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The Global Digital Divide, Research Paper Example

Pages: 10

Words: 2792

Research Paper

Imagine a world that is of equal status, no social economic class, and everyone can access the same resources, and technology equally. The world describes seems like a fantasy of a utopia world, however in reality the world is deeply divided between the haves and the have nots. There are millions in the US without access to technology or the internet, and close to a billion around the world without access as well. This phenomenon is only described as a Digital Divide, a phrase that was used heavily throughout the 90’s for those who did not own computers, but now in the 21st century it is defined as a significant gap between people with access to digital and information technology and those with extremely limited or no access at all to the information. This essay examines the current implications of the global digital divide and the role of developed nations to bridge the gap. As globalization expands the reach of e-commerce and digital telecommunications in the form of mobile devices and social networks, internet use becomes an increasingly more a distinct measure of socioeconomic success and affluence worldwide. This poses a question as to what causes the technological gap between countries and what is the role of more technologically advanced nations to bridge this gap? The following research attempts to answer these questions with the use of scholarly sources from the NTIA, studies from Pew Institute, and other scholarly articles used in supporting this paper in properly answering this paper’s questions.

Literature Review

There has long been a dividing line between the haves and have-nots while it has largely been measured in economic terms, wealth is predominantly understood as a byproduct of access. On a global and international level, in his article “The international gap in technology,” author Potashnik notes, “At the dawn of the twenty-first century, there was a major gap between industrialized and developing countries in terms of their access to information and communications technology (ICT).” It is estimated that roughly half a billion world-wide utilized the internet with 65% of those from industrialized countries. He says, “This gap has come to be known as the digital divide and is illustrative of the vast differences in development among nations resulting from the process of globalization (Potashnik, 2012).” Globalization is one of the main causes as the digital divide gap widens lack of access is more evident in undeveloped parts of the world where social and economic status is considerably low. ICT provides the following chart illustrating the internet users world-wide. (ICT, 2013)

The internet users world-wide

Potashnik points out, “ICT is a key weapon in the war against world poverty.” The argument is divided among two sides that feel that new technologies in information and communication will only increase the divide as it continually will shed like on the differences of economic and social status. On the other side however is the argument for more ICTs that will eventually close the gap by introducing more access to information and communities to aid their development and better way of life. However no matter the argument for or against, the reality is there is still a divide around the world is demonstrated in levels of education, income, and differences of gender. Rich, educated, urban-men represent the picture of information access while poor, illiterate, rural women represent a lack of access. (Potashnik, 2012) The data presented in this research article sets the groundwork for a clearer understanding of the relationship between countries as they are measured by their use of the internet and its related technologies.

The main focus of this article is the digital divide of education. It is a critical measurement as more industrialized countries schools have a greater access than undeveloped. Students have greater access to computers in schools or own their own computers with access to the internet. With the 98% of US schools connected to the internet, the ratio 12:1 and 7:1 respectively in primary and secondary schools in the UK, with Europe, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand following similar patterns. (Postashnik, 2012) In other countries however, such in Latin America, Asia, and other places around the world, other issues plagued their educational system including rather than investing in ICT, but some countries are taking a clue from developed countries more developed countries in Asia that are making it their priority to invest in ICT. Investment in ICT breeds more want for teaching and learning, teaching valuable skills to students and puts them at a level of competitiveness against other countries. “Thailand developed the first nationwide, free-access network for education in Southeast Brazil built high speed data networks for university research and installed large numbers of computers in primary and secondary schools nationwide.”(Postashnkik, 2012)

There is a separation between those that can afford internet access and those that cannot. Mostly in low socioeconomic status areas where the income is low, and the unemployment rate is high, many families cannot afford to connect to the internet. “Among households with an annual income of $50,000 or less—about half the country—only 35% have broadband service “(Hesseldahl.2008). Among those with even lower income, “lowest broadband use was by those persons living in households with $15,000 annual family income or fewer. (NTIA.2010) Latinos, African Americans and Native Americans are among the minorities that report the lowest usage in low income areas. In 2000, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) estimated that approximately 23.5% of both African American and Hispanic homes had access, where the national average was over 50% (NTIA, 2000). While 95% of upper- income households use the Internet, 37% of lower-income households do not. 4 % of college graduates do not use the internet, and 48 % of those without a high school diploma do not. NITA provides information that helps to aid the focus of demographic information that is driving the gap of the digital divide.

There is a consensus among researchers of technology and its world influence that the current global divide in digital technology can be measured by cross-national differences in Internet use which can be directly attributed to “the economic, regulatory and sociopolitical characteristics of countries and their evolution over time (Guillen, Suarez, 2005).” In a recent study examining data of over 118 countries from 1997 through 2001, researchers found a massive amount of results supporting the hypothesis that, internet use increases world-system status, privatization and competition in the telecommunications, democracy and cosmopolitanism (Guillen, Suarez, 2005). In “Explaining the Global Digital Divide: Economic, Political and Sociological Drivers of Cross-National Internet Use,” Guillen and Suarez, detail the differences between countries is more evident in underdeveloped countries in Africa, Central America, South Asia, and even in some developed countries. The digital divide is prevalent because of economic, regulatory and sociopolitical characteristics of countries and their evolution over time. (Guillen, Suarez, 2005) What people fail to realize is that although technology has been tapped to bring the world together, lack of access in some areas has driven it apart. While many have used the internet to further or start their life, the internet continues to discriminate a put up a wedge of those less educated and lower classed. The studies presented in Guillen and Suarez research differ in the causes of the digital divide, from economic disparities, lack of telecommunication software, to political, and social factors. Guillen and Suarez believe that the three variables of socioeconomic status, the existence of an enabling infrastructure, and the cost of access are the driving force of widen the gap. With innovations in mobile and telecommunications, the access to telephone lines and broadband lines has been thoroughly researched to support the difference in socioeconomic statuses.

What Guillen and Suarez exquisitely point out is the dependency on advanced countries on technology and their contribution to bridging the gap of developed and less developed countries. “underdevelopment as the result of a country’s integration into the modern “world-system” created by the capitalist development of Western Europe and its more successful offshoot colonies, e.g. the United States, Canada or Australia.” (Guillen, Suarez, 2005) There have been only a handful of studies to show evidence indicating that the use of Internet tools in development programs organized by international aid agencies tends to produce dependency and uneven growth. Government regulations of privatizing telecommunications operators would create competition and lead to lower prices resulting in a pathway to more access. “Africa and Latin America, Wallsten (2001) also found that privatization improved the performance of the telecommunications sector especially when combined with the separation of the regulatory authority from the incumbent telecommunications company. (Guillen, Suarez, 2005)

In his work “Addressing the Global Digital Divide and its Impact on Educational Opportunity,” Drew Tiene makes a connection between access to information and education. He theorizes that lack of information through the internet has a direct effect on access to opportunities (Tiene, 2002). He largely attributes this disparity to the ample growth of educational resources found online but also some significant tools provided through the web such as online degree providing educational institutions. It is easy to point out the differences between developed and underdeveloped countries that have invested in putting ICT into education. Tiene looks further by detailing the disparities of countries where the wealthy is outpacing the rest of their nation’s population of access to new telecommunications and ICTs.

Disparities within nations

Disparities within nations

The costs of internet

The costs of internet

Both of these both charts illustrated from Tiene’ s report is disparities within nations in Table 2, and Table 3 show the costs of internet access in underdeveloped countries. Tiene uses surveyed results from the Global Information Infrastructure Commission, as to what the causes of the digital divide were. The top seven factors indicated were differences in cultures that contributed to the socioeconomic levels that have kept people from adopting new technologies. Another factor where language, where it can serve as a significant barrier where resources are readily available in English but are not as opened to other languages. Poverty of course is a crucial factor that has contributed tremendously to not only the gap for the digital divide but also the political and economic infrastructure of that country. As related to this research, underdeveloped telecommunications infrastructures limit ICT access, and their expansion and improvement will open up opportunities for the information-deprived. (Tiene, 2002) Other factors include bureaucracy, political corruption, and protectionism, as “Government regulations can make the
Part of the factors that Tiene points out to these disparities besides political implications within developing countries is the issue of costs for internet services. Within less developing countries, the cost of internet services is significantly higher in industrialized countries.

Telecommunications environment so restrictive that reform is discouraged.” (Tiene, 2002)

In their study “An Initiative to Narrow the Digital Divide,” the authors evaluate the preliminary results of initiative implemented by the U.S. to narrow the technological gap between states as well as worldwide (Sipior, Ward & Marzec, 2002). As with the other scholarly articles used, the contributing factors that have widened the gap in the digital divide gap include, income, age, education, race, household type, and location. As pointed out in the information from NTIA and other statistical sources. In order to bridge the gap in underdeveloped countries, changes need to be made to the infrastructure where access is provided including reliable sources of electrical energy have to be provided. Another contributing factor includes the telecom infrastructure where .8 Billion people have access to phone lines. (Sipior, Marzac, Ward, 2002) Solutions that the government is trying to make are to promote competition and promotion by providing PCs at a much lower cost, and free internet access. The U.S. government is seeking to close the divide through legislation that provides incentives to internet providers.(Sipior, Marzac, Ward, 2002) The data presented in the study is particularly telling about the current state of technological exposure in America as well in other countries, and how it correlates to a country’s economic status or use or democracy.

Case Study

As Meng-Chun and Gee San assess in their cases study on bridging the global digital divide, “differing from previous studies that look at the internet popularity, this paper focuses on the speed of diffusion of such technologies over the period from 1997 to 2002 in order to highlight its role as a critical driving force in enhancing the social learning of a country (Meng-Chun & Gee San, n.d.).” The drive for more telecommunications in global cities, much attention is given to connecting “powerful cities” but leaving out unwanted places affected by socioeconomic statuses. Connections from global to local cities are being done by private firms and investments. In such developing countries in Latin America such as Brazil, Sao Paolo, has modernized its city, implanting gentrified spaces of the city center that have been heavily supported by intense infrastructural investments from state and private firms. More than 83 million of Brazil’s 194 million people have access to the Internet, according to the latest data from the pollster Ibope Nielsen Online. “Information technology alone represents $112 billion, 4.5% of Brazil’s GDP and the seventh largest market globally,” said Sergio Pessoa, an executive of the Brazilian Association of Information Technology and Communication (BRASSCOM). “We had 11% growth last year.” (France-Prasse, 2012) In other countries across the world, the emergence into the high tech industry is helping to push India by way of Bangalore into the forefront. Replicas of California’s Silicon Valley have duplicated in developing countries like Bangalore, Taiwan, Israel, and Finland. Bangalore is the science and technology capital of India’ houses some of the leading institutions in the world such as the Indian Institute of Science, Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), and a range of corporations engaged in Information Technology, Biotechnology, Life Sciences, Avionics, Engineering and Machine Tools, both in the public and private sectors.( IIMB, 2003) This data is key at helping to identify not only how technologically deprived countries can enhance their capabilities, but also serves as a great tool for tracking the cause for how internet based telecommunications have been able to exponentially lap the countries that were left behind.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the sum of the essay presents the contemporary data on the digital gap between countries. The belief that this new trend of dramatic discrepancy between socio-economic statuses of nations can be attributed to globalization is a common one. This does not change the urgent need for global technology leaders to take part in bridging the gap between standard global internet use and that of underdeveloped nations. This paper shows support of a distinct connection between the lack of information through limited telecommunication sources, specifically the internet, and despondency. With the aid of scholarly literature, research, and studies. The literature and the case study provide evidence and solutions that will help to bridge the gap of the digital divide, such as expanding the information infrastructure, increase access by creating lower costs for internet access, attention towards rural and poor areas, and investment in ICT for education in underdeveloped and developing countries. The author’s personal interpretation of these results is that implantation of internet friendly policy in third world countries, as well as initiatives to get the needed technological devices in the hands of the people living in these countries will play a significant role in enhancing their economic status, increase access by improving markets, and reduce the cost of service, especially for Internet access.

References

Digital Nation, 21st Century America’s Progress toward Universal Broadband Internet Access. (2010). NTIA.Retrieved from http://www.ntia.doc.gov/files/ntia/publications/ntia_internet_use_report_feb2010

Guillen, M. F. & Suarez, S. L. (2005). Explaining the Global Digital Divide: Economic, Political and Sociological Drivers of Cross-National Internet Use. Social Forces 84(2), 681-708. Oxford University Press. Retrieved November 11, 2012, from Project MUSE database.

France-Presse, Agence. (2012). Brazil’s High-Tech Industry Urged to Go Global. Industry Week. Retrieved from http://www.industryweek.com/information-technology/brazils-high-tech-industry-urged-go-global

High-Tech Bangalore in Emerging India. (n.d) Indian Institute of Management Bangalore. Retrieved from http://www.iimb.ernet.in/pgp-admissions/International/hi-tech-bangalore

ICT Facts and Figures. (Table 1) (2013). ITU. Retrieved from http://www.itu.int/ITU-D/ict/facts/material/ICTFactsFigures2013.pdf

Meng-Chun Liu. , & Gee San, (n.d.). Social learning and digital divides: A case study of internet technology diffusion. Proceedings of the Fourth Workshop on Knowledge Economy and Electronic Commerce, 374-388.

Potashnik, M. (2012). The international gap in technology. Retrieved from http://education.stateuniversity.com/pages/2124/International-Gap-in-Technology.html

Sipior, J. C., Ward, B. T., & Marzec, J. Z. (2002). An initiative to narrow the digital divide: preliminary results. ECIS, 1287-1296.

Tiene, D. (2002). Addressing the global digital divide and its impact on educational opportunity. Educational Media International, 211-222. doi: 10.1080/09523980210166440

Table 2 and Table 3. Tiene, D. (2002). Addressing the global digital divide and its impact on educational opportunity. Educational Media International, 211-222. doi: 10.1080/09523980210166440

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