The Digital Divide
The lack of access to high speed broadband Internet service equals diminished opportunity for millions or even billions of people around the world. Many people perceive significant differences in quality of life between those who have access to high speed internet and those who do not. This difference is commonly referred to as the Digital Divide. Those who do not have high speed Internet service have much more difficulty finding access to jobs, business information and business opportunities, health care and education.
Reasons for Lack of Internet Access
The Digital Divide is much more pronounced in the developing world, mainly due to a lack of reliable electrical service. Social entrepreneurs have begun to overcome this problem in some areas by installing solar powered WiFi nodes in villages that do not have electrical service or that have unreliable electrical service. Few people in Europe and the United States claim that they do not have Internet access because they do not have a need for it or are not interested in it. Income is a much more important factor. Most people in the developed world who do not have Internet access cannot afford subscription fees charged by Internet service providers (ISP). Lower education levels also roughly correspond with lack of Internet access. However, there are some cultural factors that are being researched. In the United States, rates of Internet access tend to be lower among blacks, Hispanics, people who live in rural areas and individuals with disabilities- even after adjustment for income and education level.
WiFi is Beginning to Address the Digital Divide
The invention of the cellular telephone brought telephone access to many people in Africa who never had access to traditional land line telephones. Since cell phones do not require wires to be laid across miles of land, they became a way for people in remote areas to communicate by telephone. In a similar way, WiFi is beginning to make Internet access available to people throughout the world. The challenge for many people in the developing world is to acquire laptop computers. The technology for making communications more secure over WiFi have advanced in the last few years. Pricing structures and business models for offering only WiFi access are still evolving. A few cities in the United States offer WiFi access as a public service or have plans to do so. Some cities offer this service through libraries. Those cities that do offer free WiFi service often find that they also need to offer technical help to repair or upgrade computers as well as offer tutoring in computer literacy.
- photo by woodleywonderworks at Flickr
Peter Wendt is a writer and lives in Austin, Texas. When he was researching WiFi and hotspot options for his home, he used this wifi solutions provider, which he highly recommends to anyone interested in WiFi for their home or business.