At a time possibly more paralyzing than any other in the history of humankind, our planet has never been more divided. We're politically polarized, disconnected in so many ways, and all around fractured as a society.
But I'm not writing this to talk politics, or Zoom meetings vs. face-to-face. I'll let others address that. What I want to take a deeper look at in this post is a different divide - The digital divide.
Call it a global crisis or not, the global digital divide has expanded the gap in communication between less fortunate areas and more developed nations.
In short, the global digital divide refers to the massive gap between access to the internet and mobile devices. Despite a world appearing up to date in digital technology, we still have a very large population to which all of this is still foreign.
There are different types of digital divides, and reasons we can attribute this to. Here in the United States, we have very few areas so remote that they lack the ability to have internet. However, we do have individuals who choose not to be digitally involved for various reasons. We also have less fortunate communities without the financial resources to obtain a lasting digital connection. Similarly, these gaps undoubtedly exist in all well developed nations.
But when I bring up the global digital divide, I am referring specifically to nations around our world that are geographically isolated or otherwise less fortunate. They need additional resources to connect to the internet and get a hold of devices on which to use the internet. This is where we need to come in and bridge the gap for those communities who would benefit from increased access.
Nearly half of people in the world don't have access to the internet. While 87% of citizens of developed countries use the internet, only 47% do in developing countries, and just 19% in least developing countries.
There are definitely some other reasons for the divide, reasons that are not necessarily bad. For example, if a particular culture chooses to live with limited contact to the outside world, I'm not saying we shouldn't respect that. What I would argue, however, is that a good number of the 4.3 billion people across the globe lacking internet accessibility would benefit from it.
In times like these especially, the internet doesn't just represent how we think of it. Entertainment, news, work email, etc... Yes, we use the internet for these things, but that's because of the culture we live in. Less developed societies may not need the internet for these functions, but the could benefit from it in other ways.
Communication is the most relevant of these ways. We rely on our cell phones and mobile data for a lot of our communication, but we have to remember, in many of these countries, cell service may even be questionable. Internet access is an efficient way to ensure communication with family members and friends across the globe.
Productivity in areas could also be way easier with access to the internet and compatible devices. How many things do you do every day that are made easier by the internet? When it comes to commerce, healthcare, entertainment, and so much more, the internet has become essential in our daily lives, and could allow others' to become more efficient as well.
Most of all though, I think about the times that we're living in and the EXTREME importance of the internet for communication during them. Obviously, not everybody is going to want to spend time every morning scrolling their Twitter feed or snapping bathroom selfies for the gram, but communication now is essential nonetheless.
How is information spread globally when it comes to a pandemic? Might knowing how other countries are faring be important in a health crisis? So many in desolate areas are still feeling effects of the pandemic through travelers, yet have no information about it. And this is just one particularly important reason for these areas to stay in contact with the rest of the world.
I'm not writing this to say that I have all of the answers on bridging this gap. I can only imagine fixing this global issue will take an immense amount of time and resources. It will have to start with getting in some of these less developed countries to introduce the concept.
What I am trying to communicate though is that there is still a need for the internet in many areas where access is lacking. Not all areas of the world who don't have the internet are people who want nothing to do with it. It is a tool that could be very useful in so many ways, and we ought to make more efforts to introduce it to these areas. Not only will they benefit, but the rest of the world will too, connecting with people all across the world, all of whom have something important to say.