Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Digital Divide: The Three Stages

Addressing varied populations caught in the digital divide ...

"The economic divide is a non-issue, but the usability and empowerment divides alienate huge population groups who miss out on the Internet's potential.

The "digital divide" refers to the fact that certain parts of the population have substantially better opportunities to benefit from the new economy than other parts of the population. Most commentators view this in purely economic terms. However, two other types of divide will have much greater impact in the years to come.

Stage 1: Economic Divide
In its simplest form, the digital divide is manifested in the fact that some people can't afford to buy a computer. Although politicians always talk about this point, it's growing more irrelevant with each passing day -- at least in the industrialized world. We should recognize that for truly poor developing countries, computers will remain out of the average citizen's reach for 20 years or more.
In areas like North America, Europe, Australia, and Asia's advanced countries, computer cost is no longer an issue. Dell's cheapest computer costs $379 (with a monitor) and is about 500 times as powerful as the Macintosh Plus I used to write my Ph.D. thesis. While it's true that a few people can't even afford $379, in another five years, computers will be one-fourth their current price. Would that all social problems would go away if we simply waited five years.

Stage 2: Usability Divide

Stage 3: Empowerment Divide"    (Continued via Alertbox)    [Usability Resources]

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