Bridging the digital divide

by Yurino Kawamura

The digital divide is creating a huge loss of opportunities for those without Internet access. As we have learned in class, or in fact, as we have been currently enjoying benefits from our PCs and mobile phones, access to the Internet enables people to stay in touch with the latest information throughout the world. Exposure to cultures from other countries would affect peoples’ lives and ways of living.

As we have learned, Internet access tends to be available only for residents of affluent countries, or to limited rich people in developing countries. The average citizen would be located on “the lower side” of the digital divide, unable to reach for latest news or cultures. To ensure all citizens high-speed Internet access, countries must possess enough budgets for investment. However, data indicate that the countries with a high percentage of Internet popularity tend to be affluent.

graph

Figure 1. Relationship between percentage of individuals using the Internet and Gross Domestic Product per capita

Figures 1 shows the relationship between the percentage of individuals using the Internet (ICT, 2009) and the gross domestic product per capita (World Bank, 2009) of 204 countries worldwide. As seen in the figure, the more residents have access to the Internet, the higher GDP per capita a country holds. The correlation factor between them, which shows the relationship between the two factors, was 70.8%. This means that there is a strong relationship between the Internet access and GDP per capita. It is said that same kind of link exists between the literacy rate and GDP per capita, but according to a calculation, its correlation factor is only 36.6%. This indicated that the effect of the digital divide is stronger than that of illiteracy.

Establishing high-speed Internet access throughout a country is not an easy task. Developed skills and much investment would be required, which would be a tough burden for developing countries. What I am concerned about is that would lead to an even larger gap between the affluent countries and poor countries. Difference in economic power of the countries would enlarge the digital divide, which would make rich countries even richer.

It is easy to predict that this relationship will lead to very unfair opportunity for people within developing countries. Supports to build high-speed Internet infrastructure and teaching Internet literacy would be very important. The data indicates that its importance is equal to or even higher than that of elementary education. Although relatively high cost will be required for technology investments, strong support is required to maintain equal opportunity for people on the other side of the digital divide.

References:

ICT (2009). Free Statistics. Retrieved from http://www.itu.int/ITU-D/ict/statistics/

World Bank (2009). World Databank. Retrieved from http://databank.worldbank.org/ddp/home.do?Step=12&id=4&CNO=2

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