The ‘digital divide’ is the term used to describe the growing gap, or social exclusion, between those who have access to the new services of the information society, and those who do not. This can be for a number of reasons: access to education or training, lack of money to buy the required equipment, or lack of access because of the problems obtaining the required communications links or services to get online. Some states have produced good research than others. The digital divide therefore is the gap between those who have a mobile phone, computer and access to the internet and those who do not.
In my E book I will be assessing the digital divide. I will look at it from many angles such as things that widen the digital divide and make it as big as it is today, the extent of it, how big it actually is and if its widening or narrowing. I will also look at the impact of the divide and what it being done to eliminate it.
The digital divide in the UK
Factors contributing to the divide
I am now going to give a range of relevant factors that are contributing to the divide.
In socio-economic profile DE the number of those who do not own or have never used a PC is double that of those in profile AB.7?Home internet access ranges from 53% amongst social grades AB down to as little as 12% in groups.
Subscription rates for digital TV are also greater in the highest income group
(31%) than they are for those in the lowest (14%).?There are differences in the type and quality of hardware and software in households that may exacerbate inequalities further. Becker also found qualitative divides in ICT use, with children from higher income backgrounds using home computers for a much wider range of activities than those from lower income families. Millard found that technology impinges upon the lives of the less privileged in a number of ways, yet is less likely to be fully understood or as effectively used.
The digital divide is a phenomenon that can be geographical, as between nations or regions, but can also take other forms within a specific geographic region. As literacy and digital literacy merge, those with low skills levels, of different national backgrounds (immigrants, refugees, elderly, low income) are at a particular risk of being excluded from the Information Society. Also, given that more and more countries digitalise a broader set of services and the dialogue with citizens under the umbrella of e-government, the digital divide is not just a matter of economic development, but also an issue of wider social participation and development of our democracy. Thinking in dilemmas, on one hand global digital access and digital literacy can contribute to a more globally sustainable economic and broader democratic development. On the other hand they can also have the opposite effect of widening the divide and leading to new forms of economic exploitation and democratic exclusion.
The extent of the divide
51% adults living in the United Kingdom (24.2 million) have no access to a home computer or the Internet. If these figures are extrapolated to 2025, it is conservatively believed this will be reduced to 23 million adults. The prospects are even worse for disabled users. Currently, there are 3.4 million such adults in the UK of which 2.4 million (70 per cent) are digitally excluded. Adrian Hosford, director of corporate responsibility at BT, maintained that “It is a social issue rather than a technology issue.” The report drew six main conclusions concerning what needs to be done to fix the problem. First, the “Internet” needs to be marketed more aggressively. Second, new technology needs to be explicitly designed for the currently disenfranchised. Third, technology convergence should bring simplicity not greater complexity. Fourth, no special skills should be required to engage with IT. Fifth, technology must become more affordable, to avoid marginalizing people on the grounds of cost alone. And, sixth, where access issues remain social policies will need to address the issues.
How can the divide be measured
To this end, the new tools that will be provided by the Digital Bridges Initiative will include national and international digital divide indices, to identify digital gaps as well as the policy insight needed to close these gaps.