Closing digital-divide still relevant despite poor economic situation
With the increase in information and communication technologies, a new economy emerged in which heavy investment in IT led to an era of sustained economic growth and significant productivity revival.
That era of economic thrust seems to be sinking and with the slow down the world is currently experiencing, some doubt if IT can still bolster economy the way it did in the 1990s, where acceleration in productivity growth dominated the scene.
In my view, despite economic melt-down, information technologies will continue to offer more to the economy by creating newer jobs as more ideas continue to emerge in the world’s economic market.
The information technology has also not been fully exploited and many developing nations have not fully embraced internet technologies, and as suc,h there is still a wide market and gray areas to be explored.
Information and communication technologies do create jobs, which is an indicator of economic improvements. It is, therefore, important to still pursue ways and means by which both rich and poor nations can have basic access to the internet.
The imbalances in skills as well as physical access to information technology can be bridged if globalization works with the poor. The reason being that everyone gains. The private sector, on the other hand, gets the market and the people who form the government get more productive.
In other words, closing the digital divide must go along side empowering the poor given that there are differences in technology access between countries or larger regions of the world.
And since the digital divide may be classified based on gender, income, and race groups, and by locations, there is need to help the poor and women in ways that women are using the Internet for their empowerment.
Governments can work together to close the divide by designing systems that will provide equipment, training and well being of the local communities. This can be done by encouraging community and college educators to make strategic steps that will help provide necessary technology.
Other non governmental organizations have in the past been in the fore front of providing free computers to those who cannot afford it. One such initiative, which have in the past been pursued by others is the asiatotal.net which has been providing free computers to eastern Europe, Africa and Asia in order to bridge the gap.
Closing the divide also calls for more training of experts; the argument here is that if computers and communication hardware generated real economic growth in America, so could it in other parts that have less accessibility.
Others have argued that digital technologies will re-inforce and exacerbate existing disparities, while others have warned that without bridging the gap, the poorer nations will further drift to extreme poverty.
While the statement is true, there are certain issues, too, that need to be looked into and that includes opening up possibilities for women to engage with this new information technology with a comprehensive understanding of the medium in both its technological capacity and political context.
The key to success also lies in the provision for analytical and practical activities for women’s groups to be engaged in the new information and communication technologies for better and stronger communication, networking and advocacy for women’s rights on the development agenda.
Internet is proving a powerful tool to empower women to inform and change global and local realities. The opportunities and benefits as well as challenges of the new information and communication technologies (ICTs) as a tool of communication and knowledge transfer to support development and advancement of women in social and economic arena is proving critical to women’s networking and political action around the world.
Given the many odds against women taking part in the information super highway, poor communities will still make full use of the Internets to defend and advocate for their rights. A key strategy for women’s empowerment, especially in marginal and poor communities, is to give women access to new information technology in appropriate ways that support women’s everyday work and help them fight for and defend their human, social, economic and political rights.
However, even as the power and potential of these technologies is recognized and celebrated in most policy circles, the fact remains that unless the poor and marginalized are actively involved they will remain marginalized and if anything, suffer even more as a result of their exclusion from the gains of technology.
Hence there is a need for actions that are explicitly aimed at introducing the poor marginalized of which women are the majority, to these technologies. Some of the priorities to be put in place should include bringing individual women and men working from different areas that include women NGOs, technical networks, academics, educators, cultural workers and women activists to look at a potential transnational women’s movement agenda in response to and shaping evolving telecommunication policies.
Also important would be to support the design of new virtual spaces by women and to encourage the development of new communication tools by women groups through easy to use and accessible material in an appropriate language.
From its uses in communicating breast cancer, to stressing women’s equality and to career opportunities, the internet is proving to be one of the most exciting and accessible mechanisms for the empowerment of women while still recognizing the obstacles to women’s full access to the ICTs.
In areas where accessibility is limited, there is a danger of monopoly in the gateway to the Internet. These areas too experience slow accessibility due to low bandwidth. These factors may however be done a away with if more and more have accessibility.