EnglishGeneralLibrary Science

The concept of digital divide

What is Digital Divide?
                The term ‘digital divide’ describes the fact that the world can be divided into people who do and people who don’t have access to – and the capability to use – modern information technology, such as the telephone, television, or the Internet. The digital divide exists between those in cities and those in rural areas. The digital divide also exists between the educated and the uneducated, between economic classes, and, globally, between the more and less industrially developed nations.
The Digital Divide refers to the inequalities between people who have access to and the resources to use modern information and communication technology (ICT), such as desktop computers and the Internet, and people who do not. This includes those who have, and those who do not have the necessary skills, knowledge and abilities to use ICT to advance their knowledge and achieve their desired objectives.

According to Salinas (2003: 131) digital divide refers to that disparity between individuals and/or communities who can use electronic information and communication tools, such as the internet, to better the quality of their lives and those who cannot.

The term digital divide has also been applied to the gap that exists in most countries between those with ready access to the tools of information and communication technologies, and the knowledge that they provide access to and those without such access or skills (Cullen, 2001: 311).

Deschamps (2001:1) defines digital divide as the growing gap between those parts of the world which have easy access to knowledge, information, ideas and works of information through technology and those who do not.

Digital divide can be defined as the gap that exist between those who have access to digital technologies, information and communication tools and those who do not.

Effects
of Digital Divide:

  1. Economic inequality: Digital divide create economic inequality, because those who have access to modern technology can easily collect valuable economical information.
  2. Effect on education: It has an impact on education. Because student who have internet access and computer, can acquire more valuable knowledge from internet.
  3. Democracy: The use of the Internet can lead to a healthier democracy, increased public participation in elections and decision making processes.
  4. Economic growth is effected by the digital divide because productivity improvements tend to be associated with the use of Information technologies and companies with these technologies may have advantage and can compete better.
  5. Social mobility: computers and computer networks are playing an increasingly important role in people’s learning, professional work and career development.

Factors that contribute to the digital divide:

There are several factors that contribute to the digital divide. There following are some of the factors which contribute to this divide:

  1. Gender: It is stated that in some countries and organizations, females have less access to the internet than males.
  2. Physical disability: Visually impaired and blind people are fully able to use a computer due to advances in technology such as Jaws, which is one of many screen readers.
  3. Physical access: The main barriers under this point are lack of telecommunications infrastructure with sufficient reliable bandwidth for internet connections and cost, the ability to purchase and the necessary equipment. This result in lack of access to technology (Hardware and software).
  4. Lack of ICT skills and support: People in many disadvantaged groups do not have proper skills about new modern technology.
  5. Attitudinal factors: This derived from cultural and behavioral attitudes towards technology. Many people thought that new technologies are harmful for young generation.
  6. Relevant content: One of the reasons why some people do not use internet technologies because the content is not relevant and interesting to them.
  7. Age: It seems to be that young people feel more comfortable with the new technology and are able to benefit from it more than older people.Older people are less likely to have a computer and are less likely to be interested in using the Internet.
  8. Family structure: Families with children have more computers and Internet access than families without.
  9. Motivation: People may not use computers because they are not interested or they may not see any good reason to

Challenges and Barriers to Bridging the Digital Divide:

  1. Infrastructural barriers: Though many modern and up-to-date internet and telecommunication technologies are available in the present world, most of the developing country like Bangladesh has still lack of modern technologies and sufficient bandwidth for internet connection.
  2. Language barriers: Today a large percentage of information content on the Internet is in English, which is a barrier for the people whose primary language is not English.
  3. High cost: Due to higher cost of internet connection and modern technology, most of the people of developing country unable to use computer and internet connection.
  4. Literacy and skill barriers: In a country like Bangladesh where about 50% people are illiterate and unable to read and write cannot access to modern literacy and they have not sufficient skill to handle modern technology like computer.
  5. Economic barriers: Poor access to computer and communication technology also causes a digital divide. Because the lower income group does not have enough money to spend on cyber cafes on bye their own computer.
  6. Content barriers: In the internet most of the contents are written in English. Peoples from third world country unable to understand them, so it causes digital divide. In this case we need to produce our own content on internet.
  7. Internet connectivity barrier: The high cost of internet connection and lack of their connectivity also because digital divide.
  8. Technological barrier:  People who live in village cannot get the touch of modern technology. So it also a barrier of bridging the digital divides.

 

Libraries, especially public libraries can play a vital role in bridging the digital divide by providing access to computer and the internet to those who do not have such facilities. Libraries are for everyone, educated and uneducated, rich and poor. So the library authority should take necessary steps to available those modern technologies and computer in their hands, and they should provide proper training to those people who do not have enough knowledge about new technology.

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Md. Ashikuzzaman

Work at North South University Library, Bangladesh.

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