With constant worldwide technological growth and development, discussion over the concept of a “digital divide” is always heating up. No matter where one lives, what color their skin is, what religion they practice, or how much money they have, they have a history within the digital divide. But, what is the digital divide? In a nutshell, it’s the rift in access to internet services and other benefits of technology that not only exists in the U.S., but all over the globe 🌎.
Personally, I was fortunate enough to have grown up on the upside of the digital divide. My public school district distributed laptops to every student, I had great wi-fi connection in my community, and my family could afford luxuries like TVs, iPhones, video game systems, and much more. However, the downside of the divide existed just minutes from my house. While I was enjoying internet access in the suburbs of Cleveland, the digital divide was causing problems for many within the city limits. This is no minor issue, as “roughly half of Cleveland households do not have broadband internet access. Advocates say this digital divide will gravely deepen economic inequality in the city” (Scruggs 3).
For most Americans, life without broadband access would be unfathomable. For people in underprivileged areas like those in Cleveland, this life is an everyday reality. One of those people is David Rosario. For him, his phone acts as a lifeline, because he “simply can’t afford to place his home online. His monthly phone bill is about $60. He estimates Wifi would add another $60 to his budget. Still, he’s saving for it. His phone is no substitute for a computer and home-based broadband” (Scruggs 7). Rosario’s situation is just a small portrayal of life for those in 53,000 Cleveland households lacking home-based internet access. Clearly, the digital divide has emotional emotional ties, making life extremely hard 😞 for underprivileged groups of people everywhere.
As previously stated, it’s not just America that suffers from the consequences of the digital divide. In Australia, the facts serve as all the needed evidence to indicate the significance of the issue. According to The Conversation’s Mai Lam, “Almost 2.6 million Australians, according to these ABS figures, do not use the internet. Nearly 1.3 million households are not connected” (para. 4). The numbers sourced from ABS, the Australian Bureau of Statistics also tell a tale of various factors limiting internet access for many Australians, most notably, geographical location and income. The Australians that sit on the good side of the digital divide are doing more online, too. Unsurprisingly, “better-off Australians appear to be doing more online. Compared to the general population their uses of online banking 💰 and shopping, education and health services are higher. They are connected to the internet with multiple devices, with an average of 7.2 devices at home, compared to 4.4 in the lowest income quintile” (para. 11). By simply tying these ABS statistics together, once can logically conclude that my place in the digital divide put me at an unfair over advantage over many deserving people, including those in Australia.
Even if someone, like myself, has a favorable history within the digital divide, they shouldn’t count their chickens before they hatch. An advantage in access doesn’t necessarily translate to a better quality of life. In fact, by being privileged with so much more access, I am prone to having my digital preferences followed by the government and other large corporations who use them for advertising purposes. Hence, there really is no “right” side of the digital divide. I may enjoy access on all sorts of technological gadgets and platforms, but I have been subject to lots of annoying personalized advertising attempts, the dangers of the internet, and the idea that my personal information is in the cloud for others to see. From my unique position on what’s supposed to be the “right” side of the divide, I can confidently say that people on all end of the divide spectrum will experience certain digital consequences. Many people say that the internet is like a window to the world , as you can learn about everything online. People with an advantage in access can have their opinions and voting choices swayed by misinformation, especially on social media.
For example, I found that through Elon Musk’s Twitter account, his unique personality and knowledge are reflected. But, especially in the case of the Thai cave controversy, his frequent lack of self-control on social media, specifically Twitter, illustrate that he might not be the person he wants us to think he is. Of course, Musk is one of many examples of negative internet rhetoric. The rhetorical appeals created by digital activity have influence over worldwide political, economic, and social environments. In that case, being on the “wrong” side of the digital divide might actually be a good thing. I come from a background that has prime internet access, and I’ve seen firsthand how people can be falsely led to believe outrageous things due to what they’ve seen online. To be honest, it’s difficult to piece out what’s real and what’s not on the internet these days, and with access to screens all around me, it’s a hard reality to escape.
While I may be at a favorable advantage as it pertains to my history within the digital divide, my personal experience has lead me to believe that there might not be a “right” side of the problem. Through the narratives and themes I’ve explored, it’s easy to find negative consequences stemming from the digital ideologies that receive exposure.
Scruggs, Afi. “On the Wrong Side of the Digital Divide in Cleveland, OH.” Belt Magazine. May 29, 2018. Accessed September 5, 2018. http://beltmag.com/wrong-side-digital-divide/.
Lam, Mai. “Australia’s Digital Divide Is Not Going Away.” The Conversation. March 29, 2018. Accessed September 1, 2018. https://theconversation.com/australias-digital-divide-is-not-going-away-91834.