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Digital Divide, ICT
and the 50x15 Initiative
ICT - Information Communications
Digital Divide, or the digital split, is a social issue referring
to the differing amount of information between those who have
access to the Internet (specially broadband access) and those who
do not have access. The term became popular among concerned
parties, such as scholars, policy makers, and advocacy groups, in
the late 1990s.
Dimensions of the
Broadly speaking, the difference is not necessarily determined
by the access to the Internet, but by access to ICT (Information
and Communications Technologies) and to Media that the different
segments of society can use. With regards to the Internet, the
access is only one aspect, other factors such as the quality of
connection and related services should be considered. Today the
most discussed issue is the availability of the access at an
The problem is often discussed in an international context,
indicating certain countries such as the U.S. are far more
equipped than other developing countries to exploit the benefits
from the rapidly expanding Internet.
The digital divide is not indeed a clear single gap which
divides a society into two groups. Researchers report that
disadvantage can take such forms as lower-performance computers,
lower-quality or high price connections (i.e. narrowband or
dialup connection), difficulty of obtaining technical assistance,
and lower access to subscription-based contents.
The idea that some information and communication
technologies are vital to quality civic life is not new. Some
suggest that the Internet and other ICTs are somehow transforming
society, improving our mutual understanding, eliminating power
differentials, realizing a truly free and democratic society, and
In many countries, access to the telephone system is considered
such a vital element that governments implement various policies
to offer affordable telephone service. Unfortunately some
countries lack sufficient telephone lines.
Literacy is arguably another such element, although it is not
related to any new technologies or latest technological devices.
It is a very widely shared view in many societies that being
literate is essential to one's career, to self-guided learning,
to political participation, and to Internet usage.
There are a variety of arguments regarding why closing the
digital divide is important. The major arguments are the
1. Economic equality
Some think that the access to the Internet is a basic
component of civil life that some developed countries aim to
guarantee for their citizens. Telephone is often considered
important for security reasons. Health, criminal, and other types
of emergencies might indeed be handled better if the person in
trouble has an access to the telephone. Another important fact
seems to be that much vital information for people's career,
civic life, safety, etc. are increasingly provided via the
Internet. Even social welfare services are sometimes administered
and offered electronically.
2. Social mobility
Some believe that computer and computer network play an
increasingly important role in their learning and career, so that
education should include that of computing and use of the
Internet. Without such offerings, the existing digital divide
works unfairly to the children in the lower socioeconomic status.
In order to provide equal opportunities, governments might offer
some form of support.
Some think that the use of the Internet would lead to a
healthier democracy in one way or another. Among the most
ambitious visions are that of increased public participation in
election and decision making processes.
4. Economic growth
Some think that the development of information
infrastructure and active use of it would be a shortcut to
economic growth for less developed nations. Information
technologies in general tend to be associated with productivity
improvements. The exploitation of the latest technologies may
give industries of certain countries a competitive advantage.
The accessibility of rural areas to the Internet is a test
of the digital divide. But nowadays there are different ways to
eliminate the digital divide in rural areas. Use of Power lines
(PLT and PLC) and satellite communications offer new
possibilities of universal access to the Internet, and lack of
telephone lines will not limit access. Lower access prices are
required to bridge the ICT divide.
Disabilities of potential Internet users constitute another
type of divide and care should be taken to avoid that persons
with disabilities be left out of Internet access.
"The power of the Web
is in its universality.
Access by everyone regardless of disability
is an essential aspect."
-- Tim Berners-Lee, W3C Director and
inventor of the World Wide Web
International Links, Resources and
The Digital Divide can and should be made smaller. This idea has found eco in many
private and public organizations. One of the companies that has taken an active and
leading role in this effort is AMD. The "50x15" initiative consists of AMD’s support
to empower 50 percent of the world’s population with Internet access by 2015.
Hector Ruiz, Chairman of the Board, President and CEO of AMD has stated that:
“Technology is only as powerful as it is accessible. Broader access brings
education, information, and a sense of community that can help combat AIDS,
malnutrition, ignorance and neglect. The power of a connected and enlightened
world community is just beginning.”
Learning Labs from the 50x15 Initiative are already present in Brazil, China,
the Caribbean, and in Africa (Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Mali, Mauritius,
Rwanda, South Africa, Uganda) and many more are in planning stage.
The 50x15 Initiative
Countries that already have
over 50% Internet Penetration
››› INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATION
TECHNOLOGIES - ICT
The Information Society
United Nations E-Government
Readiness Report 2005
Download this pdf report
ranking the 191 Member States of the UN according to
composite index of e-readiness based on website assessment,
infrastructure and human resource endowment.
APC - The Association for Progressive
and communication technologies, ICT adoption
and implementation at national, regional and global levels.
African Internet Connectivity
and Communication Technologies (ICTs) Telecommunications,
Internet and Computer Infrastructure in 54 countries &
territories in Africa.
Press Release on the ICT
Index - Country Ranking List
Broadband Usage Keeps Growing in the
››› BRIDGING THE DIGITAL
Education and e-Learning )
Foundation, Inc. is a nonprofit charitable organization dedicated
to encouraging the growth, development and distribution of free,
and to providing the full content of these wiki-based projects to
the public free of charge.
International Development Research
IDRC is a
Canadian public corporation that works in close collaboration
with researchers from the developing world in their search for
to build healthier, more equitable, and more prosperous
The African Virtual University
Blackboard is a provider of
enterprise software and ASP services to the education
industry. The product line consists of five software applications bundled in two
suites, the Blackboard Academic Suite (TM) and the Blackboard Commerce
Suite (TM). Blackboard’s clients include colleges, universities, schools and
other education providers, as well as textbook publishers and student-focused
merchants that serve education providers and their students.
Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI)
coordination with organizations around the world, pursues accessibility
of the Web through five primary areas of work: technology, guidelines, tools,
education and outreach, and research and development.
featuring the basic concepts of accessibility and the specific
techniques for helping Internet access to people with disabilities.
World Economic Forum
Economic Forum is an independent international organization
committed to improving the state of the world by engaging leaders in
partnerships to shape global, regional and industry agendas.
Equal Access to Software and
Information - EASI
mission is to serve as a resource by providing information and guidance
in the area of access-to-information technologies by individuals with disabilities.
EASI collects information about developments and advancements within the
adaptive computer technology field and spreads that information to colleges,
universities, K-12 schools, libraries and into the workplace.
Latin America Cooperation Portal
on the Information Society.
Close the Gap
wanting to replace their computers, can
donate their used IT-equipment to Close the Gap.
Social, Economical and Political
Web site of
The Global Social Change Research Project.
››› THE KNOWLEDGE
International Websites )
European Union and the
Asia-Europe Young Leaders
United Nations Economic Commission
OECD - Organisation for Economic Co-operation and
The ICAAP Global Change
A series of reports on
Global Social Changes.
The Global Digital Divide
The "digital divide" between rich and poor nations is
narrowing fast, according to a World Bank report.
Digital Divide Network
Wikipedia - the Free
Further reading on the Digital Divide
››› ECONOMIC GROWTH
International Economic Developement Organizations
African Development Bank
Asian Development Bank
Asian Development Bank Institute
Caribbean Development Bank
Development Bank of Southern Africa
Inter-American Development Bank
Islamic Development Bank