Bridging the 'Digital Divide'

Manila Bulletin, February 13, 2003 | Go to article overview

Bridging the 'Digital Divide'


A VALENTINE offering of the Philippine Communication Centrum Foundation (PCCF) is a videoconferencing among information and communication technology (ICT) specialists in Manila, Baguio, and Cebu City on the topic Digital Divide. To the layman, this is a jargon added to the growing number of gobbledygook of the new Information society which could be interpreted in many ways.

I have had trouble explaining the term "digital" to my ICT illiterate husband and now, I would have to do the same with the "divide" concept. What really is the digital divide and why is it so important? In our global society, we refer to economic and social divide which refers to the imbalances between the urban rich and the rural poor. These imbalances are in the form of economic wealth and access to social services. The digital divide also refers to imbalances in access to information and communication technologies which we now recognize as vital to human survival. In fact, as we have stressed so often in the past, information is the most important resource in our knowledge economy. Digital Divide is used to describe differences in access to resources, both hardware such as computers and the content of these ICTs between developed and developing societies and between the center and the marginalized sectors within a country. Many developing areas have limited access to ICTs because of several reasons. One is that developing and rural societies have inadequate technological infrastructures (limited connectivity and capacity of broadband, etc.), which would allow efficient access to these technologies. Access is also limited because of affordability or cost of these technologies, the lack of power and maintenance and similar factors. Many are denied access because of illiteracy and inadequate understanding of the language of Internet which is primarily in English (92 percent). 77 percent of web servers are situated in English-speaking countries. But websites in non-English speaking countries are mostly in the native language not because of government intervention but a market necessity. An even more critical factor is the lack of appropriate content. Much of the content of the new technologies - whether Internet, CD-ROMs and learning discs are primarily produced in the West and the more developed societies and may not be appropriate to the culture, knowledge level and orientation of developing societies. The concern with cultural diversity and multilingualism, intellectual property rights and public domain information are some of the issues which the Information Summit to be held in Geneva in December, 2003 will address. The Summit will be convened by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) with UNESCO as cooperating agency.

Five brief papers which examined the benefits of ICT were presented during the PCCF-sponsored videoconferencing last Friday. They were: ELearning by Dr. Felix Librero, Chancellor of the University of the Philippines' Open University; E-Policies by Undersecretary Virgilio Pena, Department of Transportation and Communications; E-Governance by Director Valentin Abuan of the National Statistics Office, E-Legal by Atty.

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