3 Ways to Combat the Digital Divide

We’ve all heard about global wealth, class and gender disparities. But did you know there’s a gap between regions and demographics with access to modern information and communication technology? It’s called the digital divide.

The digital divide focuses on the ‘have and have-nots’ of access to common technology including telephone, TV, computer and internet. It is broken down into three categories: global, social and personal divides. When discussing the global divide, it’s important to note some of the contributing factors:

• Wealth, or lack thereof • Inadequate infrastructure • Lack of literacy and education

Today, I will be attempting to solve world problems and focus on the global divide, specifically, lack of literacy and education.

In some countries, such as China, the government heavily censors, and in some instances, blocks internet sites. To circumvent this, citizens have created their own social networking sites to stay connected. Conversely, in places with limited access, how do we close the gap? Here is how I think we can assist:

  1. Support NGOs and computer literacy organizations – as citizens of an industrialized nation reaping the benefits of access to digital communication, we should support organizations and NGOs who provide computer literacy and education programs for less industrialized nations. We can start by giving time, money and/or resources to organizations and researching their immediate needs.

  2. Know the Locals – In countries experiencing the divide, we should look for trends. For those who use cellphones with basic capabilities such as texting and video, it’s important to educate them using the formats to which they’re accustomed. For example, a Pew Research Center study found the number of Africans with cell phones in Sub-Saharan Africa has increased dramatically since 2002 and the devices are mainly used for texting and sending videos. With this information, we can reach and educate the mobile users via text and video. This would include information about access, functionality, educational classes and more. More about the Pew study can be found here. For those who do not have a device, we can consider phone-recycling programs.

  3. TechKnow - There are a handful of technology startups and organizations whose goal is bringing electricity to remote areas via solar power. Before re-inventing the wheel, we need to research what’s currently being implemented by governments lacking the modern infrastructure and build on what’s already in place in terms of access. If nothing is in place, the challenge shifts to educating leaders about the need for reliable power sources.

Clearly, this is not an exhaustive list, but a few suggestions to get moving in the right direction to close the gap in the global digital divide. Solutions challenging access will require multiple stakeholders, money and resources to solve the problem, but I am confident if we have enough of each, we can begin to bridge the gap relative to the differences in the digital divide.

Are you up for solving global issues? If so, how to do you suggest we close the divide?

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Louisville, KY