The digital divide is the gap between those with regular, effective access to digital technologies and those without. The digital divide is related to social inclusion and equality of opportunity. It is seen as a social/political problem and has become increasingly relevant as the industrialized nations have become more dependent on digital technologies in their democratic and economic processes. Larry Irving, a former United States Assistant Secretary of Commerce and technology adviser to the Clinton Administration, made the term digital divide popular in a series of reports in the mid 1990's. The digital divide results from the socio-economic differences between communities that in turn affects their access to digital information mainly but not exclusively through the Internet. Broadly speaking, the difference is not necessarily determined by the size or depth of the user group. Any digital media that different segments of society can use, can become the subject of a digital divide. With regard to the Internet, ease of access is a fundamental aspect, but it is not the sole factor. Effective access also depends on ability to use ICT (Information and Communications Technologies) effectively, and on the quality of digital content that is available and can be provided. The quality of connection, auxiliary services and other factors that affect effective use are also important (Davison and Cotten, 2003). Access can be through a range of devices (MSN TV, Webphone, PDA, mobile phone)and each provides a different level of support. Once an appropriate level of access is achieved, the individual then requires an education that includes literacy and technological skills to make effective use of it. From this point on, participation becomes possible because of the wealth of usable information that becomes available coupled with the equally important capacity to provide information to others. The digital divide is often discussed in an international context because of the widely varying social and economic conditions in different countries. The concept of a digital divide has resonance with views that the revolutionary power of the Internet and the emerging utopian information society is also subject to a downside but this has to be balanced by the evidence of rapidly increased take up of the Internet in the developing world.
It's still a problem to Malaysia as well...we still have a long way to go
The Star Global Malaysian Forum - Almerica's Response - Posted: 24 August 2006 at 12:54am and Nik Zafri's Response -
The "digital divide" is turning into a huge gulf. Advancements in technology has surged at a speed of which the huge chunk of the community has even yet to begin embarking on the acclamatization process and realization towards the benefits that can be derived from the adopton of ICT applications.
Nik Zafri : You're being too intellectual, I think it's about 'fear of change'.
What we have here today are two camps - "the far ahead" and "the left behind". This is very worrying as the gap has caused "the left behinds" sweating and fearing on what may happen in the future as they are quickly becoming obsolete...and this chunk of the community actually is still a major contributor to the national economy and trade.
Based on my research, it's because the policy related to dissemination of information on the first place is not well coordinated. The message got lost in the middle of the road.
The "far aheads" must actually take a look behind their shoulders and find a way to use the very basic methods that are in the comfort zone of the "left behinds" and help them get started on the journey of ICT (but then again, we all know most of the "left behinds" are in this current scenario because of their initial "we'll do it my way" or "no worries, we can still pick it up later" or "let's wait and see how others are faring with the usage of ICT", mindset...only to find that the entire landscape has changed overnight).
The reality is that many the 'far aheads' are not sitting comfortably in their offices, making some money and don't wish to really bother about the "left behind" as to the "far aheads" (not all of them - like you and me and many of us here) - they would likely ask the most infamous question "What's in it for me?"
One of our my company's division is web development and we have another small division that runs some export trades using strictly only the power of the internet. As a registered member of MATRADE, we have found that the trade leads that we receive weekly are truly great contacts to help us expand our markets. And yet in many instances when we are developing some websites for many traders or exporters, we realised that they had never even taken the initiative to be a member of MATRADE (by the way, it's free) and thus they miss out on so many opportunities that could have been made available to them (eg Brand grants, trade show subsidies, etc). And they complain that the Govt doesnt help them and so have the crazy mindset that anything that is associated to the Govt's effort to help traders to boost their business or to encourage them on the usage of IT are all just some hoo hah political gimmick which does not work. But some of them didnt register with MATRADE because they do not know that such an arm by the Govt exists! Frankly I see that the Govt has taken great pains to educate and preach and publicise their efforts to help but somehow many ground level people are still very negative..or maybe they were when such exercises were announced but realises too late that they should have taken up the advice to adopt the digital age methods of doing business...only that now, the negativeness has turned into a huge fear and worry on how they are going to ever catch up.
Eric, I hate to dissapoint you again, if you go down to the streets today, you ask those 'kedai-kopi' guys about MATRADE...see how they respond..again...the policy on information dissemination requires serious changes to ensure that the 'grassroots' are well-informed. You know sometimes, some people (the 'grassroot' and the 'veterans') fear the internet especially those already in business and still making money through the conventional methods. I find it very difficult to inculcate certain new methodologies in these people but I'm still trying.
Almerica's Response - Posted: 25 August 2006 at 2:18am
One humorous real life scenario was like this. I was talking to a brick supplier and told him that the internet can help his business a lot. He said no way the internet could help local businesses as it is meant for foreign business only. So I gave him a demo on how it could (i had my laptop with me). I role played with him to imagine that I was a developer who wanted to buy some bricks and so I typed "brick manufacturer in Malaysia" in Yahoo to look for some leads. A couple of names popped up (of course not Mr A's company cos he doesn't have a website). Mr A quickly said "Hey I know that guy. He is a competitor!". So I told him I'd probably contact his competitor to find out more about the bricks they are carrying and so his competitor would stand a good chance of me doing business with him because he was listed.
I carried it further and asked him how his sales employees approach their prospects to introduce his company's various types of bricks to them. Mr A said that well, they all usually carry all the bricks to the purchasers office to display and show them what they have. I questioned him " Mr A, won't it have been easier if you could just ask your potential prospects to look into your website (if you have one) then select the few types that they are keen on, and then only get your sales employee to show them what they have selected? It helps your sales team identify the type of products that the client may be interested in (and thus help narrow down the selection process) and secondly, your poor sales employees would not have to carry every single type of brick to show the prospect (and without having any inkling on what type they would prefer).
He seemed a bit perplexed but in the end he said, "Hmmm never mindlah let them carry all the bricks cos that's their job" (by the way I wasnt pitching for a sales job and no web development costs were even mentioned so it was not about the pricing at all that he said no.
I guess we can only help those who are willing to try some changes or else any other logical explanation will still be shunned by those who fear change.