Benefits of bridging digital divide
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Benefits of Bridging Digital Divide. Many e-society benefits are even stronger in poor countries Shop/learn/book/vote/etc at home Especially valuable if travel is difficult Limited choice even in major cities? Avoid huge queues at train stations, etc. Information provision.

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Benefits of Bridging Digital Divide

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Benefits of bridging digital divide

Benefits of Bridging Digital Divide

  • Many e-society benefits are even stronger in poor countries

  • Shop/learn/book/vote/etc at home

    • Especially valuable if travel is difficult

    • Limited choice even in major cities?

    • Avoid huge queues at train stations, etc

Information provision

Information provision

  • Big benefit to making info available

    • Prices (which port pays most for fish?)

    • Service updates (eg, trains)

    • Govt info: rules, announcements, etc

    • Educational material

      • Internet fantastic for academics in poor countries

    • Health advice

    • etc

Commercial benefits

Commercial Benefits

  • Outsourcing: Web makes it easier for people in India, etc to provide services for people in wealthy countries

    • More well-paid (by Indian standard) jobs

  • Cheaper purchasing

    • Not at mercy of local monopolists

Political benefits

Political benefits?

  • Bureaucratic corruption, incompetent, indifference often huge problem

    • Can Web help reduce this?

  • Political repression major problem

    • Can Web help reduce this

  • Controversial



  • Comments from class members ? especially from diverse countries

Digital divide uk

Digital Divide: UK

  • Special class for exams on Friday before exams

  • Internet Access in UK

  • Does Digital Exclusion hurt people?

  • Can Net/Web help underclass?

Internet access in uk

Internet Access in UK

  • 70% of UK households have Internet access

    • 63% have broadband

  • Who does not have access?

    • “digitally excluded”


  • Generally: People who use it use it a lot

Age matters most

Age matters most

  • Proportion never used Internet

    • 16-24: very small

    • 25-44: 5%

    • 45-54: 16%

    • 55-64: 24%

    • 65+: 64%

Education also matters

Education also matters

  • Household Internet access

    • 95% of adults with degrees (<70 years)

    • 52% of adults with no quals (<70 years)

Disabilities matter

Disabilities matter?

  • In 2004, only 30% of disabled adults had Internet access

    • Compared to 50% overall in 2004

    • Don’t know what 2009 figures are, I assume gap persists

Does poverty matter

Does poverty matter?

  • When asked why their household does not have Internet access, 25% say too expensive

    • But govt provides free Internet access in public libraries, which is not heavily used

    • So not just poverty…

Why people say no access

Why people say no access

  • 34%: don’t need it

  • 24%: don’t want it

  • 15%: equipment too expensive

  • 15%: lack skills

  • 11%: access (phone/broadband) too exp

  • 10%: have access elsewhere

Why no access

Why no access

  • Quotes from Demos report

    • I’d love to give it a go, I just don’t know where to start

    • Just stick to what you know, that’s what I say

    • You can’t miss what you never had

    • I’m a big fan of using the Internet to send pictures long distance to family, I just don’t think I’ll ever be able to do it

Access mostly at home

Access mostly at home

  • Use Internet

    • At home: 94%

    • At work: 43%

    • Someone else’s home: 28%

    • School, uni: 15%

    • Internet café: 6%

    • Library: 5%

  • Public access (library) not too common

Does location matter

Does location matter?

  • Five years ago, many rural areas did not have good Internet access

  • Difference in rural/urban household Internet access not clear from statistics

Mobile access less common

Mobile access less common

  • Access Internet via

    • Laptop with wireless: 26%

    • 2G mobile: 18%

    • 3G mobile: 8%

  • Different from many third-world countries, where most people access net via mobiles



  • Who does not use Internet

  • Elderly, poorly educated, disabled

    • don’t want to change

    • lack skills to use Internet, scared of it?

      • Put off by jargon: eg, “blog” vs “diary”

    • harder to use net because of disabilities?

      • Head-switch vs mouse

Child with head switch

Child with Head Switch

Many exceptions

Many exceptions!!

  • Many elderly, poorly educated, disabled people use the Internet every day!

    • Vera (76): I’ve only been using computers for a couple of years, and it took some convincing to get started, but now Iove it

  • Statistical generalisations, not absolute laws



  • Does “digital exclusion” hurt people?

    • Keep in mind elderly, disabled, poorly educated are already “bottom of the heap”

  • How would Internet access help these people?

Benefits of e society

Benefits of E-Society

  • Cheaper, better goods

    • Elderly, disabled have hard time shopping around

  • More social interaction via email, etc

    • Elderly, disabled often isolated

  • Better education, work prospects

    • For poorly educated

Costs of e society

Costs of E-Society

  • Fears that digitally excluded will be left behind as society goes digital

    • Worse access to govt services

    • Closure of local bookstores, etc because of e-competition

    • Feeling left behind in general, as society embraces the web/net

      • Enhance social isolation

Govt programs

Govt programs

  • Many govt initiatives

    • Provide computers to poor people, especially young people

    • Provide computers in community centres, libraries

    • Subsidise broadband in rural areas

  • UK has Minister for Digital Inclusion

    • Not clear to me what he does…

Example social isolation

Example: Social Isolation

  • Many elderly people in UK live on their own, away from family

    • Really want contact with (grand)children

  • Internet can help

    • Email, Skype, social networks, …

  • Internet can hurt

    • Grandchildren not interested in face-to-face visits

  • How do you interact with your (grand)parents

    • Does Internet help or hurt?

Can net help solve social prob

Can Net help solve social prob

  • One of UK’s biggest problem is “underclass”

    • 20% of population who live in sink estates, can’t read, can’t get a job, etc

  • Can net/web/e-society help such people

Skillsum again

SkillSum again

  • Reminder: research project to assess people with poor reading and maths skills

    • Web-based

    • Encourage people to get help if appropriate

  • Didn’t work well because of IPR/face-to-face issues

  • Would it help if it did work?

Yes it would help

Yes it would help

  • Helping the underclass get good jobs is the best way to help them

  • They cannot get decent jobs if they cannot read or do basic maths

  • E-learning can help them acquire these skills

No it won t help

No it won’t help

  • Other problems need to be solved

  • Kate X (16 yrs old, bright, uneducated)

    • Main barrier is that her peers beat her up (hospitalise her) if she seems to take her education seriously

  • Brian Y (17 yrs old, bright, uneducated)

    • Doing well, learning reading/maths; but wants to be a plumber and there aren’t any such jobs locally (and he won’t move)



  • Jane Z (24 yrs old, avg intelligence)

    • Working as shop assistant, can’t get better job unless improve reading/maths

    • Drug addict: trying to quit, but borrowed money from local pusher at loan shark rates, cannot pay this off, pusher’s goons attacked her boyfriend for non-payment

    • Hard to help her until drug problem resolved

Can we help

Can we help

  • E-Society limited help to people who are truly bottom of heap?

    • E-Society in third-world countries: not much help to people who are worried about getting enough to eat

    • E-Society in UK: not much help to drug addict in debt thralldom to local pusher

  • More help to people who have more moderate problems?

Other ways of helping

Other ways of helping

  • E-govt: better access to benefits, social housing

  • E-commerce: easier to apply for jobs, more aware of jobs outside local area

  • E-health: info on diet, smoking, etc

  • Do these work?

Class opinions

Class opinions?

  • Can we use net/web/e-society to help the underclass?

  • Or is this pointless because it doesn’t address the “real” underlying problems?

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