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Big Idea 5: Impact of Computing

Digital Divide

2 min read•november 16, 2020

minnachow

Minna Chow


AP Computer Science Principles ⌨️

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5.2 Digital Divide

The digital divide refers to the gaps between those who have easy access to the internet and technology and those who don't. Internet and technology access varies across several factors:
  • Demographic (Younger people are more likely to be comfortable with the internet than older people, people with higher levels of education tend to use the internet more than people with lower levels of education)
  • Socioeconomic (People with higher incomes are more likely to have quality access to digital tools than people with lower incomes)
  • Geographic (some areas allow for more internet access than others, some areas are easier to connect to the internet than others)
The digital divide is both an intra-national and international issue: it occurs both within countries and between countries. For example, countries in the Western world tend to have a larger percentage of internet users than those outside of it. However, there are also digital divides within countries. Take, for example, the United States, where reportedly 21 million Americans lack access to reliable, high-speed internet.
https://firebasestorage.googleapis.com/v0/b/fiveable-92889.appspot.com/o/images%2F-2vuzFvoU7p5M.png?alt=media&token=f62e28dc-cf64-4d06-a03f-f656ad1df6ac

This graphic shows the number of internet users in each country as a percentage of their total population. Image source: Jeff Ogden (W163) / CC BY-SA

With the internet becoming such an important part of our lives, those without access to technology and the internet are also denied access to crucial resources. Lack of internet access leads to less efficient businesses and educational systems, for example, because those businesses can't communicate as quickly as their competitors and those students are denied access to assignments and learning resources.
This divide can also exacerbate already present inequalities: between rich and poor, between certain races, between (well-connected) urban and (not well connected) rural communities. The digital divide reflects and raises issues of equity, access and influence, both globally and locally.
Fortunately, there are steps that people can take to help reduce the digital divide. Here are some examples!
  • Schools with the funding and resources can provide devices and/or hotspots to students that need them.
  • Local and national governments can fund businesses that provide internet access to areas that don't currently have access.
  • Governments and individuals can also help support institutions that provide communal internet access, such as libraries.
  • Websites and governments can release educational resources to help newcomers navigate the internet.

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