Bill Clinton Forecasts the End of the Digital Divide


Though the article title is perhaps optimistic, Salon’s recent “Smartphones Bust up the Digital Divide” provides a succinct outline of some numerical evidence of the recent global explosion of smartphone usage as well as its potential benefits in the developing world. The article cites data which states that in December of 2012, 23% of global website visits were conducted via mobile device, and this number continues to climb. Though it’s difficult to establish the exact effects that smartphones have had on the digital divide to date, Andrew Leonard points out the incredible advantages in efficiency offered by mobile devices and suggests that these benefits can and will be exploited on an ever-more-global scale. The article also cites Bill Clinton’s recent speech at the Consumer Electronics show (which has drawn negative attention for statements regarding gun control) in which he emphasized the economic and social benefits of Internet access via smartphone in developing countries. Though the William J Clinton Foundation has not previously demonstrated a focus on ICT4D, public endorsement by such a widely respected figure marks an important step for the field.

Another important statistic to note is that holiday PC sales fell this winter for the first time in 5 years, highlighting the ongoing paradigm shift in the field of computing and info tech. Indeed, the article mentions several times the “implosion of the now ancient desktop/laptop regime.” That being said, I’m not convinced that pocket-sized smartphone devices will ever fully eclipse the use of larger desktop computers for things like word processing and textual research. Cool stuff, though.


4 responses to “Bill Clinton Forecasts the End of the Digital Divide

  • tanvishah1

    I agree with you that I don’t think laptops and desktops will ever fully go away. I think it would be very interesting if they could find out how much the internet is accessed through tablets, as they are now an affordable technology that serves as a happy medium between smartphones and traditional computers. I know that a “paper” tablet is in the development phase, so who knows how much its appearance will change the computer landscape.

  • nsaqer

    I definitely think that the smartphone will be playing a key role in the future, in regard to ICTs. However, the article that you cite does not indicate whether the 23% that accounts for internet access via mobile phones is from users who previously didn’t have internet [in which case it actually would help close the digital divide], or if it has turned into a new outlet for people who were already familiar with ICTs. I think though that in the coming years, the smartphone will be a cheaper and more accessible form of the internet.

  • amellan

    The shift towards mobile internet access is interesting but not altogether surprising. I have renewed appreciation for smartphone technology in the context of development because they require a different infrastructure set than desktop and laptop computers. In areas with limited or no electricity, smartphones users can still connect to the web despite regional infrastructure barriers. Additionally, modems, routers, cables, and other computer hardware can be sidestepped with a smartphone and SIM card.

  • elladove

    I too find the shift towards mobile internet access a logical step in the ICT development process. Just we are rapidly shifting away from landline telephone use towards mobile telephone use, we are shifting away from the use of stationary computer use and internet access towards a more mobile world of internet connection. From a development perspective, I think it will be interesting to see if the popularity of tablet type devices and smart phones speeds up development in more rural regions since so much of what we do with the internet, such as database use and information shares, is no longer confined to centers of dense urbanization.

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