The digital divide: what is it and how can it be bridged

Explore the digital divide's impact on society, delving into its roots, consequences, and potential solutions. Uncover the disparities in digital access and the evolving landscape of connectivity worldwide.

The modern world is a prominent example of development and innovation. In the last few decades, humans have upgraded their lives in many ways. Technology plays the most important role in modifying the lives of human beings. 

Digitalization is the most time and money-saving movement in favor of human beings. Mobiles and computers have brought the entire world into our palms. However, not all people have access to the digital advantages. 

While many people are enjoying their lives through digitalization, there are people who are still unaware of its perks. That’s exactly where the digital divide comes into the picture. 

What is the digital divide

In general, the digital divide is the gulf between demographics and regions with the hold of modern data and technology related to communication and those with no or very negligible access to the same. This includes personal electronic gadgets like mobile phones, laptops, televisions, internet connectivity, and a few others. 

The digital divide in recent times expresses a slightly different definition of it. It goes as the gap between the people who have financial stability and technical understanding to use digital tools and those who can’t avail of them due to lack of capital. 

An interesting fact is that when the term ‘digital divide‘ was first used in the late 20th century, it only covered people on the basis of who had cell phones and who didn’t. Now, the digital divide exists between developed as well as developing countries. It exists irrespective of caste, grid, or gender. 

Read more: The 5 countries with the lowest number of internet users

Types of digital divide

There are three major types of digital divide besides the gap between men and women, rural and urban populations, developed and developing countries, etc. 

The access divide

The most visible type of digital divide is the access divide. The access divide refers to the socioeconomic differences among people that affect their ability to use communication technologies. Many people, especially in developing countries, do not have the skills to operate electronic gadgets. 

Many of them can’t even afford the gadgets in the first place due to poverty. These people can’t access online platforms because they cannot buy cell phones or laptops. 

The use divide

The use divide reflects the skill difference that comes hand in hand with the generation gap. Youngsters today are proficient in using all the applications present in a gadget. However, our previous generation has no or very negligible knowledge about the absolute potential of any device and, hence, is not quite acquainted with online or digital applications. 

The quality of education that the people of the previous generation got doesn’t make them fit to get the hang of the modern system, and hence, they find it difficult to compete with the youngsters of today. 

The quality-of-use gap divide

This divide explains how some people are better at retrieving any kind of information from online resources than others. Everyone cannot glide through the online platform like an ace. Therefore, the ones who can are considered superior to the rest. 

For example, an ethical hacker can bring back lost or deleted data using his/her technical knowledge. However, a normal human being cannot make the same thing happen even if he/she has ample knowledge about digital platforms. 

Causes of the digital divide

There are many causes of the digital divide. The first one is the lack of access to the internet. It includes insufficient bandwidth that affects video or audio conferences and meetings. Another reason is the lack of digital education. Many people are unaware of how to use or access online platforms and electronic gadgets. 

There are places where, due to poor infrastructure, electricity falls short. Due to low voltage and long line cuts, internet connectivity is hampered. There are villages and small towns where cybercafes are not there,; hence, people cannot access computers and Wi-Fi. 

Impact of the digital divide

The digital divide affected many people’s lives, and the best example is the COVID-19 period. Lack of communication and isolation affected many people during the Covid period, and that resulted in the deaths of many. People without internet access couldn’t avail themselves of the government schemes and suffered. 

Again, modern education is mostly offered through online platforms. Those without proper internet connectivity are spared from such academic knowledge and find themselves behind the ones who can easily afford and use the internet. 

How can the digital divide be bridged?

Governments in developing countries have launched programs that aim to end digital discrimination. The Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI) is a program that aims to deteriorate broadband internet expenditure in particular areas so that more people can afford it in the first place. 

Starlink was another program that offered a high-speed internet flow and global coverage at cheap prices via satellites. Many countries have also started holding public digital literacy programs, especially for adults and old-age people. Skill workshops are also a decent way to teach people about digital works. 

These are the few ways to bridge the digital divide. It is very important to inform the entire world about online advantages as it can help people find jobs, get scholarships, book tickets, order food, and whatnot. The digital divide is a wall that hampers integrity by forming two stark opposite groups of people. 

Therefore, everyone must be aware of communication platforms and electronic gadgets. The digital divide will vanish gradually once people become acquainted with the technology. 

Read more: The 6 main challenges of the digital transformation

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