It was the year 2012. I was attending one of the seminars being delivered by Dr. Aniruddha Joshi (beloved called Aniruddha Bapu by his friends and followers). There were many IT engineers and technologists from amongst Dr. Joshi’s friends who were attending this seminar along with me. This was when Dr. Joshi asked us if we were aware of ‘Digital Divide’ and the answer which we all had was “No”… So it was for the first time that I was hearing this word ‘Digital Divide’. In very simple and clear terms Dr. Joshi explained to us this new global concept of categorization of people which was based on factors which though were not ethnic but were creating different sorts of ethnicities the world-over.
As the name suggests, Digital Divide is certainly linked with computer and the internet. The advent of the computer simplified many of our activities. People recognized the 21st century as the ‘Digital Age’ as it seemed dominated by technology. Today, ‘Personal Computing’ can be done on desktops, laptops, other access points like gaming consoles, e-readers, mobile phones and tablets. As more and more of our activities, interests and needs come to be satisfied by the digital world, a gap has emerged between the people and regions that have access to modern information and communications technologies, and those that don’t or have partial access to it. The technologies include telephone, television, personal computers, mobile devices and importantly the internet. This gap between the digital-haves and digital-haves-not is called the DIGITAL DIVIDE.
In simple words ‘Digital Divide’ means the Caste-System of the 21st Century’ as defined by corporations and their interests. This caste system stratifies the entire population of the world in four categories depending upon the access, usage and nature of usage that an individual has of technology featuring various telecom and electronic devices, softwares, internet, IT systems, apps, services, etc.
Individuals on the positive side of the divide have this easy access, thereby helping them to stay on top of the latest trends. On the other side of the divide are those who are access-devoid. These are typically low-income people for whom tech-gadgets and high-speed internet access are financially out of reach. These people may reside in developed or under-developed countries.
There are many negatives for people on the wrong side of this divide e.g. today it is becoming increasingly difficult to find work without access to job listings websites, having a word processor for writing resumes or access to email for submitting job applications. Another example is difficulty for students and parents to communicate with their teachers, peers or participate in the increasing number of web-based class assignments and study material without easy access to the internet. The advent of ‘Distance Education’ and the ability to learn any subject at one’s own convenience means that more and more people now prefer to use this medium even for higher education. Especially with all government schemes and projects being converted into digital and internet-driven services it is increasingly becoming imperative for everyone to get their hands-on on computer and internet in their various forms.
The proliferation of technology into many areas of our life, means the digital divide is no longer just about those who do and don’t have access to computers. But it is becoming more important that one possesses sound computing skills and is particularly strong at the basics like using search engines and email accounts effectively, creating and using spreadsheets, word processors, and analysing and utilizing information from multiple sources effectively before coming to one’s own conclusions.
The fault lines of the digital divide are being created by the socio-economic background of users that affects their online behaviour in terms of not just access and usage of internet, devices, apps, and at also being creators and active users, ultimately defining the digital-identity of a person as a whole. These fault lines of Digital Divide are widening gaps in the society and dividing it on unthought-of parameters.
On the global level the developed countries do have a wide access to devices and internet that diminishes in developing countries and further may be virtually absent in the under-developed or war-torn nations. The resultant financial and opportunity disparity is what radicalizes vast swathes of population pushing them in the extremist darkness thereby fostering the agenda of hate, crimes, killings, arson and basically creates a society that has denounced all the morals and where only the rule of “Might is Right” prevails. Thus Digital Divide is being termed as one the foremost factors accelerating the polarization and thereby creating conditions suited for the Third World War and further making it spread in all the corners of the world.
Inventions of cheaper means of accessing the internet like internet-enabled mobile phones, cyber cafés, etc. can help to decrease the digital divide by bringing the various services, facilities and opportunities within the reach of ‘active users’. But the onus to reduce it should actually be on transforming every user into an ‘active users’.
|| Hari Om || || Shriram || || Ambadnya ||