Last updated: February 21, 2008 - 4:12am
CALL IT 'DIGITAL DIVIDES,' MAJOR STUDY SUGGESTS
[SOURCE: Association for Progressive Communications]
Unequal access to information and communication technologies (ICTs) has generated new inequalities, according to Social Watch, a coalition of 400 non-governmental organizations present in 60 countries. "More than four-fifths of the people in the world do not have access to the Internet and are therefore disadvantaged when it comes to making progress in production, education, and constructing full citizenship," the organization's 11th annual report reads. Giving figures to measure the 'size of the digital gap', the study says, "In the most developed countries, there are 563 computers per 1000 people; but in the most backward there are only around 25 per 1000 people, which is to say there are 20 times more in the developed world. That is just one measure of the size of the digital gap." Social Watch points out that in the most backward regions, "investment in new technologies is not geared to spreading them on a large scale." The section called 'Information, Science and Technology: Digital gap, people gap' refers to the widely debated 'digital divide'. The point its tries to bring home is that the divide is reflected among people and without a doubt, affects their ability to advance collectively. Says the report: "For some years now, the experts have been talking about the new 'information society' (and more recently about the 'knowledge society'), and the challenges and dangers it involves." But it suggests that the "capability to manage information" is increasingly important. It notes that currently, 40% of Canadians and the US-Americans have access to the Internet, but in Latin America and the Caribbean, the figure averages only 2 or 3%. Narrowing this gap is a major challenge, the study finds. There is currently not "one digital gap", but several, it suggests. This is because people's access to current information systems "is conditional upon a series of factors". People simply get "left out" from using the emerging technology because of economic resources, geography, age, gender, language, education, cultural background, employment and physical well-being. Moreover, "Access to personal computers is a pre-requisite for access to the new sources of information," it cautions. One billion Internet users on the planet is a "great success story". But the 80% still left out cannot be ignored. UNESCO says that 90% of Internet users are from the 'industrialized' world. Social Watch monitors government compliance with international commitments to development and gender equity.
* Social Watch 2006 Annual Report
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