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Monday, November 28, 2005

The Digital Divide

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The digital divide

Blurb: "Only in the richest countries is Internet access widespread, and even there, it is mainly a male, upper-income group phenomenon," the report further went, "whose process of globalization is a two-edged sword --- cutting many people in, but also increasingly cutting many people out."

Six years ago, in an assignment for my Opinion Writing class, a Journalism 03 requirement, I brought up the widening gap of the haves and have-nots in terms of their access to Internet-ing (international networking). Such disparity between rich and poor found a politically correct term today - digital divide.

My assignment paper read, "The world is racing against a friendly opponent: Technological development. We are at a time of technological upsurge as manifested by the availability of services that make work less cumbersome and allow the processing of information at a less complicated manner. With the influx of devices, gadgets and gizmos that pave for short message services, electronic mails, facsimile transmissions, video conferencing and international networking, to name a few, people across borders become interconnected despite distances and time zones.

The paper I submitted mentioned of reports from Geneva, Switzerland prepared by the United Nations Human Development team which stated that "the Internet forms a significant part of the inequality of wealth that is opening up between the world's haves and have-nots."

The report carried with it a warning: "The world wide web has created a process of shrinking time and space, and deleting borders, linking people more closely than ever before, but such interconnectivity is very partial."

"Only in the richest countries is Internet access widespread, and even there, it is mainly a male, upper-income group phenomenon," the report further went, "whose process of globalization is a two-edged sword --- cutting many people in, but also increasingly cutting many people out."

Here in Cebu, one wage earner has to save his keeps over a period of from one to two years to be able to buy a computer unit and complete peripherals that the average US citizen could buy for the price of a month's salary. Another point raised is that eighty percent of the world's websites are written in English, the native language of just 10 percent of the world's population.

This friendly opponent - information and communications technology - sows inequality online as the poor cannot afford monthly Internet access fees. This scenario is more pronounced in developing countries.

During the Information and Communications Technology 2005 Summit here last June, commission chairman Virgilio Peña pointed out that in the Philippines, only four percent of the nearly 84 million population have access to technology.

While Peña agreed with
President Arroyo that more than the bringing of investments and creating of high value jobs, information technology should help uplift the condition of the poor, quoting a presidential speech that a total of 132,000 jobs were generated as of May in the ICT sector, 96 percent of the country's population are left on the other side of the divide - some not even able to ever key in their names onto a computer up to today.

Digital divide

The term implies that races are divided according to those who make greater use of, and derive greater benefit from, the Internet (the haves) and those who do not (the have-nots). By broad definition, the "haves" are presumed to be privileged whites and Asians and the "have-nots" are presumed to be underprivileged blacks and Hispanics.

Digital divide is closely related to the terms "proportional representation", "underrepresentation" and "disparate impact". As with these other terms, digital divide assumes that racial discrimination is both the cause and the effect; and that whites are primarily responsible for alleged racial discrimination.

Digital divide became a popular term during the first two Clinton presidencies when Bill Clinton was fond of proclaiming that grave disparities in Internet access had a disparate impact on minorities and needed to be "remedied" by government intervention. He also proclaimed a great many other grave disparities which were based on skin color, this according to Adversity.net.

Digital divide was coined to place in focus the need of poor countries to receive special treatment in the form of reduced computer costs and reduced Internet access fees.

The Internet summit, cyber terrorism

Recently an Internet summit was concluded in Tunis, Tunisia after tackling up the expansion of Internet access around the world, ending up with a promise to narrow the digital divide, but little in government funding to make this plan materialize.

In a wired report, the World Summit on Information Society was conceived to raise consciousness about the divide between the haves and the have-nots, and to raise money for projects to link up the global village particularly Africa and some parts of Asia and South America - still considered lagging behind in Internet literacy.

"Internet communications technology is an opportunity for development, but at the same time we do have the risk of digital divide," Yoshio Utsumi, Secretary General of the International Telecommunications Union, said in his speech during the summmit.

During the Association on Southeast Asian Nations forum on cyber terrorism last month, Philippine commissioner for information and communications technology Tim Diaz de Rivera noted that technology gaps among Southeast Asian nations are making it difficult for authorities to combat cyber terrorism. This hardship emerged as a new threat to regional security versus a nemesis considered as "transnational and borderless".

Long before the situation got a politically correct term, I already chose the topic for my assignment paper because I found the report somewhat bothersome.

Internet access is closely linked to wealth and education with 30 percent of Internet users worldwide put to have at least a university degree. Fully aware that production of hardware and software have been upgraded everyday due to the competition among big companies and corporations chiefly in developed countries, I noted and considered that the UNHD report got some truth to it on the consequences of inequality it would bring about to third world countries.

I find that digital divide poses a new challenge to achieving equality in the sharing of the world's wealth and resources, a new plane where conflict and oppression root as nations wage again that old battlecry to be treated equally in terms of opportunities, this time on a new sphere - that which is cyberspace. TEXTPRESS URSELF! 21-Nov-2005 11:57:40 "Your pen is too sharp when anger comes. Forget all about the Duhs and let those sorry events pass...go on forward." - DFBACUS; 22-Nov-2005 08:31:08 Gud am. Jus read ur column nw, n ystrdays isue. My concrn s bout my affair wd a 40yr old guy. im stl 24 ryt nw & i have a bf who wrk abroad; please send a copy to my email
fguapa@yahoo.com...thanks... 21-Nov-2005 20:20:27 "Tnx 4 publsng my cments n ur clumn 2d. My admiratn 2 ur MARRIAGE BED artcle. Am 2 eager 2 c u n prson bt i cnt jibe ur availablty. bt m sure smday wel met.- VIN; 23-Nov-2005 13:22:38 "Hi! Sory I ws unable 2 rply lst nyt. Dnt hav load. I hav read The Marriage Bed & found 8 gud. Thanks 4 putng my txt n ur column. U r indeed a gud writer. - EDUARD.

Happy 63rd birthday greetings to my father - Papa Vic - today! For your comments, reactions, suggestions and contributions, crank up my email addy:
pinay_mangatkatay@yahoo.com. Or text me at 09215323616. No indecent proposals, text scams, text chains please! Just your reactions! For past topics, please visit www.pinaymangatkatay.blogspot.com.