What is the Internet doing for closing the digital divide?


Internet is available for those that desire it

The Internet is a useful tool with many forms of connection and applications to use. You can walk into a library and use the Internet for free including lessons. There can be free Internet connection at your school, university or workplace.  Free wireless Internet access is available from some restaurants, airports, hotels etc. Shopping centres often have Internet Kiosks available. 3G mobile phones can be used for Internet access directly or used as a modem for a computer. Large areas can also be covered with WiMAX wireless networking access. This is useful in rural less densely populated areas. Dial up Internet is available from most home phone lines for occasional use. Finally Internet access using satellite can be subsidized in certain countries. The Australian government will give $2750 for satellite Internet hardware where other connection methods are unavailable. This shows that a digital divide due to lack Internet access is unlikely with modern communication methods. 

VOIP telephony now allows cheap or free worldwide communications

VOIP telephony can be free or very low cost worldwide. Computer to computer video conferencing can be performed for free. Wifi computers like Apple iTouch can use VOIP to talk with little power consumption. Regular telephones can use VOIP with a adapter connection to the Internet network. Worldwide unlimited VOIP plans are now only 9 Euros per month.  VOIP also offers the possibility to have local number presence in many countries allowing local calling back to you. Non Internet users can now speak across the country or the globe to VOIP users for the price of a local call.

Cheaper computing hardware

The price of technology to access the Internet is falling. Computers can now be bought for $300 AUD. Gaming consoles can be used for Internet access. 3G phones with Internet capabilities can be bought outright for $200. Blackberry phone that include email can be bought for $250. A new range of Netbook computers and Mobile Internet Devices are lowering the cost of access.

The price of Internet access is falling an average of 14% per year (2005-2008 OECD). This is in a period where better and better Internet speed and download limits are given. Access to the Internet can be a shared resource for a family, work group, school, university, library, hotel, restaurant or community. This achieves greater Internet utilization and reduces the changes of a digital divide. 

One Laptop Per Child for computing in developing countries

One Laptop Per Child is a worldwide project to distribute computers in a non profit manner. There are over 1.2 million of these computers distributed including some in Australia. Each computer costs approximately $200 US to build. One rollout method used was to buy a laptop and give a laptop to the needy world. These computers come with grid networking allowing an organic geographical sharing of Internet access. Uruguay has over 200,000 OLPC computers distributed to primary school children.

The OLPC software is a free Linux distribution called Sugar with educational software such as teaching English and Spanish. It has a picture language interface to work with people not familiar with computers or language. This software can also run as a Live CD or USB distribution on older conventional computer hardware or second hand computers. Included with the software is an Internet browser with a simple home page, a list of educational links for more information and the ability to save bookmarks for later Internet use. With the OLPC model the computer hardware, computer software and educational needs required to use the Internet are met.

Internet flexibility catering for use around the world

The Internet is potentially available to all independent of age, race, education, language or religion. Less than one days training can get you on to the Internet. Internet Browsers are available over 70 languages. There are Internet tools that can translate language. Email can now be hosted for free with access from any Internet access site with a browser. The price of an Internet presence can be free with simple messaging or more formal such as your own website. The location of a website can be in many possible places around the globe which can bypass restrictive local governance. Basic hosting of a website costs less than $100 AUD per year. This places the individual on a level playing field with big enterprises. There are no more gatekeepers of information flow and exchange. Your ideas can be read, played and watched 24/7. Education via the Internet greatly reduces training expenses and allows for a worldwide student pool. Exchange of ideas can be done with instant messaging, wikis (collaborative website), articles, video, presentations, blogs (website log of events or commentary) or groups etc. Once on the Internet your social communication methods have greatly improved thereby breaking the digital divide.

From digital divide to technology social inclusion

Technology is available for those with disabilities to prevent lost access and a digital divide. Email, SMS and Twitter allow a much better communication experience for the deaf. Large monitors and screen readers allow the visually impaired continued access to computing. Voice recognition software assist those with mobility issues. Touch screens with picture interface can allow people without computer experience to work new technology applications.

Digital Divide Solutions

 

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