In recent decades, the world has seen a series of technological advances that have implied profound social and cultural changes. Nowadays, information and communication technologies are an essential factor in the development of any country as they allow the exchange of knowledge, services, goods, among other advantages of great value. Unfortunately, not in all regions of the world is it possible to access the technological gadgets that arise every day, in a constant and accelerated way. This dividing line is known as the digital divide.
Information society, knowledge society
The term "digital divide" refers to the gap between those who use the potential of information and communication technologies (ICTs) for their personal or professional needs and those who do not have access to them or simply do not have the necessary skills to make use of them.
The notion of the digital divide is generally associated with inequalities related to equipping a personal computer with Internet access, which often varies, for example, according to income level, geographical location and ethnic group.
The expression “digital divide” has its origin in the American expression “Digital Divide” that emerged in the late 90’s, in the United States. Specifically, this concept alludes to the differences that exist between individuals or social groups that have access to information and communications technologies and that are integrated into the so-called “information society” and those that are excluded from it because they do not have access to it or simply because they do not know how to use the technological tools that are part of it.
However, it is important to point out that the digital divide does not only exist between the most developed and developing countries. In the same country, there may be social groups that have the possibility of integrating into the “information society” while other groups remain on the margins and excluded from it. The digital divide can also be generational, between the youngest and the elderly, between the literate and the illiterate, or between urban and rural populations.
The expression has its origin in the Anglo-Saxon term “digital divide”, which was first used in 1995 during the administration of U.S. President Bill Clinton. The exact creator of this term is not known. On the one hand, it is said that it could be the British Simon Moores, who proposed the concept, while on the other hand, it is presumed that Lloyd Morrisset, president of the Markle Foundation, was the first to pronounce the term, to refer to the disparity that could arise in the United States between the “connected” and the “unconnected”.
Likewise, since the term emerged, it has been used extensively to refer to different types of disparity related to country characteristics, regions, communities, social groups and individuals. The concept has also been used to refer to telecommunication infrastructures in educational programs.
The digital divide can take different forms and can be related at the same time to different factors as will be seen below:
Uruguay is an excellent example as a country that has managed to reduce the digital divide considerably in a short period of time. In 2006, only 1% of the poorest families had access to the Internet. After a decade, that figure has risen to 77%. This was possible thanks to the implementation of the One Laptop per Child model through the Ceibal Plan.
According to statistics, Argentina turned out to be the year 2016, one of the countries with the smallest digital divide between men and women. This country has human resources that adapt easily to digital tools and this allows women to have a good position in the workplace because they can do work at a distance. However, it is important to note that technology in Argentina is quite expensive.
It is often said that Chile is the leading Latin American country in terms of Internet access. However, according to some statistics, less than half of Chilean families have fixed Internet access in their homes. This may be due to the fact that Internet services are expensive in this country.
Currently, according to statistics from the Spanish Ministry of Energy, Tourism and Digital Agenda, around five million Spaniards do not have access to the Internet. However, two satellites are scheduled to be launched in 2018 to allow rural regions to access the Internet at a speed of 30 megabytes and at a cost of 39.90 euros per month, a fact that will reduce the digital divide.