As the United States grapples with the emergency of its own digital divide during the COVID-19 pandemic, we are not alone in this struggle. In fact, countries all over the world have been dealing with this issue, and on a much larger scale for a long time. This difference in access to technology and the Internet, also known as the international digital divide, describes global disparities, primarily between developed and developing countries, in regards to access to computing and information resources such as the Internet and the opportunities derived from such access.
The concept of the digital divide was originally popularized due to the disparity in Internet access between rural and urban areas of the United States. However, the international digital divide is a special case of the digital divide, in that the focus is set on the fact that the Internet has developed unevenly throughout the world. The Internet is expanding very quickly, and not all countries—especially developing countries—are able to keep up with the speed of expansion. For example, data taken from the World Bank in 2017 shows the sheer difference in Internet access through the comparison of two countries. In Norway, a developed country, 96% of the population used the Internet. But in Somalia, a developing country, that percentage drops to only 2%.
The international digital divide has caused devastating effects, one of the worst being that it has caused some countries to fall behind in technology, education, labor, democracy, and tourism. In addition, computers and the Internet provide users with improved education, which can help them earn better jobs and higher wages. Unfortunately, this means that people living in nations with limited access therefore become disadvantaged.
On the global scale, the digital divide has turned from an important issue to a dire emergency. According to a 2017 UN report, it was revealed that more than 52% of people on the planet don't have access to the Internet or to a device. Here at Bridging Tech, our mission is to donate devices to those in need, whether they live right here in the Bay Area, or outside our international borders. In a world that has become increasingly reliant on technology, it is extremely important that we work to close the international digital divide. Without help, this gap in access to technology is at risk to become a yawning chasm.