Digital divide


In today’s society everything seem to be embedded in media communication technology especially computer technology and the Internet. Societies rely on the Internet for different purposes; it can either be for education or even to fulfill their personal needs. Most advertisement are found in the Internet, therefore any information that people need they can access it through the Internet. Internet has become an important source of information and it is also where people can market their ideas or even find jobs. Most jobs in industries involve computer technology; therefore people have to learn how to operate computers in order to obtain highly paid positions. Without skills, access to computer technology and the Internet can be a disadvantage. Due to the fact that computer technology and Internet is so important to people, digital divide become the key issue in today’s society. The purpose of this essay is to discuss the digital divide, its impact on the democracy and the government of South Africa.

Digital divide can be defined as the gap between those who do and those who do not have access to computer technology, the Internet and the ability or skills to use them (Van Dijk 2005:1). The emergence of the term emerged in the mid-1990s after the growth of the Internet (Whalley 2007:70). Digital divide is a long term problem that will mark all future information societies. Digital divide segregate the society into two parts, which is the haves and have-nots. “Haves” are those people who are from the top or upper class, they are perceived as living comfortably and capable of obtaining a vast range of resources, including those that allow them to take part in the digital revolution (Mack 2001:36). On the other hand, the “have-nots” are those people who are from the lower class; they are viewed as living in unstable environments piecing together meager resources just to keep roofs over their heads and food on the table (Mack 2001:36). The researcher has found that digital divide has the greatest potential to doom the have-nots to the status of permanent underclass.

According to Van Dijk (2005:3), people mainly focused on the cost and availability of computer technology and the Internet when the term digital divide first come into sight. As computer prices fall, the number of people having access to computer technology increased, therefore it shows that it is not all about the high cost of technology but also that there are certain technical skills needed, in order to operate a computer (Dijk & Hacker 2003:315). People need to have knowledge, skills and abilities on how to use information and communication technologies (ICTs). People need to have skills such as instrumental skills that enable them to operate a computer, informational skills that enable them to search and process information, and strategic skills that will help them on how to use the information effectively (Dijk & Hacker, 2003:317).



2.1 Income difference

Income difference is the most important factor for physical access, although it strongly correlates with education, employment status and occupation (Van Dijk 2005:50). The amount of money that people earn determines what they will afford to buy. For example people who earn more income are more likely to own computers, Internet connections and smart phones. Moreover they are able to feed their families. On the other hand, for people who earn less income it could be a luxury to buy things like computers and smart phones (González 2003:5). They only afford to buy basic things for their families.

2.2 Gender

Gender differences in relation to technology start very early in life. Parents often buy technical toys for boys while girls are given dolls. The boys always help their fathers with technical things for example when fixing cars. “This progress in adulthood, where males are able to appropriate the great majority of technical and strategically important jobs and, in practice, keep females out of these jobs, whether they are conscious of this fact or not” (Van Dijk 2005:11). Females are said to be less technical and this is just due to the stereotype that have been there in societies before feminism evolved. According to (Van Dijk 2005:80), young women are almost equal to men in mastering these skills, in particular when they have learned them at schools. The researcher has found that the gap is decreasing as more woman become interested in information technology.


2.3 Education

Most of the educated people own computers than less educated people. This is due to the fact that educated people know how to use computers; they have the skills and knowledge that they have achieved at schools. The researcher has found that educated people tend to adopt new products earlier than less educated people (Huang & Chen 2010:251). In order to use computer technology and the Internet individuals need to know how to read and write. The language that is used in most computers and the Internet is English, of which it is the second language for most of the developing countries, therefore without education there is no how they can know how to operate a computer.“Lack of education influences many people and does not allow them to access certain information sources that are only reachable via digital technologies” (Huang & Chen 2010:251).

2.4 Age

There is a huge difference between young and old people when it comes to the skills, knowledge and ability to use computer technology. Older people strongly lag behind in material access, as they lack material resources; this means that they do not have enough income to buy things like computers. They also lack mental resources which are technical knowledge and skill; moreover older people have no interest and hobby (González 2003:6). This is due to the fact that old people did not grow up in the age of push-button media. People older than 35 or 40 years rarely have had any experience with computers at schools (Van Dijk 2005:80). The researcher has experienced that old people do not seem to be interested in computer technology; they think that it can make their lives insignificant. They do not believe in the media like young people. “Children and young people have much more manual and technical skill in working with keys or buttons and visual interfaces than do older people” (Van Dijk 2005:79). The speed of young people’s operations is much higher, due to the fact that, they have access to computers and Internet at school and household. The availability of computers and Internet at home and school enable them know more about technology, therefore being able to teach their parents, instead of parents teaching the children.


2.5 Race

The largest and most noteworthy differential is developing between whites and blacks, two groups that have been divided on myriad bases throughout the course of history (Mack 2001:6). Thus, in many respects, it is as if this historical divide is simply repeating itself on the technology landscape. Black households are far less likely than white households to own personal computers and have Internet access (Korupp 2004:409). The blacks have always been disadvantaged throughout history, they were not given the opportunity to be educated, and instead they became slaves for the whites. Due to this, they were not able to have access to computer technology and Internet. The gap continue to grow even today because children from whites families are taken to private schools which they have access to computer technology and Internet, while children from blacks families are sent to public or inferior schools where there are no computers at all.


2.6 Disability

Computers and Internet could be important resource for people with disabilities, especially for those who have difficulty in walking and hearing, but in fact, this group is less likely than the population as a whole to use computers or the Internet (Korupp 2004:410). A prime material access problem for people with disabilities is that the available technical and software solutions to various disabilities like vision, hearing and typing are very expensive”(Van Dijk 2005:61). Due to the fact that the available technical and software solutions for various disabilities are expensive the gap seems to remain the same, it is not easy to close it especially in developing countries and on the side of the blacks.



2.7 Location

Rural areas lag behind urban areas when it becomes to developments, therefore in most rural areas there is no electricity especially in developing countries. Business departments do not want to lay their businesses in rural areas because they think that it will not bring them any profit, due to the fact that mostly only old people live in rural areas, who are not interested in technology (Labrianidis & Kalogeressis 2006:24). This makes rural areas to lag behind urban areas in terms of technology. Rural areas compared to urban areas generally experience lower levels of connectivity. People in urban areas have more access to computer technology and the Internet because most developments are set in cities and also most of the people especially young people stay in cities, therefore can make use of the technology and the Internet.

Democracy is also a factor effected by the digital divide since it may be easier for those with the benefit of technology to take part in elections and making decisions than those without.

Economic growth is effected by the digital divide because productivity improvements tend to be associated with the use of Information technologies and companies with these technologies may have advantage and can compete better.


Digital divide is a serious issue facing the society and it can never be solved completely rather it can only be minimized. The researcher has found that providing people with information communication technology could not help in bridging digital divide, instead people need to be educated in order to have technical skills for operating the computer. Ever since capitalism evolved, the society has never been equal; therefore the divide will never be closed completely, there will always be inequality. Even though the government can help with free computers and digital literacy, some people especially in old people will not be interested in studying computers, as they will see it as wasting their time.



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Howard, PN, Busch, L & Sheets, P. 2010. Comparing Digital Divides: Internet Access and Social Inequality in Canada and the United States. Canadian Journal of Communication 35(1): 109-128.

Huang, CY & Chen, HN. 2010. Global Digital Divide: A Dynamic Analysis Based on the Bass Model. Journal of Public Policy & Marketing 29(2): 248-264.


Role Mobile Technology Play In The Network Society.

The aim of this essay is to discuss the role mobile technology play in the network society.
Network Society: “The network society concept emphasizes the form and organization of information processing and exchange.” (Van Dijk, 2006: 20).
Mobile technology has changed human history. It allows us to stay connected regardless of our geographical location. The implications of this are huge: not only is it incredibly convenient to be able to make a phone call wherever you are, but it’s also crucial to be able to make a phone call when you need to most; namely, during an emergency situation. Because of this, mobile technology has literally saved lives. Besides these obvious implications, there are also more subtle ways by which mobile technology has helped mankind. Consider that mobile devices are commonly used in the medical industry to enhance and simplify how things are run.
We owe a great deal of gratitude to mobile devices. Through phone calls, SMS messaging, mobile Internet browsing and many more avenues, we’ve been able to stay connected as a society and keep in touch both in times of relaxation and in times of need. Mobile devices have truly touched the lives of millions.
Regardless of their specific form, the last few decades have seen an unparalleled rise in the availability of these technologies among the public. In 1985, for example, there were a total of 340,000 cell phone subscribers in the United States. In 2012, there are now 5.9 billion cell phone subscribers worldwide. This shift in the span of only 27 years has had a dramatic effect on how people relate to one another.
In previous eras, for example, there was a clear line between the “public” and “private” spheres of daily life. Because communication technology could only be transmitted in very specific forms like a television set or radio signal, people interacted with the technology in limited bursts. The news cycle was geared to produce a compendium of relevant stories at specific times, leading to more thoughtful and well-researched presentations. Because the hardware was somewhat costly, people tended to gather in groups to experience presentations together. When the presentation was over, people would turn off the technology and return to their particular social grouping without the expectation of further media interference.
In our present society, mobile technology is never “off” in the same way that it used to be only a few decades before. While people can elect individually to participate with the technology, the public/private boundary has become very hard to differentiate. Cell phones, which allow people to connect to the internet, are designed to remain receptive to messages unless their battery has died. The natural human urge to connect with others is now a constant option, instead of an occasional luxury.
The presence of older communication technology such as radio or television in people’s lives does not have the same significance that it once did, although it still plays a role. Increasingly, communication technology is viewed as a kind of platform. A radio show might be more popular than a television show, or vice-versa. People accord relevance to content, not necessarily the platform on which it is found. This has forced content providers to become increasingly competitive in terms of branding themselves in the market in order to attract attention. Television competes with Twitter competes with radio competes with memes on the internet. There is no center in the communications technology universe, only a constantly revolving door of options. The consumer chooses what content appeals to him, and the benefit to the communication technology provider is therefore second-hand.
This is partially why the rise of wireless technology may ultimately become the distinguishing factor in who influences major communication shifts. Much like electricity, without wireless access many people will be unable to access the content. However, the sheer numbers of people who are actively participating in communications technology by virtue of owning cell phones makes it unlikely that only one provider will be able to capture all wireless communications. Because cell phones and tablet computers have evolved so quickly, it is likely that smaller markets will be able to create sophisticated “off-grid” technologies that use a specialized form of wireless signal to transmit messages to a select group, much as the London rioters of 2011 sent each other private messages over their Blackberrys or iPhones.



It is now a norm to see mobile phones in educational and learning environments such as the school ground. Once an isolated learning environment, now a constant connection to outside distractions and interruptions. A survey of 1,000 young people aged 11–15 years found that 90% had their own mobile phone (Kendall 2001). Of those young people owning a phone; the majority (73 percent) had their mobile phones on during the class and a further 13 percent said that they had received a call or message since the class had begun. This shows the change from a student who should be focusing and learning, that is now distracted and socializing.
The usage of mobile phones may be altering, in a profound way, the structure of leisure time. It has changed the idea of ‘killing’ time when you would read a newspaper, book or magazine. Now, killing time can be more productive by communicating with someone, planning things or even checking emails (Fortunati, 2002).
Regardless of what the future holds, the present is very much an environment influenced by communication technology. It is not an uncommon sight to see someone walking down a crowded street, completely absorbed by the display of their smart phone. The way we choose to connect with people has become largely mediated by communication technology. Most of us, perhaps not surprisingly, have accepted this transition without question.

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The impact that social media has on societal and individual relations.

The aim of this essay is to give the impact that social media has on societal and individual relations.

Social media has changed the way people interact with each other forever. Social media first existed as an invention created in 1975 known as email, which is still used today (Owyang, 2009).

However social media has advanced in to using a profile to give information about a user and his or her interests, and has integrated the use of email. Now social media involves sharing stories, photos, and involves the use of applications as well as messaging to communicate with others. This type of social media did not become popular until the year 2003 when MySpace and Friendster were launched. Shortly after Facebook was launched but was not open to the general public until 2006, which has become the number one social media site today (Owyang, 2009). These networks have many positive effects such as remaining in contact with friends, meeting new people, providing educational benefits, as well as the convenience of mobilly accessing it. Also there are some negative effects which include identity theft, cyber bullying, decreased social interaction in real life, and social isolation. Increase in mobile social media could possible cause future health problems.

The first type of social media created was Email, which was invented in 1975 (Email). Since then social media has advanced into a profile with numerous features that can be used and has integrated the use of email. Now social media is changing the way the world interacts with people, and has provided many useful tools for the world to use. Still these social networks are continuing to advance to provide better features for users, and these popular sites will continue to grow in size. Even though social networks can have negative effects such as wasting time, it also affects people positively by allowing people to communicate and remain in contact with friends in a much easier way. (Owyang, 2009)

In the article “Are social networking sites good for our society?” (ProCom,2009) social networking  is defined as “an online community that allow people to develop profiles of their backgrounds and interests, communicate with friends and strangers, and share thoughts, photos, Internet links, music, and more (p.1). Once a social network is joined users are prompted to identify others in the system with which they have a relationship known generally as “friends.” Social media sites vary greatly with the features they have to offer, and is what makes each site different from the other.”Six Degrees” was the first major social network, similar to social media today, to be launched and was launched in 1997 (Bhutkar, 2009). Social media as it is today did not become popular until 2003 when Friendster MySpace and LinkedIn were launched. Then in 2004 Facebook was launched but was only open to college students with a valid university email. Facebook remained a college only network for two years before it opened to the general public in 2006. Since then Facebook has become the number one social media site

(Bhutkar, 2009).

Social media sites allow people to communicate and remain in contact with friends as well as meet new people. These sites allow people to find others with similar interests that they can create a relationship with and get to know one another. Groups can be joined or formed to meet people with similar interests, and views. Social media allows for creative expression by using tools such as messaging to post ideas and stories (Are social networking sites good for our society). Users also share poems, interest in music, TV shows, hobbies, photos, and many other things. Event invitations can be made and sent to friends rather than having to mail invitations and friends can also rsvp for an event on the site.

Not only is it used to talk to friends, but it is also used to discuss educational topics. Social media is said to increase a person’s quality of life, and can reduce health risks. Many people report that they have not had any negative experiences with social media, and schools are starting to look at it as an educational tool (Thelwell, 2006). The use of social media helps improve technological skills of students, and exposes them to many diverse views about things. It also has helped with communication skills, and allows the learning of cultures from users all over the world. Also students use social media to discuss homework topics with peers online, and to get help on assignments (Reid, 2009). Sixty percent of students on social networks have said that they talk about education, and 50 percent specifically talk about school work assignments. These students seem to have an extraordinary set of traditional and 21st century skills including communication, creativity, collaboration, and leadership skills and technology proficiency. Parents are expecting schools to take advantage of using online social media to educate children, but to do so in a safe way. Some public schools have created a secure social network for its student to be able to communicate with other students, and to do so in a more safe way (National School Board Association, 2007).

Social media does not just benefit individuals, but it also benefits businesses as well. These sites allow businesses to advertise and market services to a large audience, and a profile is free to set up (Gillin, 2008). Numerous businesses have created profiles that provide detailed information about the business to advertise in a low cost way (Roberts, 2008). Businesses will gain more attention on social networks because the business profile is available to for all users of the social network to see. Also businesses like to use social networks to learn what potential employees are like, and make decisions based on the information provided on the person’s profile (Ellison, Steinfield, & Lampe, 2007).


Social media has its advantages and its disadvantages like everything else does. The sites are continuously advancing, and changing to fix the negative problems.There are still problems that need to be fixed, but it seems that the positive effects outweigh the negative effects. Social media is a very valuable tool that can be used to meet new people, and allow people to remain in contact with friends. Even though it can waste time, social media positively affects the world by allowing people to communicate, and remain in contact with friends in an easy and convenient way.


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