The term ‘digital divide’ refers to the connectivity gap, meaning the gap between regions and demographics that have access to today’s communications and information technology, and those that have limited access or no access at all. This technology can comprise telephone, TV, personal computers, as well as the internet.
Before the twentieth century, the term referred mainly to the division between people or regions with telephone access and those without it. After the late 1990’s though, its use primarily started to describe the divide between those with and without access to the internet, especially broadband.
This divide usually exists between people in cities and rural areas, between educated and uneducated sections of society, socioeconomic groups, and the more as well as less industrially developed countries. Even among a population with some access to today’s technology, the divide can be apparent in the form of slower personal computers, lower-speed Wi-Fi connections, and restricted subscription-based content access.
In this day and age, the digital divide is a reality even in developed nations. For instance, not all areas in the United States of America have access to the broadband internet. Even as technology keeps becoming more and more affordable and internet access keeps expanding across the country, studies have revealed that millions of Americans still lack a cheap and reliable internet broadband connection. Many of them who lack the access to it reside in rural areas.
The digital divide affects peoples’ lives in many different ways. Since they are deprived of access to the internet, some of them have to rely on public internet access spots. However, this divide deprives them of job or education opportunities.
While adoption of smartphone technology is growing even among low-income and minority groups, data plans’ rising costs and the complexity of doing tasks as well as transactions on phones can hinder the closing of the connectivity gap in some ways. Still, the US takes steps to tackle the digital divide. The best internet service providers have a commitment to reach out to underserved or unserved areas in the country to the Federal Communications Commission. They also offer low-cost or best internet service that unserved or underserved subscribers can afford.
Besides, major internet providers take initiatives to improve the digital literacy of rural or low-income people. Some of them even provide free laptops or computers to those who do not have the same, to access the web.