As discussed byInternet World Stats, the digital divide is a social issue referring to thedifferent amount of information between those who have access to the internetand those who do not have access. “Norris (2001) categorized the digital divideinto global, social and democratic divides in terms of context” (InformationResources Management Association p.1171). Within this context of the digitaldivide it is suggested there are three main contributing factors whichestablish the process of division.
These being geographical, generational andeducational. McKinsey (2014) suggested that about 75% of the offline populationis concentrated in 20 countries and is disproportionately rural, low income,elderly, illiterate and female. As time goes on, it can be suggested that thefamiliarization of the internet and new technologies will be forever expandingand growing, especially when it comes to age and geographical opportunities.”The number of people connected to the internet has more than tripled in thepast decade, from 1 billion to an estimated 3.5 billion” (World DevelopmentReport 2016: Digital Dividends) However, the benefits have been skewed towardsthe better off and highly skilled, who were able to take advantage of the newtechnologies. There are still billions in the world who don’t have access totechnology, which forms a barrier between those within the digital divide.
In terms oftechnology society and the digital divide, having access to the internet andnew technologies is deemed as something powerfully positive and very fortunateto those of its users, as believed so from a Cyber Utopian perspective. Asdiscussed in Morozov’s ‘End of Cyber Utopia’ documentary, internet guru KevinKelly compared the invention of the internet to the invention of fire callingit “the most powerful technology we could imagine in recent times”. Here, hehighlighted the idea of society creating a deeper identity, we are globalisingas a homogenous mass. Our endless opportunities to search and our freedom tosearch whatever we so wish, is considered to be very beneficial to itsconsumers. From a critical perspective it can be suggested that the linesbetween the corporations and the users are blurred, this relating to a Marxistperspective in how the bourgeoisie and the proletariat are on the same level. Acommercial for Apple Macintosh (1990) highlighted how with technology there areno limits and through it comes power and empowerment.
Henry Jenkins proposedthe idea of society being a ‘participatory culture’ forwarding the concept inhow we all contribute to each other’s learning and understanding via theinternet. We can share our creations and our knowledge of the world, thisbuilding connections and facilitating globalisation. Our lives can be enrichedwith the ability to learn and explore with a level of depth and direction neverknown possible. This being a perfect example demonstrating the idea of blurringthe lines between corporations and consumers as we now have the opportunity toconnect with others from all across the globe, helping people we have never metbefore or even know the face of. There is constant recognition that consumershave power, a way in which a positive form of globalisation has been constructed. However, there arelimitations when it comes to consumers and power. Our endless opportunities andfreedom to search has its negative flaws.
It can be discussed that perhapsconsumers aren’t as powerful as we think and we are manipulated into believingwe are by the control and authority of the corporations. This working as a formof false consciousness. The ‘science documentary 2016|Big Data’ documentary, highlightedthe growing facilitation of data and just how much power and authorship the corporationshave. Every time we use our phones to access whatever we so wish, we aregenerating data, data which is being exposed to companies and organisations.This conveying the idea of exposure and the invasion of our privacy, as everysingle thing we do leaves a digital trace, we leave behind digital traces andfootprints which is generated by companies. The big data is used by thesecompanies in ways we may or may not be aware of happening. “According to Russoand colleagues (2015), by 2020, there will be over 200 billion sensor devicesthat are inter- connected. These sensors will be found in home electronicsystems, health monitory equipment, cars and smartphones” (Adams p.
13). In timeeverything will become digitized. These ideologies can be discussed from acyber distopians perspective, that the power of the internet can have itsnegative outcomes on consumers. Having discussedthis, big data is used by corporations/organisations to predictpatterns/behaviours, in ways that were previously impossible, which can be seenas positive in that case. With the advancement of the internet and technology weare open to a world of multiple answers and life changing inventions. Anexample of this being monitors of patient’s heart rates in hospitals.
Newtechnologies have enabled Doctors to see certain data sets which we would havenever imagined we’d see before and the masses of data conveyed can even helpsave people’s lives. When it comes tocorporation’s accessibility to the data exposed, there are limitations when itcomes to accessing big data which creates new digital divides. This being thedivide of the big data rich and the big data poor. As discussed by Boyd andCrawford (2012) only those with money or inside the company can produce adifferent type of research than those who are outside.
It is about who hasprivileged access, and the skills to scrape, wrangle and analyse big data andthose who lack these skills are put at a disadvantage. Thus creating adivision, which leads to a system of inequality and bias- the big data rich andthe big data poor. We live in adigitally native western culture where in terms of the digital economy, everythingis digitized. This including health tracking, where people are relying on newtechnology such as fit bits. A physically active tracker designed to help youbecome more active, sleep better and ultimately turn you into a healthier humanbeing (Nathan Chandler: howstuffworks). Alongside banking, where billions oftransactions are happening daily online.
Consumers are so reliant on theirmobile devices and new technology that without them some wouldn’t be able tocomplete certain tasks every day, or even simply cope without them. However, with thisin mind it must be taken into consideration that though many consumersthroughout the globe claim they cannot cope without their technologicaldevices, access to the internet itself isn’t as global as people believe it tobe. This working in terms of the geographical divide, a contributing factorwhere your position on the social hierarchy alongside your cultural andgeographical upbringing/habitation has an undermining effect on youraccessibility and understanding of the internet and technological products. “While internet access continues to grow inpoorer nations, there is still a long way to go before the world is completelywired” (Poushter, 2016- Pew Internet).
There are two main components when itcomes to the digital divide, these including; peoples access to computers andrelated technologies, with dramatic gaps between technological haves and havesnot. Alongside, technological literacy, even though the gap is becoming lessand less economical as technologies become more and more affordable, it is moreto do with education and digital literacy. These components account for thegeographical division, which is significant in portraying this ideology thatwhere you’re situated in the World can have a profound effect on yourunderstanding of technology. “With nearly 20% of the world’s population unableto read and write, the spread of digital technologies alone is unlikely tospell the end of the global knowledge divide” (Kaushik Basu, World Bank’s chiefeconomist, cited by Elliott, 2016). These predominantly being those who live inless economically developed countries such as Africa. With children living in countieslike Africa, water and shelter is perceived as a necessity, juxtaposing theintentions of a child living within a more economically developed country, forexample America, where the latest smartphone or latest gaming programme isconsidered a necessity and a must have. As in terms of internet penetration,internet users predominate across regions, except Africa, with smartphones becomingmore common in Europe and the U.S and less so in developing countries.
“Thedigital divide affects certain population segments, for instance low income andrural communities, due to the lack of digital infrastructure affordability andskills” (Shenglin et al., 2017). It can besuggested that the geographical divide can be closely interlinked with anothersignificant factor of the digital divide, this being the effectiveness of theeducation system. People living within the less economically developedcountries are less inclined to a proper education, this therefore having aknock on effect on their job opportunities and likelihood to succeed, whichcould result in their little understanding and affordability of the internetand new technologies. World Economic Forum highlighted how 80% of onlinecontent is only available in 1 of 10 languages, which only 3 billion speak astheir first. This can be seen as very problematic for those other billions speakingoutside these languages, as they won’t understand the technology itself, thesebeing those primarily living within the poorer Southern region. As time goes on,the ideologies and expectations of different generations expand, it can besuggested that more and more people, primarily younger people are using orbecoming more familiar with smartphones and new technologies.
This can helpestablish this idea of the digital divide in terms of age. It can be suggestedthat students have a better knowledge of new technologies and social media thantheir teachers, which is evident due to the times and eras in which thedifferent generations were born and grew up in. Alongside this, there aredifferent approaches to communication depending on ages.
An example of thisbeing a younger person who may feel more inclined to use social media siteslike Twitter and Snapchat as a way of communicating with friends, thisjuxtaposing the intentions of an older person who perhaps doesn’t even have anaccount for any social media site and uses text message or calls on a landline.The eras in which we were born is a significant factor to determine how wechose to communicate with others, alongside our ability to use and understandnew technologies in an effective manner. In conclusion,owning technology is considered to be as important as food and shelter, acommon ideology of those living within more economically developed countries. Interms of the generation divide, this may be something predominantly accountedto by the younger generation. Our way of communicating with one another can besignificantly dependant on not only our age, but our position on the socialhierarchy.
This working similarly with our geographical habitation and theeducation we’re fortunate to have/have had. Alongside this, our understanding,familiarity and affordability of technical products and the internet, is aresult of our socio- economic opportunities. Within western culture theideologies and power of the internet has significantly developed over time.There are many positive impacts for consumers, which have come about from ourability to create forms of globalisation and potentially minimize the gapwithin the digital divide. As supported by cyber utopians, it can be bought toour attention that the internet has allowed users to become part of a’participatory culture’ where we are more connected to one another across theglobe than ever before. As argued by the World Development Report 2016, thenumber of people connected to the internet has more than tripled in the lastdecade. However, the more power we believe we have with our endlessopportunities to search, the more power we are giving the corporations.
Thiscan be seen as problematic with the exposure of our privacy and data, creatinga new digital divide.