The Digital Divide Revisited: The Grand Canyon of the Online Environment?

Kevin M. Rogers

Abstract

The second stage of the World Summit on Information Society (WSIS) in November 2005 resolved to tackle the problem of bridging the digital divide. There have been a number of initiatives aimed at bridging the digital divide, perhaps one of the more publicised is that of the $100 laptop for each of the world’s poorest children, as announced by Kofi Annan, the General Secretary of the United Nations during the WSIS summit.

However, the aim of this paper is to suggest that if the bridging of the digital divide is to truly realised then there needs to be a greater espousing of mobile (or ‘m’) commerce. Whilst ‘traditional’ Internet links are not to be rejected, only by increasing access to m-commerce will the inequality being seen on an international level be reduced. Predominantly, contemporary Internet usage requires inter alia connectivity to a server and electricity supply, solid appreciation of the English language and literacy and a good understanding of computers. These requirements are rarely fulfilled in societies within poor socio-economic contexts. Accordingly, the development of m-commerce, which does not always require physical telecommunications links, detailed knowledge of computer systems or even the English language, is essential not only to reducing the disparity in Internet connectivity, but also it will be shown that m-commerce usage can improve the lifestyles and economic well-being of the most impoverished people.

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