"The 'digital divide' is the term used to describe the growing gap, or social exclusion, between those who have access to the new services of the information society, and those who do not. This can be for a number of reasons: access to education or training, lack of money to buy the required equipment, or lack of access because of the problems obtaining the required communications links or services to get online. Some states have produced good research than others. But in many states the digital divide is currently viewed as a side-issue when compared to the more traditional problems of poverty and lack of education." (http://www.internetrights.org.uk/glossary.shtml)
"The term digital divide was first coined by Lloyd Morrisett, president of the Markle Foundation (Hoffman, et al., 2001). According to Hoffman et al., Morrisett vaguely conceived of a divide between the information-haves and have-nots. While Morrisett is credited with the term, the coupling of ICT and inequality is not new. This belief is also evident in Compaine's (2001) claim that: "Before there was a 'digital divide' there were the 'information haves and the have-nots." (Compaine, 2001).
The marked gap between the number of countries that are high-level ICT participants and the number that are low-level ICT participants has been referred to as the global digital divide (World Economic Forum, 2000). So, an uneven pattern or gap of ICT diffusion between industrialised countries and least developed countries exists as measured by the number of phone lines per inhabitants (teledensity), the number of Internet hosts, the number of Internet users, the number of households that own computers, and the number of cell phone users (Campbell, 2001).
The global digital divide, as well as the digital divide within countries, is also referred to as the 'technological divide' (Rice, 2001).
In a similar vein, according to an ITU (2002) report, the digital divide is not only defined in terms of lack of access to telephone services, but also in terms of lack of access to ICT.
OECD (OECD, 2001) roughly frames the digital divide as: "the gap between individuals, households, businesses and geographic areas at different socio-economic levels with regard both to their opportunities to access ICT and to their use of the Internet for wide variety of activities." So, the digital divide reflects various differences among and within countries.
According to Alcantara (2001), the digital divide is an integral part of a much broader and more intractable development divide. People in low-income countries are limited not only by their lack of access to modern means of communication and sources of information, but also by a complex network of constraints ranging from unresolved problems of poverty and injustice in their own societies (Alcantara, 2001).
Van Dijk (2003) distinguishes four kinds of barriers to access and the type of access they restrict:
1. Mental access": This type of access is restricted by a lack of elementary digital experience caused by lack of interest, computer anxiety, and unattractiveness of the new technology.
2. "Material access": This is restricted if there is no possession of computers and network connections.
3. "Skills access": A lack of digital skills caused by insufficient user-friendliness and inadequate education or social support limit skills access.
4. "Usage access": Lack of significant usage opportunities restrict usage access.
In the light of these definitions, there appears to be a converging viewpoint that the digital divide is not just about access to technology, nor necessarily of high cost, but has a socio-economic component (ITU, 2002).
Although it is beyond the scope of this study, it should be noted that the legal, political, and economic circumstances under which a country operates gives some indication of a country's e-Ready condition. Therefore, it is claimed that under the right circumstances, ICTs can greatly expand a country's economic growth, create or enhance a country's participation in global markets, dramatically improve human welfare and human capital, and promote political accountability (United Nations Development Programme, 2000)." (http://www.digitallearning.in/articles/article-details.asp?articleid=1618&typ=COVER%20STORY)
- To check developments, see our tag at http://del.icio.us/mbauwens/Digital-Divide
- Bridges.org (2002). Real Access / Real Impact Criteria. Cape Town: Bridges.org. 12 criteria for assessing true access and usage.
- Literature Review of Digital Literacy and Digital Divide at http://www.digitallearning.in/articles/article-details.asp?articleid=1618&typ=COVER%20STORY