The notion of the digital divide revolves around the current gap that exists between socioeconomic strata that either can or cannot use new digital technologies. The importance of recognizing the challenge can be validated by means of noting that access to certain information often defines one’s position of power in the contemporary world. In other words, the digital divide is a concept that goes beyond mere economic outcomes because it depends on knowledge and literacy and not just access to technology (Ames, 2021; Gallegos, 2021). Interestingly, the digital divide could transpire even across industrialized countries, hinting that one’s capability of purchasing a computer does not eventually close the gap. Thus, one of the essential concepts that have to be addressed when discussing the influence of the digital divide on humans is the problem of empowerment. The current paper is going to address the digital divide from the points of education, economy, and society to explain the future of various technologies and define the most rational solutions that might improve the state of affairs.
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The Context of the Digital Divide
A rather detailed account of the context of the digital divide is given in Bowles’ (2013), where the author explains how it could be considered both a threat and not a threat at the same time. This duality is what explains the digital divide overall, as underprivileged individuals could be affected by it just as much as their privileged counterparts. Even though there are numerous benefits of purchasing different technologies, the inability to utilize them to their full potential might become much more of a drawback rather than a competitive advantage (Bowles, 2013). This is why the separation caused by the digital divide causes quite a few individuals, even from developed countries, to display reluctance toward the most up-to-date innovations. Access to computers is essential in the era of technological advancement, but it should never be forgotten that the digital divide does not necessarily relate to the inability to purchase any given technology.
The Digital Divide and Education
As a major source of knowledge and different types of information, the Internet brings out the best in end-users by aiding them in advancing their expertise in certain topics. The developed world can no longer be perceived without technologies, meaning that even a student’s academic success could depend on their ability to navigate available solutions and gain access to relevant information only (Ames, 2021). The increasing obtainability of information technology instruments increases the speed of research activities and supports the dynamic nature of education. In they case of failing to keep up with the daily improvements, students and teachers are going to face the digital divide because of not being able to utilize specific technologies (Bowles, 2013). In developing countries, the state of affairs is even worse because the government does not have an opportunity to improve the education system while using ineffective technology or not to have enough resources to provide for the deprived. Improved success rates are not expected to be met after purchasing the required technology because learners must first acquire the knowledge and skills.
According to Ames (2021), the existence of a thorough technology implementation agenda does not reduce the struggle. In his opinion, even teachers could experience issues when trying to manage required software and prevent it from crashing or glitching from time to time. This means that the current Covid-19 pandemic exposed teachers and learners to the idea of insufficient skills to ensure proper remote education is in place (Ames, 2021). Thus, the problem with the digital divide within the framework of the contemporary world revolves around the limited opportunities of facilitating technology use among teachers and students. Ames (2021) noted how numerous students might utilize devices with dead spots on their screens or keyboards that were missing several keys. Currently, most web-based learning activities are organized using technologies unavailable to more than 30% of intended learners (Ames, 2021). Therefore, education is affected by the digital divide to an exceptional extent, with teachers and students having virtually no opportunity to overcome the most pressing challenges.
The Digital Divide and Economy
Another important concept that was touched upon by Bowles (2013) and Ames (2021) was the influence of the digital divide on the global economy. The rather consistent growth of telecommunication service availability became an essential contributor to numerous changes in monetary policy. For example, Bowles (2013) discussed socioeconomic status as one of the causes and consequences of the digital divide. He suggested that technology takes a toll on numerous end-users irrespective of their annual income or preparedness to utilize available digital tools. At the same time, the article by Ames (2021) reinforced the idea that many online users lacked economic empowerment. For the current review of the digital divide, this means that insufficient access to technology could increase the economic gap between different nations where technology-related budgets were allocated differently. The emerging countries do not have the resources and knowledge to compete with their developed counterparts, causing the circulation of necessary resources to terminate.
The Digital Divide and Society
The impact of the digital divide on society is also utterly visible nowadays, as numerous individuals cannot enhance their social interactions with other people despite having access to exceptional informational technologies. Social media websites create a positive environment for end-users to keep in touch with persons of interest without becoming too inquisitive. The existence of social opportunities linked to the use of technologies requires people to think their actions through and engage in the meaningful use of the technologies at hand (Bowles, 2013). With the help of various technologies, people from all over the globe could learn new information about other cultures and religions without physically visiting other countries. This kind of interconnectedness bridges numerous gaps except for the deficiency that has to be experienced by the poorer cohort of individuals who cannot benefit from innovation (Gallegos, 2021). From the point of view of social relations, this is outright segregation that cannot be prevented due to the existence of the wealthy and the poor.
According to Bowles (2013), efforts to bridge the societal gap caused by the digital divide could be deemed ineffective almost at all times. This might happen because of the advent of unacceptable digital activities, such as identity theft, credit card fraud, and hacking. Ames (2021) stated that it eventually disrupted societal harmony and created premises for large-scale misinterpretations of the role of technology in human life. On the level of societal interactions, this scenario can be described as a consistent stratification of the community, where people are divided into cohorts based on their socioeconomic statistics. Literacy and affordability represent the core variables associated with the digital divide and the societal gap that it generates (Gallegos, 2021). The advent of new alignments in the community paves the way for a hypothesis that people can be classified depending on the benefits they acquire when utilizing technology.
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The primary potential solution to reduce the digital divide was offered by Gallegos (2021), as he focused on the idea of maintaining constant communication with consumers. Thus, the essential task of information technology providers is to ensure that they provide outstanding services and high-quality equipment to all users regardless of their socioeconomic status. This approach can be expected to help users stay informed while gaining essential technology utilization skills, where additional partnerships could be developed over time (Gallegos, 2021). On the state and federal levels, communication would represent a central policymaking instrument intended to increase the availability of technologies across different societal cohorts. Financial support could also facilitate user access to nonprofit projects intended to improve healthcare provision and educational strategies (Gallegos, 2021). This is also a fundamental topic of discussion because of the need to leverage connections and help all communities transcend.
Another crucial element that responsible parties would have to consider when trying to resolve the issues associated with the digital divide would be constant contributions to a higher level of economic progress. More pressing concerns have to be addressed to finance projects that could advance healthcare, cybersecurity, or any other field that has been exposed to shortcomings over the past two decades (Bowles, 2013). The role of the economy cannot be condensed because a variety of projects could be launched to pursue equity and help responsible parties distribute relevant information regarding the digital divide. Therefore, it has to be treated as a warning sign that points to large-scale issues associated with wealth and sequential growth. Knowing that computers and smartphones are everywhere nowadays, it could be safe to say that a higher number of individuals from developing countries could gain access to relevant information over time.
The next stage of addressing the digital divide would be to ensure that fewer applications and hardware are affected by usability issues. Despite the incredibly fast-paced technological advancements, numerous devices cannot be considered easy to use. The lack of education and digital literacy exposes people from developing countries to the challenge of not having enough knowledge to operate common technologies (Ames, 2021). This is why it can be proposed to enhance usability via literacy skills training intended to aid users in strengthening their approaches to technology use. Despite technology being a complicated venue of research, additional efforts should be exerted to deploy digital literacy education and have fewer individuals suffer from computer illiteracy. These approaches also bear significance for senior users, who always tend to experience issues associated with reluctance and lack of specific knowledge.
The ultimate strategy to resolve the digital divide and help promote equity would be the deployment of empowerment initiatives expected to motivate individuals to take a step forward and voice their concerns related to the digital divide. Knowing that some individuals could experience trouble trying to utilize technology, awareness and empowerment could eventually boost their confidence and motivate them to use various devices more often (Bowles, 2013). The existence of advanced features does not require individuals to learn all the details during their first interaction with the tool. Instead, users should be empowered to develop persistence and use technology daily to start closing the digital divide gap. A larger number of users should be willing to raise awareness concerning the digital divide in order to empower users who tend to stay in the background and never voice their struggles (Ames, 2021). Accordingly, even the most unique user needs should be considered in order to shrink the digital divide gap.
Conclusions and Recommendations
The digital divide does not discriminate, affecting both developed and under-developed countries equally and creating scenarios where many individuals do not have the opportunity to realize their full potential. Therefore, the decreasing price of technology cannot be considered a rationale for believing that the gap related to the digital divide could be reduced via innovation. It should be recommended to all related actors to ensure they have relevant information on technology use. The influence of the digital divide on education, the economy, and society is practically tangible since many developing countries cannot fight digital illiteracy even when having access to the latest technology. The new media world that has been created with the advent of social media networking could be considered one of the core pillars of overcoming the digital divide and having most of its users benefit from the increased interactivity. The impact of the pandemic cannot be ignored either, as new technologies do not bring enough advantages to the table to aid users in surviving the setbacks of the contemporary digital era.
Ames, M. (2021). Laptops alone can’t bridge the digital divide. MIT Technology Review, 124(6), 74-77.
Bowles, M. (2013). Introduction to digital literacy. Zovio.
Gallegos, J. (2021). Bridging the digital divide: How electric companies can help power equity through accessible broadband. Electric Perspectives, 46(3), 28-33.