The Digital Divide

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Redaktsioon seisuga 28. veebruar 2007, kell 20:04 kasutajalt Kakk (arutelu | kaastöö)
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What's that?

The Digital Divide has been defined in a variety of ways. We can read a simple explanation from Wikipedia: "The digital divide is the gap between those with regular, effective access to digital technologies and those without." The UNDP Report 2001 adds: "The digital divide is a reflection of broader socioeconomical inequalities".

Different dimensions

Physical access

According to UNDP, in 2001 the OECD countries contained 79% of the world’s Internet users. Africa had less international bandwidth than São Paulo in Brazil. Latin America’s bandwidth, in turn, was roughly equal to that of Seoul, Republic of Korea.

And even in the developed countries, the disparities exist (remember Manuel Castells talking about the "Fourth World").

Legal issues

The UNDP Report states "In 1998 the 29 OECD countries spent $520 billion on research and development - more than the combined economic output of the world’s 30 poorest countries. OECD countries, with 19% of the world’s people, also accounted for 91% of the 347,000 new patents issued 1998. And in these countries more than 60% of research and development is now carried out by the private sector, with a correspondingly smaller role for public sector research."

This is a serious problem which has a number of different aspects, most of them being tied to the currently prevalent system of intellectual property. A lot of the poorer worlds are cut off from accessing the more recent knowledge - when a large share of state-of-the-art scientific knowledge are locked inside expensive journals and paid-subscription online services, even the development of technical infrastructure of developing countries is not enough. It results in them being increasingly left out of the game, further widening the divide. Moreover, due to the dictate of media industry in wealthy counties and related legislative changes, it is often impossible to release content into public use by developing nations even if it is agreed upon (a good example is the "abandonware" - proprietary software which has lost its business value long ago, yet cannot be released to the public due to intellectual property issues involved).



Rural vs urban

Developing Countries

Cultural issues

Global impact writes" Today, Europe and North America no longer call the shots. Emerging market countries of Asia now drive the digital economy. Three billion Asian low-income consumers are entering established markets, creating a new centrifugal force for the world economy. In the vast region of Asia, the spread of wireless networks is stimulating all other dimensions of economic growth. Indeed, in these countries the biggest technological growth is occurring outside big cities. The rural areas are the new battleground for businesses arguing for various technology platforms or for open source versus proprietary models of technology. As broadband networks spread into the countryside, costs drop in all parts of the supply chains. By adjusting their policies to close the Digital Divide, the major IT and telecommunications companies will be forced to innovate in ways that spur growth in the advanced countries as well. This dynamic series of events could be called the Second Digital Revolution."

It may well be that the second wave of the socio-technological changes will be led by Asian countries. However, this also implies that these countries change the previously unbalanced social models. In their book, Manuel Castells and Pekka Himanen used Finland, the United States and Singapore as representatives of three different paths

Building the bridge

"It is often thought that people gain access to technological innovations - more effective medicine or transportation, the telephone or the Internet - once they have more income. This is true - economic growth creates opportunities for useful innovations to be created and diffused. But the process can also be reversed: investments in technology, like investments in education, can equip people with better tools and make them more productive and prosperous. Technology is a tool, not just a reward, for growth and development." (UNDP 2001).

(Castells & Himanen, social hackerism)