RS 2: South Africa

The Digital Divide – Where are we now?

Keith Matthews’ article “The Digital Divide – Where are we now?” opens up with Matthews bringing up how from an observational standpoint, it looks like “humanity has bridged the digital divide”. However, almost immediately Matthews goes onto explain how perceptions aren’t reality, and asks a rhetorical question regarding if the digital divide is actually being conquered. Matthews article brings up 3 specific points regarding the Digital Divide in South Africa: The digital divide growth with the rise of new tech, the emergence of new types of divides, and internet access as a human right. First, Matthews revisits the notion of how technology, especially “mobile broadband changed the way we work and play forever, but we have not yet overcome the notion of a digital divide”. He builds on that notion by providing a few statistics. For example, “only 25% of South Africans in the Eastern Cape’s rural communities use the Internet, compared with over 75% in Gauteng and Cape Town” (Matthews). This statistic is highlighted by an observation made by the World Economic Forum that “polarization of societies and growth in income divides can be attributed to the growth of technology and a digital divide” (Matthews). This essentially means that many jobs are being taken over by new technological advances, such as Artificial intelligence, which, according to the article will “create a market worth over $35 billion by 2025” (Matthews). The article then moves into issues regarding how emerging technologies can lead to new types of digital divides. The segment opens up with a statistic from the World Wide Worx and Dark Fibre Africa study that clearly shows the positive correlation between monthly income and internet penetration, where the lowest income bracket (~$177/month) is under 30%. Matthews calls for “roll-out of technological infrastructure in underserved areas” noting that in the US “nearly 75 percent of families with lower salaries today having access to high-speed connectivity, up from 46 percent in 2013.” One type of digital divide arising from these new technologies is a cyber security divide. People with lower incomes who utilize the internet, could be putting their security at a large risk. “Technology users in developed nations with higher disposable incomes can afford more security applications and solutions” (Matthews). Which leads into Matthews last point: “the UN’s attempts to classify Internet access as a fundamental human right. A 2016 resolution by the UN Human Rights Council stated its condemnation for countries that take away or disrupt citizens’ Internet access” (Matthews). However, while internet access is a fundamental right, it also comes with other benefits. “According to the World Economic Forum (2014), each additional 10% of Internet penetration can lead to a 1.2% increase in per capita GDP growth in emerging economies” (Matthews). Matthews then closes the article by reminding readers about the obstacles those who don’t have access go through, as well as encouraging us to help close the divide, while being cognizant of new divides arising.

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