What is The Digital Divide?
The term “digital divide” has been used to describe the variations in access to the internet and internet-related technology (such as computers) available in various countries and even within developed countries. As the internet has become more ubiquitous in many countries across the globe, there is still significant variation in how much access people have to that resource. There is a clear trendline that correlates countries where poverty is more common with lack of access to the internet and undeveloped technology infrastructure in those countries.
The existence of a digital divide that separates developed countries from under-developed ones does not insinuate that the evolution of the internet has somehow created inequality in the world. In fact, the digital divide generally follows historical patterns of development and technology use among advanced countries such as Great Britain, the United States, and Japan versus more primitive countries such as those in Africa and South America.
However, one thing that becomes clear when considering what the Internet does provide. Those who have consistent internet access naturally have more opportunities to communicate, to learn, to do business, and to tap into the world’s resource network generally. A study published in 2014 showed a high correlation between median household income and average internet speed.
How Does The Internet Create Opportunity?
An Example from Honduras
There are myriad ways provided by the internet for overcoming poverty and creating opportunity. As I write this article, I am in Honduras helping a non-profit charity organization teach internet marketing skills to its students. A significant part of our program for raising money for the school involves building an online dental store that the students will operate. They will learn how to use search engine optimization and social media marketing, order fulfillment, customer service, technical writing, and other skills that would not be at their disposal were it not for the opportunity provided by the internet.
Perhaps the most critical component making the internet accessible to as much of the population as possible is the access to information and education that comes along with it. Learning has certainly evolved over the past twenty years. Instead of having to rely upon in-person class lectures that comprise programs requiring tuition and a flexible schedule, YouTube, Wikipedia, and other online learning tools have made taken education to anyone who can access their pages.
The ability for businesses to market their products on the internet has leveled the playing field, making profitability a high possibility for those who will put in the time to learn how to configure the internet to bring their customers to them. Techniques for attracting customers are described in detail for free or at a low cost on inbound marketing tutorial sites all over the web.
Because of the internet, a market has developed for entrepreneurs who build their businesses right out of their homes, including mommy bloggers who sell advertising, YouTubers who profit from simply filming what they do on a daily basis or who film demonstrations of themselves opening toys, ecommerce business owners who drop-ship products they market for sale using online stores, and a host of other creative ways to create a revenue machine using the internet.
Although the digital divide hasn’t caused the disparity of wealth between developed countries and those that lag behind, the expansion of the internet so that it’s more readily available in places that still do not have access can significantly alter the playing field, making it so that otherwise lower class or impoverished people can tap into opportunities that are currently being used to create wealth among the internet-enabled population.