Disappearing divides

As sure as clockwork, whenever there is a discussion of the advances the internet and technology provide, someone will bring up the digital divide. Not sure what they expect the folks in the discussion to do about it – hold all progress until the divide is conquered? Of course, it’s the progress itself that will close the divide by creating demand and efficiency and thus scale and affordability.

Once upon a time in America, there was a literacy divide, a print divide, a radio divide, a phone divide, a TV divide, a mobile phone divide. They are all just about gone thanks to this dynamic of progress creating demand.

I have confidence that the divide will close. That said, I’m quite happy to see it hurried along. The divide I’m most concerned about now is the next one: the broadband divide. I’m hoping that President Obama’s CTO makes that job no. 1.

  • There is another divide: The Upgrade Divide.

    I wasn’t made aware of this until I did numerous upgrades of XP on my speedy PC and within a year had it turn into slow rubbish that can no longer do video properly. It now takes me *minutes* to do blog posts that pre-Updates took mere *seconds*.

    (The first person to utter “clean re-install” dies, btw.)

  • Don’t forget the usability divide.

  • Today the divide is between those who saw YouTube Live last night and those who did not.

  • Yes, and:
    The irony divide
    The snark divide
    The optimism divide

  • The broadband divide as it is related to fixed location access will close in most every state. The last to get hs connectivity will be those in rural America. My sense is there are two significant divides on the horizon. The mobile or handset divide, those that can afford the tools and toys gaining advantages. The cohort divide, digital natives and their followers leading an app revolution to the practical disadvantage of their elders who elect not to participate.

  • Dave,
    I think the app divide, to the contrary, make the powerful simple. There is nothing simpler than a Google search box and it has the world behind it. That’s a divide-closer, I think.
    Thus, also, I think apps will fix much of what you rightly sense in a mobile power divide. The apps on my iPhone are already more powerful than the most powerful app on any closed and proprietary phone I owned before.

  • Some old thoughts on the ideas of “digital inclusion” vs “digital expansion” from two smart bloggers (neither of whom is me ;-) )


    “People talk about the entrepreneurial opportunities that will come from “closing the digital divide.” They’re there, but anyone who is arriving now to the online world is working at a disadvantage to those who came before.”

    and also


  • Job #1? Well, I guess he could include it in the massive infrastructure buildout.

  • The digital divide is a moot argument, so Jeff I agree with you. Look at the phenomenon in Africa with mobile phones. Since most countries lacked a telecommunications infrastructure, landlines have been completely supplanted by mobile technology. I think that once smart phones and data plans become cheaper, most people will use their mobile phones to communicate. That’ll be the end to the digital divide.

    Oh, and those arriving online now, especially the youth, will be the most innovative contributors to the future of online technology.

  • This will be easy to say for someone who has had broadband for quite a while, but here i go anyway;

    I think that the “broadband divide” is a phony issue more meant to get greater government rules and bureaucracy into the internet business. For all the handwringing over the claims that other nations are rolling out broadband faster than we do, I think a good job has been done over all.

    I fear greater regulations will give the bigger companies an unfair adavantage, as it has in other industries.

    Here in little Rockland, Maine, broadband came to us not from the phone company, not from the cable company, but from a locally owned and operated ISP over a decade ago (Midcoast Internet Solutions, midcoast.com) in the form of fixed wireless. (mounted antennas, pointing to either antennas on Benner Hill, or on top of the county courthouse).

    This same technology, allowed for Midcoast to provide internet access to some of the more rural areas of Knox County, and the nearby islands.

    I wonder if exposed to a highly regulated environment, if Midcoast could have done it. Too many would be internet providers of broadband today are begging to use the lines of phone companies or cable companies, we need more companies willing to create their own infrastructure, like Midcoast did.

  • When saying you think the digital divide is a red herring, are you talking about it in a different way to this UK government report about social exclusion cf digital exclusion?

    “An Analysis of Social Disadvantage and the Information Society”

    In executive summary: “Those who are most deprived socially are also least likely to have access to digital resources such as online services.”

    Anyone who suggests we halt progress until the divide is closed would be a fool, but surely that doesn’t mean the divide simply isn’t worth thinking about, or that some people shouldn’t be putting their efforts toward helping close it.

  • Here’s what’s being done in rural Western Massachusetts, a place that that was pretty much abandoned by both Verizon and by the administrations of our previous Republican governors:


    Make sure to check out the “Latest News” page. Some of the difficulties of getting broadband to rural areas have to do with getting around the geography of a region–how to get the brodband into very mountainous regions areas and how to spread it out across the widest areas in the most cost-effective way.

    We also have the Massachusetts Broadband Initiative which has been re-invigorated under the Patrick administration…

    There are, however, still some problems with broadband connectivity in the city of Springfield–different issue than in the rural areas though.

    Chris Anderson makes an important point though about the entrepreneurial opportunities perhaps being more limited nowadays. As we see more businesses (ineffectively and/or spam-handedly) using blogs and other forms of social media, it *may* be harder for those who have been left out up to this point to catch up on the “learning curve” necessary to effectively negotiate the landscape.

    However, it is still vital for their children to have broadband if they are going to compete for college and better jobs. It can also be vital to local governments for speeding up emergency communications and facilitating communication with State and Federal agencies.

  • >>>They’re there, but anyone who is arriving now to the online world is working at a disadvantage to those who came before.

    What rubbish! That would have made Einstein disadvantaged, coming so late to physics. Or Richard Feynman.

    “The online world” of today bears little resemblance to the one of ten years ago, to twenty years ago. I was there. And I’m usurped constantly by newcomers who adopt things I have no interest in: FriendFeed, RSS, whatever.