Saturday, April 14, 2012

Mind the digital gap

The potential of the net for education, cooperation and communication is clear to many of us but we are reminded daily that we are in a minority. Even in a country like Sweden with high broadband penetration there are over a million people who either lack internet access or who do not know how to get online. No matter what advances are made in net technology and service development we must ensure that everyone is able to benefit. Otherwise we are creating a new and potentially dangerous class divide. As more and more services like banking, travel, education, healthcare, shopping and government go digital there is often little regard for those left behind, often the elderly and low income families.

An article in Mashable, Digital Divide: If You’re Reading This, You’re One of the Lucky Ones, discusses this issue and includes the infographic below that summarizes the digital divide in the USA. The vital factor is access and that should not be an economic issue (though it generally is). Net access is today a democratic issue and if the price is too high you create a new class divide. The second key factor is education to help everyone participate in the digital society. If we can offer low cost (or free) basic net access and provide basic digital skills training through adult education, libraries and schools we can build a common digital platform. On top of that there will of course be for-profit applications, tools and services but if we can keep the digital threshold as low as possible we can still avoid a dangerous divide in society.

   Digital Divide
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1 comment:

  1. Great topic. I too have come across the great inequality divide with access to technology for adult learners. Schools have more access to technology than do some adult learning environments. More needs to be done. Thanks for raising the issue.