The other side of the Facebook wall. The Digital Gap.

I am going to talk about a topic that, at least in my experience, has not been given the importance it should have, both politically and academically. I never see this on the news and I haven treated this topic in class neither, but the digital gap is actually, in my opinion, one of the biggest social-economical problems of the 21 century.digital-gap-2.jpg

The digital gap is a concept developed around the development of computational and information technologies, taking into account the digital distance that the developed countries are getting in relation to the undeveloped or developing countries.

This digital gap is at the end and addition to the industrial gap and it will push the third world even further, as it has already done, from our world. Furthermore, in my opinion,  this distance is creating two different societies, in every possible aspect,  we consume, produce, behave and even think in a completely different way.

Economically for example, nowadays it is not only that an individual of Africa doesn’t have and will never have by itself the capital capacity to generate a business able to compete with a first world company, it is that if the individuals living in this countries need to know, or at least hire someone who knows, what is Excel, and they don’t nor they have the possibility of knowing.

The point that I want to make is that in the world that we live now, in order to try to eliminate the third world,  the solution doesn’t  consist only about in money it is also about reducing this digital gap.

In order to do that we have to divide the digital gap problem in tree different focus of action, according to Kemly Camacho this tree sections are:

Infrastructure

This is problem is very similar to the one created by industrial gap, this is the lack of digital infrastructure that the undeveloped and developing countries have. The lack of infrastructure is not only related to the digital terminals such as computers or phones. The important problem is the great infrastructures that need to be installed in this countries, this is essentially the installation of backbone cabling and national servers.

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The training and education method

The spreading of the know-how is another big challenge. It is not only important to have the possibility to use Excel but it is also vital to understand and be able use the digital resources.  In order to reduce the digital gap is vital to match the capacity of the users with the digital possibilities.

The barriers in the use of the digital resources

This is the least obvious problem. The developing countries have serious difficulties in reaching the information and services provided by the digital resources. One of the biggest barriers in some countries is the language, since undeveloped countries with unique languages and without one of the common spoken languages as a second official language  have a hard time reaching the information on the internet. This difficulties the self formation of the user, key in the development of  the digital knowledge.

This challenges need to face real solutions, internationally driven policies that face the problems listed above. Nowadays this are the key some of the actors in the fight to reduce the technological breach.

The biggest international organ dedicated to the reduction of the digital gap is the United Nations Information and Communication Technologies Task Force. Created in 2001 this organ is mostly dedicated to the counseling of the of undeveloped countries in the policy designing in relation to the digital development and the promotion of international partnerships between governments, the private sector, civil society organisations, the academic community and donors and investors.

As you can see this political response to the digital gap has not been very effective. A more serious response is needed, with an development plan and a serious budget to spend in infrastructures and formation.

In therms of private organizations we have organizations like Close The Gap that is focused on the re-utilization of donated digital equipment, transporting it to undeveloped countries and setting up formation centers were the population is able to learn and use the digital technologies. They have also a section of software development to adapt the digital resources to every specific country.

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As you can see, there neither the awareness or the international response are substantial. We need to start seeing the problem that the digital gap proposes and act accordingly with it. If we don´t do this the countries that haven´t reached the technological development will be separated in such a way that they will be irreconcilable with the developed world and therefore mired into poverty.

4 comments

  1. cattybradley · ·

    Interesting topic – I agree we don’t hear about the digital gap between the developed world and the developing world. However, I think it is important to note how digital infrastructure can be applied in the developing world in ways that are different than the developed world. For example, M-Pesa has allowed for a very innovative and non-traditional banking system in countries in Africa. I think to close the gap innovative solutions are needed, rather than simply sharing existing modern technologies.

  2. bishopkh1 · ·

    Cool post. It’s definitely a huge problem, and seeing the progress we’ve made with technology, it’s so clear that emerging countries will only continue to lag behind without digital. The point on infrastructure is really interesting because I think it’s where a lot of big tech companies have tried to help. Google with Project Fiber, Amazon with their drones, and Facebook with Internet.org have all tried to do something to help this, but it doesn’t look like any of those have provided long term solutions, yet. It’s a topic many big companies know they can plan a role in, and I’m curious to see if any of them will be successful in doing so.

  3. alinacasari · ·

    Interesting post! This is something I’ve briefly considered, but never really had a concrete solution or idea about how to overcome. I completely agree that some sort of action needs to be taken, but I don’t know the most feasible way to do so. It’s hard when some of these countries are struggling with other necessities so then this gap is not the main concern. I think programs like Close the Gap will make a difference, but it just seems like it’s going to take a long time. In the meantime, I feel like the problem is only going to get worse.

    It seems like out of the three ways of action that infrastructure is the one most people have been focusing on (or maybe that’s mostly just what I hear/read about). I do think that has to be the first step, but also we should simultaneously work on overcoming some of those digital barriers that you mentioned. I think that given enough time and resources that is a feasible change that can happen!!

  4. Really really intrigued by the concept of the “two societies” that are developing. The issue, as you alluded, is that there is little international motivation to address these issues. Local governments lack the resources, and there is little political motivation for developed nations to contribute other than the interest of “goodwill”.

    I’m glad to see that there are some international charities paving the way, but as other bloggers have commented, the burden will really fall upon private corporations to pick up the slack in the short term. It seems like Google’s Project Loon (http://www.solveforx.com/loon/ ) might be the closest, since they’re actually making progress toward spreading the internet to rural parts of the world and about to go live. This however raises only further issues about how to get these people consistent access to devices and electricity…This is going to be a long battle.

    Nice post, though, really got me thinking about this problem!

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