The Internet had created a digital divide

Today computers provide us with powerful tools for information handling for collection, organization, classification, retrieval and distribution. Computers have been used since the late 1960s for the storage of large databases such as library calalogues and bibliographic references. In this paper, the author is going to discuss the saying that the advent of the internet had created a digital divide.

Definition of terms
According to the web definitions a digital divide is “an economic and social inequility according to categories of persons in a given population in their access to, use of, or knowledge of information and communication technologies (ICT” The University of Stanford on its website defines a digital divide as The idea of the "digital divide" refers to the growing gap between the underprivileged members of society, especially the poor, rural, elderly, and handicapped portion of the population who do not have access to computers or the internet; and the wealthy, middle-class, and young Americans living in urban and suburban areas who have access.

The author is the view that even though the number of Westerners with access to computers and the Internet continues to soar on a yearly basis, the digital divide also continues to grow at an alarming rate. On the one hand, sections of society already connected - such as higher income, educated White and Asian Pacific Islander households - are adopting newer technologies faster and are connecting even more. On the other, groups with traditionally lower rates for Internet and computer usage continue to lag far behind. Unfortunately, according to a study conducted by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), entitled Falling Through the Net: Defining the Digital Divide, the gap is widening along already strained economic and racial lines.

Widening levels of education seem to magnify the digital divide; households with higher levels of education are increasingly more likely to use computers and the Internet. It has been observed that those with college degrees or higher are 10 times more likely to have internet access at work as than those with only a high school education. A study conducted by the NTIA from 1997 to 1998 determined that the gap in computer usage and Internet access widened 7.8% and 25% respectively, between those with the most and the least education.

Not surprisingly, and in direct correlation to education, the levels of household income also play a significant role in the widening gap. Again, the study by the NTIA stated, "In the last year, the divide between the highest and lowest income groups grew 29%" (NTIA Falling through the Net 99). It has been observed that households earning incomes over $75,000 are 20 times more likely to have home internet access than those at lowest income levels and 10 times more likely to have a computer if living in the city or suburban area than in the rural area. Due to lower income levels, poor neighborhoods lack the infrastructure available in affluent areas. Telecommunication facilities are more readily available for wealthier communities and are more attractive for developing companies to establish themselves. As a result, poverty in less fortunate neighborhoods make it less appealing for investments by outside companies, further aggravating the divide.             

At the same time, the digital divide continues to widen along very specific racial lines. The difference in computer usage grew by 39.2% between White and Black households and by 42.6% between White and Hispanic households in the period between 1994 and 1998. Hispanic households are roughly half as likely to own computers as White households. Interestingly, race affects the amount of computers in the school. Schools with a higher percentage of minorities have fewer computers whereas those with a lower percentage of minorities have a greater number of computers. As would be expected, the gaps between racial groups narrow at higher income levels, but widens among households at lower economic levels. With regard to Internet access, Black and Hispanic households are falling even further behind: access by White households grew by 37.6% between 1997 and 1998. Hispanic households are nearly 2.5 times less likely to use the internet than White households. The NTIA study also demonstrated the racial disparities in Internet access exist irrespective of income. In a cultural study to determine reasons for the divide other than income, the Hispanic, African-American, and Asian-American communities were studied. In the Hispanic community, it was observed that computers were a luxury, not a need; computer activities isolated individuals and took away valuable time from family activities. In the African- in a larger number embracing rising technological advances.American community, it was observed that African-Americans, historically, have had negative encounters with technological innovations. Asian-Americans, on the other hand, generally emphasize education, resulting .
The infrastructure by which individuals, households, businesses, and communities connect to the Internet address the physical mediums that people use to connect to the Internet such as desktop computers, laptops, basic mobile phones or smart phones, iPods or other MP3 players, Xboxes or PlayStations, electronic books readers, and tablets such as iPads.
Traditionally the nature of the divide has been measured in terms of the existing number of subscriptions and digital devices. Given the increasing number of such devices, some have concluded that the digital divide among individuals has increasingly been closing as the result of a natural and almost automatic process. Others point to persistent lower levels of connectivity among women, racial and ethnic minorities, people with lower incomes, rural residents, and less educated people as evidence that addressing inequalities in access to and use of the medium will require much more than the passing of time. Recent studies have measured the digital divide not in terms of technological devices, but in terms of the existing bandwidth per individual (in kbit/s per capita. As shown in the Figure on the side, the digital divide in kbit/s is not monotonically decreasing, but re-opens up with each new innovation. For example "the massive diffusion of narrow-band Internet and mobile phones during the late 1990s" increased digital inequality, as well as "the initial introduction of broadband DSL and cable modems during 2003–2004 increased levels of inequality". his is because a new kind of connectivity is never introduced instantaneously and uniformly to society as a whole at once, but diffuses slowly through social networks.

Since we have already found out the reasons for the digital divide we must find ways in overcoming it.According to the website there are three ways of overcoming the digital divide in the third world.The first one is called the zero rating system. A lack of disposable income is a major factor that prevents many from gaining Internet access. Users must also pay for data in addition to the cost of a device. Zero rating services circumvent this barrier by providing access to applications that have no associated data costs. For example Wikipedia makes a zero rated version of their app available, which is free to use. This practice has huge potential to provide the benefits of the Internet to all people.
The second one is reducing taxes. Several countries have “connectivity taxes” on mobile and fixed Internet connections. These taxes drive up costs for consumers, which can make the Internet unaffordable for many families. In some cases it also reduces the incentives for Internet Service Providers to make infrastructure investments in underserved areas. Research has shown that reducing these types of taxes can increase the number of Internet users.
The third one is diversifying the content. English is the primary language of the Internet. This excludes millions of educated people who could use the Internet if content were available in their native tongue. Expanding the type of content on the Internet would also increase its attractiveness for people around the world. For example, Ghana’s CocoaLink project provides expert information to farmers through text messages. Useful services like these provide an incentive for new users.
The number of Internet users increases every year by hundreds of millions of people. However, the percent of worldwide Internet penetration has declined in 2013 from recent peaks. Fortunately there are a number of options available to governments who seek to mitigate barriers to Internet access for their poorest citizens. New policies are necessary to make sure that all people regardless of the socio-economic status have access to the benefits of the Internet.
Other measures of reduce the digital divide includes the following: Universal Access -
as the use of computers and the Internet increases, so does the necessity for access. In the public sector, policy makers and community members must recognize the importance of such resources and take measures to ensure access for all. While increased competition among PC manufacturers and Internet Service Providers has substantially reduced the costs associated with owning a computer and maintaining a home connection, for many households the costs remain prohibitive. Like basic phone service, the government should subsidize Internet access for low-income households. At the same time, the private sector must commit to providing equal service and networks to rural and underserved communities so that all individuals can participate.
Third worlds countries must promote more community access centers, continued support of those already existing .Community access centers (CACs) are a critical resource for those without access to computers and the Internet at school or work; such programs should continue to receive funding in order to expand and strengthen. According to data collected in 1998, minorities, individuals earning lower incomes, individuals with lower educations, and the unemployed - the exact groups affected most by the digital divide - are the primary users of CACs. In fact, those using the CACs "are also using the internet more often than other groups to find jobs or for educational purposes" (NTIA Falling through the Net 99). Community access centers, therefore, are clearly worthwhile investments.
There must also be additional, well-trained technical staff .Computers and other technologies alone are not enough. Communities and schools must train and preserve additional, and more qualified staff, alongside new technologies to promote the best application of resources. In addition to understanding the new technologies, the staff must be able to teach others.
There must be a change of public attitude regarding technology . At the same time, much of society needs to change its attitude concerning technology. Rather than perceiving computers and the Internet as a superfluous luxury, the public should view them as crucial necessities. The public must come to realize the incredible power of new technologies and embrace them as tools for their future and the future of their children.

The author had indicated that indeed the internet had created a digital divide particularly with the gap remaining wide in the third world.Resoans for the digital divide has been cited as to include education, income of communities, race, availability of internet equipment, attitude to accept new technologies and availability of trained computer personnel.The author went on to explore measures to reduce the internet divide.Factors includes promoting universal access, promoting community internet access points, efforts to change the attitudes of communities on internet use and training more computer personnel.


Etiwel Mutero works for the National University of Science and Technology,he holds a Bachelor of Science Honours Degree in Records and Archives Management through the Zimbabwe Open University and a National Certificate in Records and Archives Management from Kwekwe Polytechnic.You can contact him on 0773614293 or

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