The "Digital Divide" is back. Actually, it never left us. In 2000 I was asked by a then sitting Congressman to write a white paper on the Digital Divide and it's impact on the then changing landscape of the United States.
Flash forward to now. The Digital Divide is actually becoming more serious. The rapidity of progression of our society into a technology needs based one is having an unfortunate side effect:
More and more people who don't have the basics are being left out.
What would the basics be actually?
1. Cellular or Wireless Phone.
2. Easy Internet Access.
3. Hopefully, a working computer.
Number 1 is more easily accomplished, and is one of the primary drivers behind the explosion of SMS based social networking applications. In the industrial world, most have cell phones now; and most with at least rudimentary web access as well. In the developing world, there are areas that see huge cellphone usage growth, but still it serves as the only means of real communications. Little real web use. Few places to get online, and not many having or using email.
But, there are huge implications to Public Diplomacy as was discussed at Gov20LA 2010, by Lovisa Williams, Stephen Hale, Dillon Hosier. There are huge implications of the Digital Divide in Electoral Politics.
What is your agency or contract vehicle doing to ensure that your projects do not fall into the ever increasing gap - how are you going to tailor projects to ensure that indeed the opposite happens?
What recommendations should be made to bring the Digital Divide and Government 2.0 together in a a positive way?
Here are a few of mine:
- Through global foundations and Governments provide solar powered backpacks to school children in the developing world. This would provide power supplies for the basics.
- Here in the U.S. no Government 2.0 program should be funded without addressing the Digital Divide access issues, or at least examining alternative information distribution methods.
- Industrialized nations need to recycle electronics, cellphones and computers more efficiently to create a secondary market aimed at providing access to low income and rural regions.
- Politicians need to use the knowledge of Digital Divide issues to bring more people in, not use it to exclude more people.