In general, the ‘Digital Divide’ refers to a gap between people who have access to contemporary technologies and the internet and those who do not. Due to the increasing impact of globalization and digitalization on all areas of life, people without direct access to these benefits might be heavily disadvantaged. Furthermore, it concerns not only inhabitants of rural areas but also indigenous people, low-income families, and older adults. The primary disadvantages include the lack of opportunities concerning education and employment. Additionally, the ‘Digital Divide’ has significantly severed the communication between people due to the ongoing pandemic restrictions. As a result, people without direct access to digital benefits tend to feel left out. The current paper attempts to analyze how the ‘Digital Divide’ has affected the disadvantaged groups concerning education, employment, and healthcare.
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Education is one of the major areas that has significantly suffered from the pandemic restrictions due to the adaptation of the online approach. It is evident that the COVID-19 restrictions, such as home isolation and social distancing, have drastically changed the everyday lives of most people. Furthermore, most schools and universities have shifted to online schooling which requires a stable internet connection and comprehensive computer literacy from the students. In Canada, about 8% of families do not have an internet subscription at home, and 13% of households live where the internet providers cannot meet the national standards of upload and download speeds (“Overcoming Digital Divides”). Furthermore, the statistics demonstrate that approximately 20% of adolescent students have never been taught digital or computer literacy specifically (“Overcoming Digital Divides”). While the situation concerning online education in Canada is relatively modest, it might still cause certain difficulties for low-income families and indigenous people.
In addition to the aforementioned obstacles, the disruptive process of digital education might have a detrimental effect on the students. According to Lai and Widmar, the challenges of remote learning might directly affect the learning capabilities and cause a drain of the talent and skills of the students (459). The government attempts to relieve the situation by granting free internet access on Wi-Fi hotspots in libraries and other places of students’ activities (Lai and Widmar 462). Nevertheless, it does not change the urgent necessity to overcome the ‘Digital Divide’ and provide citizens with sufficient internet quality at homes.
Similar to education, COVID-19 has significantly affected the sphere of employment since most people have to work from home. It has caused a large number of challenges particularly for extended households in which every family member needs to have a sufficient internet speed for daily routine. In Canada, approximately 38% of the households have an internet connection of 50 Mbps or lower which might not satisfy the needs of a large family (“Overcoming Digital Divides”). The situation regarding internet speed is even worse in indigenous communities (“Overcoming Digital Divides”). Moreover, digital literacy is another prominent problem that severely obstructs the work process among indigenous people. To solve the problem, McMahon proposes six digital inclusion initiatives that primarily include the development of indigenous communities through collaboration and learning (McMahon 16). The cooperative effort might significantly improve computer literacy among indigenous people and increase their chances of finding employment in the digital age. Naturally, these initiatives have to be supported by the government and corresponding development of broadband internet to fully meet the contemporary standards of living.
The concept of the ‘Digital Divide’ is also highly noticeable in the sphere of healthcare. Due to the pandemic, most hospitals had to switch to the telehealth method implementing phone and video calls as the primary means of communication with the patients (Ramsetty and Adams 1147). This model has proven to be highly effective and has led to the improvement of medical services; nevertheless, the problem of the ‘Digital Divide’ has respectively progressed (Ramsetty and Adams 1147). The telehealth methods perform ineffectively in rural areas and potentially widen the gap due to a large number of socio-economic factors (Ramsetty and Adams 1147). While most people are able to make phone appointments, complex operations, such as reimbursement or assessing healthcare online, cannot be performed without direct internet access (Ramsetty and Adams 1147). Additionally, some people might lack digital literacy or simply not trust modern technology in regard to such critical aspects of life, such as healthcare. Therefore, besides the attempts to eliminate the ‘Digital Divide’, it is also essential to continually raise the digital awareness of the population.
Summing up, the current paper has demonstrated the primary consequences of the ‘Digital Divide’ on the major aspects of life, such as education, work, and healthcare. With progressing globalization, lack of technologies and internet access might severely affect the quality of life of most people. The contemporary situation is further complicated by the pandemic restrictions that have disturbed access to education, work, and healthcare. While it is essential to minimize the consequences of COVID-19, people with digital disadvantages, such as inhabitants of rural areas and indigenous people, have especially suffered from the ‘Digital Divide’ in the pandemic period. Therefore, it is necessary to collaborate and make cooperative efforts to minimize the digital gap among the citizens of Canada and increase the overall quality of life, particularly in the trying times of the pandemic.
Lai, John, and Nicole O. Widmar. “Revisiting the Digital Divide in the COVID-19 Era.” Applied Economic Perspectives and Policy, vol. 43, no. 1, 2021, pp. 458-464.
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McMahon, Rob. “Co-developing Digital Inclusion Policy and Programming with Indigenous Partners: Interventions from Canada.” Internet Policy Review: Journal of Internet Regulation, vol. 9, no. 2, 2020, pp. 1-26.
“Overcoming Digital Divides: Workshop Series, Framing Paper.” Ryerson Leadership Lab, 2021. Web.
Ramsetty, Anita, and Cristin Adams. “Impact of the Digital Divide in the Age of COVID-19.” Journal of American Medical Informatics Association, vol. 27, no. 7, 2020, pp. 1147-1148.