New Civilization News: The Digital Divide - 6 December 2002    
 The Digital Divide - 6 December 2002
picture5 Dec 2002 @ 22:28, by ashanti

A subject that is of relevance to us here, is the Digital Divide. This is a topic of many conference papers. According to an article in the Business Day, the Internet remains largely virgin territory in Africa. It highlights that: "As few Africans can afford PCs, the market for consumer services is limited. Erratic power supplies also take their toll, providing a barrier to PC usage. Nor are internet cafes particularly lucrative, as hourly rates must be affordable but must also cover the cost of computers, bandwidth, telephone calls, rent for the premises and wages."

The worldwide digital divide speaks to a new kind of poverty.

According to the articles above, it is not only economic poverty, leading to infrastructure problems that result in the digital divide between North and South, but it is a conceptual, cultural divide as well. Information flows have traditionally been imperialistic - many papers are webbed, with people in the North talking about Africa, but few with *Africans* speaking about Africa.

As always, solutions work better if they are African solutions to African problems. At this conference:
"Khupe highlighted the fact that there was an emerging digital divide between northern and southern societies, including Africa. He indicated that while certain people were digitally connected to each other around the world, there was a digital divide between the rich and the poor within nations. In rural areas where most Africans actually live, there is no access at all and no prospect of getting any access. It is these people in this category who will die without ever making or receiving a phone call. He highlighted that it was interesting to see that the G8 (top eight economic and industrially powerful countries in the world) wish to solve African problems when one might in fact find that some of the causes of the digital divide arise precisely because of the relationship the North has with the South. There is a whole history to this relationship."

Which of course opens up a whole other can of worms that I shall not go into now. But I firmly believe that the origins of the North-South polarization of the Digital Divide are political, not economic.



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