Digital Divide: Bridgeable or not yet?

As a result of the rapid Internet expansion and its constantly growing potential, the gap between the developed and the developing world has been intensified adding one more aspect. While the citizens of western societies have the world information at their fingertips the citizens of the developed word are striving to overcome the dark ages of information deprivation due to lacking technological infrastructure.

International organizations, entrepreneurs and leading thinkers have focused to address this gap and sooth this inequality. Numerous inventions and patents from custom-made laptops to solar Wi-Fi, were introduced to improve the information breach. Despite the virtuousness of the incentive I am skeptical towards these noble attempts, not because I do not believe in creating change and fostering development but because I distrust the strategic framework. It seems that when implementing these initiatives the executives fail to spot the obvious and design short-sided plans.

The efforts to bridge the digital divide remind me of the development and democratization processes that do not have the expected results and equipment worth millions of dollars remains unused or abandoned in some storage room. Giving away mobile phones, laptops and access to Internet causes no effect if there is no supporting structure to educate people how to make the most of these resources. Even if the foundation was in place, I highly doubt that developing markets are ready to utilize these opportunities when meeting their basic needs, such as nourishment and health, is not a given.

Like democratization, digital literacy requires organization, resources and most importantly time. Moreover, for any technology application to be effective an overarching strategy based on the people’s capabilities is crucial. Without a clear objective, arbitrary actions and great ideas are pointless. To prove my argument, I will use John Bernoff’s POST format example where he says that knowing the strengths and weaknesses of your audience is key to define your objective, followed by strategy and last by implementing technology. In my understanding, the existing initiatives to bridge the digital divide are following a bottom-up approach, creating new technologies to fit the people rather than the opposite.

Projects that have not been successful and raise questions about their efficiency at first place, should be evaluated on a different basis. It is not about whether an initiative works but whether it is the right project for the right people. Smaller steps would bring better results and increase communication and information access in the long run. It must be understood that people are incapable to comprehend, appreciate and incorporate radical technological solutions in their daily routine. Not to mention the digital divide is not only an issue between developed and developing countries but also an issue occurring within developed societies that don’t seem able to overcome the gap that quickly either.

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