For this final blog post I will be reflecting upon the concept of the “DIgital Divide.” Personally, I see this is as one of the most crucial takeaways from this class. I find this concept most important because I believe every potential ICT4D initiative/program needs to be created with this idea in mind. Each of the modules following our learning about this concept, bring in the idea of the Digital Divide at some point or another.
Module 2 of our studies focused around our Sector project; ICT’s in business/industry in my case. The use and ability of ICT’s to be implemented into the business sector to help boost economic output critically hinges upon the Digital Divide. For example, companies cannot hope to increase their market/number of consumers through online advertising, if the country their target consumers don’t have the know how or capabilities to utilize the web. Similarly, businesses cannot effectively implement ICT’s into their production processes and/or day to day business operations if their workers aren’t properly trained or at least familiar with the technologies involved. Along the same lines, people are inclined to stick with what they know, and react adversley towards change especially if it is something that they don’t understand– technology. One of the leading causes for SME’s not using internet to supplement their business is because they don’t believe that it suits their type of business. This could be because they don’t understand how it could be beneficial, or because the necessary internet market infrastructure just isn’t there (could be poor internet capabilities/use in the country, lack of web security and regulations that are necessary for online financial transactions, etc.). EIther way, the digital divide strikes again. The other sectors include Health, Education, and Governance. Once again, all of the potential ICT’s and programmes that could be utilized in these sectors to push development forward need to be formulated with a lot of concern given to the Digital Divide. Programs just wont work if the necessary technological infrastructure and know-how is in place in the target area of a potential initiative.
Module 3 of our course centered around our hands on Open Street Mapping project. The potential for these systems to be used in many areas of the IDEV and ICT4D is outstanding and to me is very important moving forward. For us, living on the positive side of this theoretical Divide, we were a valuable resource for filling out these maps. However, any time that data is supposed to be collected/self reported from the ground, these people need to know how to use the necessary technology involved. One of the major uses of this ICT is disaster preparedness and alleviation. For example, if OSM technology is used to put in place an amazingly intricate and complete early warning system and disaster relief plan, it would be completely useless if the target population/are is not equipped with the necessary technology or knowledge (radios, internet, cell phones). Even if part of the population is equipped, the other portion of people need to be taken into consideration for this to be effective.
Overall, the digital divide is a monumental issue in the study and practice of ICT4D, and is an issue that needs to be addressed/considered in pretty much all conversations surrounding pushing on the development of this field and the target countries/peoples themselves. Personally, the study of this issue has reinforced in my mind the importance of infrastructure both at the technological level (power lines, internet access, telephone lines, etc.) and the human level (human apacity/capital). Initiatives that can bridge the divide of actual hardware and/or human know-how will be the most successful in instilling sustainable long-lasting development outcomes. I would like to explore in the future which development programs have been the most effective in helping to bridge this divide, and these programs can be applied to the rest of the developing world.