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
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.
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
The OLPC software is a free Linux distribution called Sugar with
software such as teaching English and Spanish. It has a picture
language interface to work with people not familiar with computers or
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.
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
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
- Use the Internet to solve Geographical divide issues. Connect
with people independant of your location.
- Use VOIP telephony to speak with the world. Unlimited world
landline call plans exist.
- Use the Internet and websites to reach world markets. In 2008
there were 1.6 billion Internet users.
- Access education resources from across the globe. Free Internet
education services exist.
- Consider which services are now cheaper using the Internet.
Worldwide e-commerce, share trading, Online auctions etc.
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