The fast advancement of information and communication technologies (ICTs) has made it easier and simpler to access services such as health, education, commerce, and finance, online. By use of smartphones, computers and the internet, one can apply for a health card, learn from experts in math, shop, and settle utility bills without leaving the house. ICTs are instrumental in a development perspective as well, as they basically enable us to connect and communicate with the world, to get equal opportunities, compete globally, and learn from others.
Certainly, technology in general continues to make our lives better, as we have enough money for taking it into use. But what about those who can’t afford it? And right now, the gap is not brought about by differences in income alone, but also by factors like literacy, age, gender, and geographic location, factors which prevent people on the other end of the divide from enjoying the benefits that ICTs bring.
Economy. Wealth is something that can never be distributed evenly among countries across the globe; there will always be a few who are richer than the greater majority who work for them.
Unfortunately, this is one of the biggest obstacles in gaining access to ICTs, and even more saddening is the reality that it leads to other problems like lack of electricity and literacy, to name a few.
Economic performance is typically an indicator of a country’s subscription to ICTs. That is, there are more people who have access to ICTs in a developed country than in a developing one. But if you think about it, what is a computer’s relevance in an underdeveloped nation where there are persistent power supply problems and where a lot of people do not know how to read?
Naturally, these countries and their citizens are left behind due to their inability to cope with new technology precisely because they are not equipped with the facility to do so. Hence, they do not get the chance to participate in the digital world.
Age. The capacity of people to adapt to technology sometimes also depends on their age. On the one hand, the youth are usually the early adapters as they learn new technology easily.
They are positive towards ICTs largely because they grew up with it. On the other hand, older people are said to be laggards or slow learners since they easily get frustrated and give up studying newer forms of ICTs. For this reason, youngsters tend to participate more in the global learning and, consequently, reap its benefits.
Gender. The digital divide is also apparent in regions where gender equality is not exercised. In places where women are still regarded as an inferior gender, women are deprived not only of education, suffrage, and employment, but also of information, among other things. Thus, women do not have the technical skills to use it effectively, even if they are not prohibited from using ICTs,.
Geographic location. One’s geographic location can be a barrier to ICT access as well. Given that communication infrastructure is commonly weaker in rural areas, internet connectivity is normally slower or more limited the farther away from the city.
Governments also play a vital role in terms of allowing ICT access to people. In North Korea, for example, the population in general has long been forbidden from using ICTs and the few who are in use had to be authorized by the government. This is why there is no questioning why North Koreans are very much left out in this digital age. According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, however, some areas have already been granted access, especially the ones near theborder to China where internet connection can be detected. Nonetheless, we’ll see that a government’s openness to ICTs has bearing on a nation’s capacity to level with other countries
taking part in the global information exchange, and ultimately, its attitude towards embracing development.
Knut Harald Nylænde is the manager behind Moxie AS, one of Oslo’s growing investment firms. He was trained in the country’s most reputable business schools and has also worked as a State Authorized Public Accountant in the past.