The digital divide is the gap in access to technology between individuals, businesses, households, and geographic areas due to socioeconomic status. This digital divide can be due to one household having less money than another and, therefore, not being able to buy all the new gadgets on the market that some other families may be able to afford. It can also be due to an area of the country or the world that doesn't have the same access to the Internet as another.
In many countries, Internet is unreliable and that leaves the user without the same access to information and conversation tools as people in other parts of the world. There are also some countries that censor the Internet for civilians for political reasons, and this can lead to a further digital divide. When discussing different levels of access of the Internet between countries, this is actually called the global divide.
The term "digital divide" first came into use in the 1990s' and was first used to refer to the different levels of access to computers between different ethnic groups in the United States of America. By 1998, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration was using the term as a title of a survey. The quick launch of these terms into the public sphere draws attention to the fact that this is a huge problem in our country and the world. These different digital divides can have serious implications on people and cause gaps in earnings, education, and much more.
Gaps in Earnings
In a world and an economy that is becoming more global by the second, computer skills are a must have. It is difficult to find a job that does not require computer skills in today's society. Whether requiring you to type, research, email, read, or perform more complicated tasks, almost everything revolves around computers and new software.
If you have not grown up with a computer and if you do not have access to a computer at home, you are at a serious disadvantage to someone who has been working with computers his or her whole life. No amount of computer training can make up for just being able to have access to a computer and learning how to use it naturally and intuitively.
In this sense, it can be extremely difficult to climb the workplace ladder when you do not have the same skill set as someone else in the company. The digital divide, in this way, can cause a serious gap in earnings between someone who has a computer and someone who does not. Also, many companies are putting their job applications and postings online, so without a computer or access to the Internet, one cannot research or apply for high paying jobs.
Gaps in Education
Students and schools who have access to computers can learn more information in a few seconds than someone without a computer. Because of rapid Internet access, students are able to find whatever information they need in a very short amount of time. This not only changes the teaching atmosphere, but also further separates the haves and have-nots. When one student can find information at the speed of light and another cannot, the student without access to technology is starting at a lower level of information than the student with the access. There is nothing a teacher can do to level that playing field.
Sure, the same information is out there in books and other hard copy sources, but the time a student spends finding that information is valuable. When one student is afforded the opportunity to spend less time on an assignment because he or she has access to the Internet, it frees up time for other opportunities like work and socialization.