What is the Digital Divide? Depends on who you ask.
The digital divide, like many other economic or social problems, is a global issue. “From the most switched on countries such as Sweden to the poorest nations in Africa there is a widening gap between those with access to technology and those without. The gap between countries on the same continent is also getting wider.” (via BBC News)
It’s also a national one. “Despite the growing importance of the Internet in American life, 28.3 percent of all persons do not use the Internet in any location, down from 31.6 percent in 2009.” (via GigaOm) According to the recent Commerce Department report, “persons with high incomes, those who are younger, Asians and Whites, the more highly-educated, married couples, and the employed tend to have higher rates of broadband use at home. Conversely, persons with low incomes, seniors, minorities, the less-educated, non-family households, and the non-employed tend to lag behind other groups in broadband use.” (via Government Computer News)
It’s not just about broadband. “Today, as mobile technology puts computers in our pockets, Latinos and blacks are more likely than the general population to access the Web by cellular phones, and they use their phones more often to do more things. But now some see a new ‘digital divide’ emerging — with Latinos and blacks being challenged by more, not less, access to technology. It’s tough to fill out a job application on a cellphone, for example. Researchers have noticed signs of segregation online that perpetuate divisions in the physical world. And blacks and Latinos may be using their increased Web access more for entertainment than empowerment.” (via AP/USA Today)
And it’s cultural. “There’s a concept in sociology called ‘homophily.’ It means birds of a feather stick together. Whites know whites. Democrats know Democrats. Urbanites know urbanites. Tech people know tech people. Rich people know rich people. And before you immediately start listing the people you know that aren’t like you, realize that this is the auto-reaction to an uncomfortable reality (more colloquially noticeable when people refer to ‘my black friend…’). Structurally, social networks are driven by homophily even when there are individual exceptions. And sure enough, in the digital world, we see this manifested right before our eyes.” (danah boyd)