"The information revolution has brought rapid transformation in the
economies of many industrialized countries, and sweeping promises of a
better quality of life for all. However, people living in the vast
majority of other countries have been left untouched and unimpressed by
this 'revolution' and its promises, since it has failed to improve
their lives." [ 1 ]
Within the boundaries of these countries, the promise of having access
to internet resources have been mostly to the ones who have the means.
What has been considered a technical tool for technical people are now
considered necessary resource. With all the information stored, be they
scientific, economic or political in content, access to these resources
must be provided at all levels.
One may ask: "What the heck does it have to do with me? Why should I be
aware of it?"
What Is The Digital Divide?
A good definition of the Digital Divide is best described in terms of
access to electronic resources. There is a good definition of it and
is shown below.
Simply put, "the digital divide" means that between countries and
between different groups of people within countries, there is a wide
division between those who have real access to information and
communications technology and are using it effectively, and those who
don't. [ 2
Basically, access to electronic resources start with having electronic
devices. And these devices can either be personal or community owned,
depending on location. Most often, these devices are personally owned
by mostly those who are financially capable. Leaving the others to
either go for shared or completely just forget it.
When the internet exploded in the 90's. The internet became one of the
primary source of information access. From its acceptance, a lot of
people from all walks of life started building information structures
on top of it. As a result, with all the information that were built,
devices used to access these information were elevated to the level of
a 'must have.'
With all these constructions, more and more people went and browsed the
internet. A quick information below show how many people connect to the
There are an estimated 429 million people online globally, but
even this staggering number is small when considered in context.
For example, of those 429 million, fully 41% are in North America.
Also, 429 million represents only 6% of the world's entire
population. Other facts:
When assessed by region, Internet use is dominated by North Americans:
- The United States has more computers than the rest of the world
- 41% of the global online population is in the United States &
- 27% of the online population lives in Europe, the Middle East and
(25% of European Homes are online)
- 20% of the online population logs on from Asia Pacific
(33% of all Asian Homes are online)
- Only 4% of the world's online population are in South America
[ 3 ]
Who's Not Online
Not everybody went and browsed the Net though. There were people, those
who were be considered not impressed or found it useful. And there were
those who simply didn't have the necessary means of getting access.
Results from a study shown below reveal interesting numbers.
The majority of adults without Internet access say they are likely to
stay away from the Internet. A third of non-users (32%) say they
definitely will not get Internet access. Another 25% of non-Internet
users say they probably will not venture online. Specifically, Pew
- Half the adults in America do not have Internet access and 57% of
those are not interested in going online.
- 32% of those without Internet access now say they definitely will
not get Internet access. That comes to about 31 million Americans.
- Another 25% of non-Internet users say they probably will not
- 12% of those without Internet access say that they definitely will
- 29% of non-Internet users say they probably will get Internet
- In contrast a substantial majority of those under 30 who say they
plan to get access, seniors who are not online show little inclination
of going online. The expense of going online still looms as a major
issue for them.
There are several facts that can lifted from it and one of it was the
issue of cost of going online. It is clear though that access to the
internet means an electronic device connected to the Web will incur
some cost. If cost is the primary determinant, a resulting class
structure will mostly like form around it, those who can and those who
cannot, called the less fortunates.
To be on the less fortunate side of the divide means
that there is less opportunity to take part in our
new information-based economy, in which many more
jobs will be related to computers. It also means that
there is less opportunity to take part in the education,
training, shopping, entertainment and communications
opportunities that are available on line. Now that a
large number of Americans regularly use the Internet
to conduct daily activities, people who lack access to
those tools are at a growing disadvantage.[ 5 ]
While Americans are becoming increasingly connected,
there are still significant discrepancies in access:
Blacks and Hispanics, for example, are less connected
anywhere than Whites are at home. Those groups with
lower access rates at work or home are much more likely
to use the Internet at a public place such as a school,
library, or community center. They are also more likely
to use the Internet to take courses or to conduct job
searches than other groups. [ 7
Filling The Gap
Fortunately, there are people and institutions who are commited in the
resolving the Digital Divide issue. As of today, there are a number of
organizations already working on narrowing the gap. One of the
organizations, named DDN contains
necessary information about it.
In this period of intense research and development (R&D) in the
Internet industry, and as content migrates to various information
devices, now is the time to develop the tools and guidelines that will
make it easier for everyone to use the Internet. History has shown that
striving to make technologies accessible to specific constituencies
leads to advances that benefit everyone. 
And there is of course, the President of the United States, who is very
concerned about the current situation. Encouraging all sectors
concerned to look into it and work up a way of addressing the issues.
Imagine if computers and Internet connections were as common in every
community as telephones are today; if all teachers had the skills to
open students' eyes and minds to the possibilities of new technologies;
if every small business in every rural town could join worldwide
markets once reserved for the most powerful corporations -- just
imagine what America could be.
Today is the opening of this national call to action. More than 400
organizations already have signed the pledge, and this is just the
beginning. For the rest of the year we will try to inspire hundreds,
indeed, thousands, more to sign up. We will work with Congress, across
party lines, to build support for budget and legislative initiatives to
meet these goals. And you heard Senator Mikulski outline some of them.
We have to be willing at the national level to do our part. This is a
worthy, federal investment.
The Bridge Called Linux
We do that when we help young people; when we help seniors in rural
America get medical advice over the Internet; when we create tools that
allow people with disabilities to open new doors of possibility. We
give our neighbors a chance to participate in this astonishing American
renaissance, we have done something that would have made Dr. King
proud. And the new technology of the digital age gives us a chance to
do it for more people, more quickly, more profoundly, than at any time
in human history. It's up to us to seize that opportunity.
Addressing the issue means coming up with several solutions needed to
close the gap. One of them is to look for ways that would have the
following effects on hardware, software and peopleware cost:
- Shift the cost away from the consumer.
- Lower the cost making it affordable.
- Minimize parts to near zero cost.
- Subsidize the cost.
- Use parts having zero cost.
With respect to locating parts with lowered cost on software. There is
one candidate the would evenly fit the requirement. As of this writing,
there are several OS are out there having those properties, but there
is only one having a large developer base and community scattered
around the globe that can act as support contacts. The name is called
Since the solution would require a large area of implementation with
a range of users dominated by simple and ordinary t