the rise in technology and push towards government services pushing services to the web it is still difficult for the elderly to even access or comprehend the use of the digital world. Thus, the extraordinary resources of the world wide web is left inaccessible by those who could use the most out of it.
Would these lack of education in both technical and literature skills mean that both elderly and uneducated cannot access this information? Jim Sevier inspired by Daniel Suarez and his novels “Daemon” and “Freedom™ “states otherwise. He believes that the devices are at fault. Our current method of accessing the web through devices that use complex actions to achieve their goals. With these devices those who are at old age including Sevier himself who is a IT professional often fails to use the devices. To pave the way to a remove this divide we may need to remake the input for these devices. One such device would be one that utilises actions instead of touch inputs. With current technology as it is using 3D sensors or a camera to transfer physical motions into digital signals to identify. Basic signals such as thumbs up or downs and even waving could be used. Most devices in 2018 have begun to develop some basic somatic gesture support. Since technology has shown time and time again to grow exponentially we may one day have a system that is easy to use, easy to access and widely available. However, even simplifying the device may not overcome the technological skill and literary skill gap required to achieve this affect due to the infrastructure that each country has differently along with their education system opens a wide amount of issues that contribute to this digital divide.
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Our current education system differs from country to country. Some countries are unable to afford it while others wish to relish it. Denmark has taken strides to allow for easy access to its education system. While the United States of America have taken strides to make education in its country harder for its citizens to gain. These factors furthermore contribute to the digital divide as illiterate and uneducated citizens lack the ability to use the information the digital world provides to its fullest extent. Though basic literary is necessary without the curiosity or learning which education institutions provide many will not use the resources provided by cyberspace to its fullest extent. Instead it may be used for rather meagre things such as entertainment, necessities and curiosity. This lack of interest to utilise the digital word to its fullest extent stagnates the growth of a nation technologically and economically. United States has begun to devolve back into its social division as its citizens begin to lack education. The United States in recent years has have a decline in their higher education. “Since 1992, spending per student—measured in inflation-adjusted dollars—has declined at public colleges and universities by about 8 percent (even after a recovery in spending after states’ low point in 2012). In turn, per-student tuition revenue has increased by 96 percent.” (Brownstein, American Higher Education hits a Dangerous Milestone). As its institutions prize wealth over education they become corrupt. Dooming their students for a future of poverty taking their lives away in exchange for short riches. The student loan system which America has threatens to take the digital world away from the future of these students. However, the United States lack of direction in public schooling funding and initiative wise further creates a gap in those who utilise the digital world to its fullest extent. The United States hosts most of the digital institutions data warehouses but, yet its citizens are unable to have the proper knowledge to utilise it to its fullest extent.
As technological advancements increase the scope of the digital world the gap between those who have access to the internet and those who do not have access to it grows. This growth we call the digital divide. Through the worlds economic, societal and educational struggles we see a vast amount of its citizens unable to access the great resource bestowed upon them by mankind. Either due to a lack of infrastructure or wealth many globally are unable to access the virtual world. Though we have made varying advancements over the past decades it is not enough to close the gap that has formed. If we do not do something worldwide and rid humanity of its greed and conquest for wealth and direct that to improving the livelihood of all of mankind the digital divide and the trove of information locked behind it will never be accessed nor used to its fullest extent till this impossible task can be achieved.
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