Well, maybe this is a very metaphorical picture, but it's clear what it means... Nowadays, everybody knows about the use of the Internet, and let's not regret it: when we meet someone who tells us "I don't have Internet at home", we cannot avoid looking at them with "poker face". "But what you do not have Internet access?", we use to say. But, who knows? The world is very big, and anybody tells us that that person has a very easy life, or an easy access to the Web. The topic is that, whereas developed countries keep on growing their potencial and keep on developing, developing countries are not in the same situation. They even don't move from their status.
My question is: is Internet an impartial media? Or better: is Internet an independent media, in the sense of not being manipulated by governments, companies and private institutions? Internet Users on September 2009 gives us a show of the Internet Users Stats data base. I'm sure that, without looking it, we can get an idea of what countries will be the most powerful in terms of Internet access and which will be the most poor ones. Although there are data which can be strange for us (in Asia there is more access to the Web thanks to that it's much higher-populated than the Internet home land, North America; or there is less access in Australia than in Africa for the same reason), we have to wonder about the Digital Divide, and why is it caused. Let's think about a couple of examples.
Two days ago, as they say, Egypt suffered the worst Internet crisis of his history: due to the hundred revolutions against the Government, Mubarak took the decision of banning access to the Web, social networks (although these protests were convened through them), etc. So, the country was absolutely incommunicated, and because of that, we can explain the people desperation to show the world what was happening through radio and television. I think that case is one of those that represent the Queen Digital Divide.
In the same situation was China not long ago, when the Government started to restrict the access to information because it didn't suit it that people knew what was being done with Google in that country.
But we have to think about something: is it always governments' fault? Thinking it carefully, I don't think so. If we take a look on Jan van Dijk's ideas, we can find four types of steps that an individual user must take if they want to get into the huge Digital Community:
- MOTIVATION = If this aspect is absent, the Internet access would not make any sense for that user. I can have all the means; if I don't want to use them, is not the institutions' responsability.
- MATERIAL AND PHYSICAL ACCESS = We can have the computer there, in our room, but never touch it because...
- SKILLS ACCESS = ...we don't know how to manipulate it, or we ignore how to find out a webpage in Google.
- USAGE = It is the main goal the other conditions bring us to. If them are not sufficient condition to talk about Digital Divide, they are, at least, an important part of it.
To sum up, in my opinion the Digital Divide origin is not totally clear. At least for me; I always used to think that we had to blame governments about differences in freedom of expression, Internet access, the gap between one developing country an another already developed... But this can be as inadequate as illogical. Yes, OK, governments take a very active roll in this game, but I think people contribute too, although we don't realise it. So, as we are talking about freedom of expression and egalitarianism, let's all try to convert the Digital Divide in "Digital Scar".