The world may feel more connected than ever, however the truth is far from it.
In the last 30 years a global digital divide has emerged, as the quality and accessibility to the internet drastically varies worldwide. In 2015, Internet World Stats reported that 46.4% of the worlds population is an internet user. However the regional usage drastically differs, such as 87.3% of North America is online compared to 28.6% of Africa.
The definitions and causes of this ‘global digital divide’ are highly debated. Mauro F. Guillén notes that the internet has developed unevenly throughout the world as a “result of the economic, regulatory and sociopolitical characteristics of countries and their evolution over time”. Jon Crowcroft also believes that the digital divide is not a binary segregation, but a more complicated issue. For example just the other day the WiFi in halls cut out and therefore I wasn’t able to complete this blog post. So does this mean I was disadvantaged as I lost my internet access, which consequently disrupted my education?
This divide raises many ethical questions. Crowcroft argues that the internet should be a universal right as it is an extension of free speech and information. However this would be difficult for developing countries to provide. It could be argued that the internet is segregating the world further apart, as advancing technologies have caused developing countries to lag behind. To bridge the gap, in 2013 six technology companies launched Internet.org, whose goal was to expand internet access to those without it (read more here).
A very interesting and visual site that delves into the causes and ways to bridge the digital divide- http://www.scidev.net/global/icts/data-visualisation/digital-divide-data-interactive.html
Internet World Stats- http://www.internetworldstats.com/stats.htm
Mauro F. Guillén quote- http://sf.oxfordjournals.org/content/84/2/681
Jon Crowcroft interview- https://soundcloud.com/scidev-net/final-jon-crowcroft-digital-divide-mixdown