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Word Count: 997
The Digital Divide Among Us
Every day the world gets smaller and smaller. People living in it become more interconnected by the power of the internet. The internet has allowed humans to discern truth, be social with other thousands of miles away, discover our own identity, and act as “a medium that offers random access; it has no beginning, middle, or end” of information (Bolter and Gruisin 71) (Rushkoff 85). The internet is a vast resource that can do extraordinary things, but it can only do extraordinary things for those who can access it. The separation between those with internet access and those without internet access is known as the digital divide (Caricomict4d.org 1). The digital divide is affected by the diverse characteristics and demographics such as age and education. Many are uneducated about the digital divide and it is important to educate them about the benefits of the internet and factors that influence the number of internet users.
A group of individuals were interviewed to compare them to statistics on the digital divide. The interview included few questions that would yield information needed to assess how these individuals relate to the digital divide. The three questions asked were as follows:
- “How many hours a day, during the work week, do you spend on the internet?”
- “What do you use it for?”
- Do you know what the digital divide is, and if so can you define it?”
The individuals were of age 16, 24, 30, 50, and 51. The 24 year old and 50 year old were female. The rest were male. The information gathered seemed to correlate with statistics relating to the digital divide provided by Pewinternet.org.
It was surprising to find that three of the five interviewed had a basic understanding of the digital divide. One defined it as a division between “those who are tech savvy, and those who are not.” This seemed to be the consensus between the three individuals. One individual answered the third question with, “What’s that?” After looking at the answers to the questions asked, it was concluded that three individuals knew of the digital divide because of how many hours a day they themselves used the internet. All of them used the internet anywhere between 4-7 hours a day, all had occupations requiring internet access (with the exception of one who is in high school), and all used the internet for research and socializing. It was concluded that because all of these individuals frequently used the internet, they had a basic understanding of the digital divide because they have increased exposure to true information about current issues; issues like the digital divide. Douglas Rushkoff’s 7th commandment titled “Fact” would support this claim as it clearly states, “The network is like a truth serum…digital technology is biased against fiction and toward facts (Rushkoff 106).” This quote shows that the internet is a great source to become educated with truthful information. The other two only used the internet on average 0.5 – 2 hours a day. Their occupations required minimal internet access and they rarely use the internet for social media. Their internet access is less frequent which makes it clear that hours spent on the internet is a factor of digital divide awareness.
An additional factor in the digital divide is the age of individuals. Age is a factor that drastically sways the number of Americans with and without internet access. 65% of all 16-30 year olds have internet access, 44% of all 50-59 year olds have internet access (Lenhart 1). 3 of the five individuals belong to the age 16-30 category and the other two belonged to the age 50-59 category. The difference in the digital divide between age groups is due to the time that which the internet was invented. The internet became more relevant to public use within the last century, meaning that people in the age group 16-30 grew up in a society with internet (Gates 1). Those who are in the age group 50-59 did not have the same luxury so may find it more difficult to use or gain access to. These are just some of the factors contributing to the digital divide.
After assessing the information gathered from the questions and the background info of the individuals, it was assessed that internet access is not scarce to these individuals. An important issue is that too many families unlike the one interviewed, have little access to the World Wide Web. “50% of the adults in America do not have Internet access and 57% of those non-users are not interested in getting online (Lenhart 1).” Such a statistic is an alarming one. The internet provides humans with four very important aspects of life, socialization, facts, openness, and basic freedom (Rushkoff, 106, 117,136). 54% of Non-internet users say that the internet is dangerous (Lenhart 1). Yes there is some truth to that statement but one could say that it is more dangerous to be without it. Those without internet are void of internet social groups and gossip that leaves them somewhat out of the loop, are more prone to believe in false statements because they haven’t been peer reviewed by hundreds on the internet, cannot share files and information, and are prone to be controlled by those with computers (Rushkoff).
It is of crucial importance that education of the digital divide is encouraged and internet access is made more available to those of all demographics. Those without internet access are denied life improving qualities that networking can provide. Qualities such as the reduction of the probability that someone will be controlled or greatly influenced by those with internet access; in simpler words program or be programmed (Rushkoff 134). Conducting interviews on individuals has revealed some of the factors affecting the digital divide such as age and hours of use. The percentage of people without internet shows just how vast the digital divide is and how if these statistics are not improved, we too will become a percentage of the statistics.
Bolter, J. David, and Richard A. Grusin. Remediation: Understanding New Media. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 1999. Print.
“Definition of Digital Divide.” Definition of Digital Divide. N.p., 18 Sept. 2008. Web. 22 Apr. 2013. <http://www.caricomict4d.org/ict-for-development-topics-mainmenu-132/digital-divide-mainmenu-175/69-definition-of-digital-divide.html>.
Gates, Bill. “Shaping the Internet Age.” Shaping the Internet Age. N.p., 01 Dec. 2000. Web. 29 Apr. 2013.
Lenhart, Amanda. “Who’s Not Online.” PEW Internet. N.p., 21 Sept. 2011. Web. 22 Apr. 2013.
Phillips, Brett, Kristen Phillips, Lance Phillips, Michele Phillips, and Colbie Corrales. “Digital Divide.” Personal interview. 21 Apr. 2013.
Rushkoff, Douglas, and Leland Purvis. Program or Be Programmed: Ten Commands for
a Digital Age. Berkeley, CA: Soft Skull, 2011. Print.