When reflecting on how technology came into my life, I am fortunate enough to have had an environment around me that taught me how to navigate technology. Many people around the world didn’t have that opportunity, and in turn, they have been left in the dark. Being apart of Generation Z means that you grew up while the world was being taken over with technology. From your first razor cell phone to the mysterious “cloud,” we were, and still are, constantly being bombarded with “the next big thing” in technology. We have seen basic communication change, and this has made me into the person I am today; someone who has had the opportunity to attend college, be apart of the social media takeover, and to be a step away from a phone or computer at all times. All the while, the digital divide has been growing just as technology has. Now, despite the vast knowledge our world has about the digital divide, it seems like bridging the gap isn’t going to occur anytime soon.
As a student and someone who has to opportunity to gain entry to the online community, I see myself as an important part of the digital divide. Austin, Texas is a city that is occupied with hip, up-to-date, young students and professionals. The fact that I live in this city and go to college says something. It portrays that I have the opportunity to be a part of a society where people are online and “connected.” When everywhere you go people are always online, you are not exposed to what things are like even a neighborhood away.
The Pew Research Center states, “15 percent of American adults have no access to the Internet. Thirty percent lack broadband access at home, with rates lowest among the poor, the elderly and racial minorities.” These numbers are astronomically worse in third world countries. Some people in the United States and even more people across the world are not able to reach the online society that is the Internet. How does someone who doesn’t have access to a computer know how to type? How does someone who doesn’t know how to type figure out how to navigate the Internet? How does someone who doesn’t know how to navigate the Internet help himself or herself prosper in today’s society? Karen Mossberger, director of the public affairs school at Arizona State University, says, “It’s virtually impossible to look for a job without access to the Internet.”
Growing up in a school that had computers and necessary resources for the students, with parents who were some of the first computer and cell phone consumers, was something that was the norm for me. My reality is a far off dream to so many people in the world, and I had the ability to see the gap between what my reality is versus others’. During this growth of technology, a paradox was ever so present in my mind. Here in the United States I was part of a community that had the same opportunities that I did, when traveling to visit family in Nicaragua multiple times a year, I saw another world. A world where the idea of a computer was far off, and getting a good education was solely for the people that could afford the private American school. This reality in Nicaragua was isolating to most of the country’s population. Not many people in the United States, and specifically Austin, know what this looks like. When I loose my phone or my computer breaks, and it feels like the end of the world, this reality is in the back of my mind. How does it feel when your Internet is not working? It’s awful.
I look back and feel so grateful that I have had the opportunity to have access to the Internet as I have pursued my education and have grown as a person thus far. I am someone who has had the privilege to grow up where Internet access was never a question; it has been something that has been expected ever since elementary school. Seeing the other side of the digital divide has made me who I am and who I present myself to society as.