As usual, the fall semester comes to a close, even though it seems as though only a few weeks ago the year was just beginning. As an international development major, I have taken many courses concerning issues like food security, community and capacity building, economic development, and the politics of international aid and democracy assistance. While all of these sectors rely heavily upon information technologies, it has been very interesting to study ICTs in and of themselves. As an International Relations major, my personal interest lies within government policy, international aid, as well as grassroots organizing for human and child rights. It seems to me that when evaluating regions, countries, governments, or even individual communities and population centers, the concept of the ‘digital divide’ and the enormous resource and infrastructure disparities that persist is the most significant ICT concept to understand.
When we explored the many countries that we each respectively chose, I believe we started out with many perceived notions or connotations of what the present condition of ICTs and development ‘on the ground’ was. Maybe we each began with one dynamic fact or story that we had discovered pertaining to our countries, but the exploration has required a large research of information and reports from many sectors. My country of exploration was India, and I became not so much surprised by what I discovered as much as I became frustrated at the state of affairs within the Indian bureaucracy. The enormous (over 1 billion) population in India serves as both a source of strength for the Indian economy, but also an enormous capacity building and education problem. The fact that so many young Indians are unable to access an education and adequate health avenues in a state with such dramatic wealth and prosperity demonstrates the intrastate demonstration of the digital divide.
The more important demonstrations of the digital divide however pertains to the specific users of digital technology around the world, as even though the most developed states of Western Europe, East Asia, and the Americas use roughly half of the internet content, they represent only 15% of the world’s population. As more regional hegemonic powers around the world like China, Brazil, Russia, India, and Argentina grow their service industries and educate their populations, the digital divide will become the method by which we analyze the readiness of these places. It will be important to remember the efficacy and evenness with which we implement ICT strategies in order to better spread technologies throughout the world, as we must not allow only certain ethnic groups or populations to persist to control the rapidly evolving digital tools which will play more and more important roles in our lives.