The Digital sub-Divide

NPR’s recent story entitled Looking at the Future of E-Politics points out the need for nationwide broadband access in the United States. Listen closely to the story and they sometimes conflate the “need for Internet access” with the “need for high speed Internet access”.

What I’m referring to as “the digital sub-divide” is the conflation of a current {2008} desire for all Americans to be able to have broadband access and an older concern of a few years ago about any sort of internet access being yet another class marker of the haves vs. have nots in the United States.

Wikipedia states that “the term digital divide refers to the gap between those people with effective access to digital and information technology and those without access to it”. As recently as five years ago, there was a real class divide between Americans who surfed the net and those who didn’t. That is no longer the case, particularly in light of the fact that some mobile phones are faster than some internet connections. The organization clearly understands this as illustrated in their first objective: “Every home and business in American must have high-speed internet access”. With the advent of “cloud computing” high speed access is quickly becoming an important determining factor in connectivity in the United States. Robin Bloor’s recent post entitled, “Everything as a service: The the growth of cloud computing” clearly illustrates this change.

The US is the fourth most wired place on the planet. There are rural pockets that have no access to broadband but this should not be confused with what is now being referred to as “The Global Digital Divide” (see the map below that I found on Wikipedia) where entire nations lag behind others in terms of any level of connectivity. Gary Chapman’s work is more illustrative of this “global digital divide”.

And this is more than just a rant! I recently participated in a rather large project (several hundred thousands of dollars) with a large service provider that conflated these very issues as NPR has done. For the service provider, it maybe some sort of strategic oversight; for NPR, its just bad reporting.

The Global Digital Divide
In summation: YES, it would be great and more democratic if all US citizens had broadband access, but NO, there is no longer a digital divide in the US when you can take an Iphone and watch YouTube clips most anywhere.

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