Over the years we have seen a gradual shift in information and communications technology, with people moving from older tools of communications like telegrams and letters to modern tools like mobiles, instant messengers, and VoIP. Still the divide between the rural areas and more ‘informed’ – cyber cities – is quite apparent. In countries like USA, Japan, and the UK, people are more ‘tech-literate’ and informed; use latest tools to communicate or for other tasks. Most services are available on the internet which can be accessed using devices like mobile phones, tablets, desktops or any other hand held device. Compare that to developing economies like India – credited with one of the fastest growing IT markets; but still lacks that last mile connectivity option for rural areas. Although the developing economies are trying to fast-track various IT projects to catch up with the developed nations but the gap is widening every day because of better implementation of schemes in the technologically superior countries. Countries like the USA and others belonging to the European Union are using better tools to cater to even a wider market; for instance, moving to ‘contact-less’ payment services – removing the need to carry payment cards or net banking pins. Compare them to the North Eastern states in India where accessibility to internet is still very poor. The world is changing rapidly with the emergence of the ubiquitous societies and availability of better information and communication tools, making it even more difficult for the developing nations to catch up with the developed countries.
Connectivity & Infrastructure
Infrastructure which includes devices such as – computers, laptops, mobiles, tablets, mp3 players, and many more – is the basic necessity to build a strong communications channel. The digital divide can be witnessed in terms of the number of subscriptions and availability of these devices. Countries like India, Sri Lanka, or Indonesia are still using old technology standards like the “2g networks”; compare them to countries like the USA or Japan where latest “LTE technology” is in use from past many years. Government of India’s recent moves, for instance – the implementation of the “Rural Broadband Connectivity” – are worth mentioning, however, implementation of such plans is another uphill task in such a diverse nation like ours, which further enhances the digital divide. The only way to catch up with the developed nations is to develop better infrastructure and connectivity tools at affordable rates to motivate and encourage more people to use them.
For the success or better implementation of any project, the primary necessity is to define the financial budget for the project. Better implementation of schemes can only be insured if the money is utilized in more effective ways. The flow of funds between various government agencies has to be smooth and in accordance with law to guarantee adoption of modern technology. The government has to introduce stricter policy framework to ascertain the importance of building tools and improving the last mile connectivity in ‘underdeveloped’ areas like – the villages. The bludgeoning gap between the developed and the developing economies can only be reduced if policies and frameworks are adopted after due diligence.
Bridging the Digital Divide
The only way to decrease the gap between – the developed and the developing – is by encouraging more people to use technological tools like the mobile phones, laptops, and computers. Private sector must also commit to providing equal tools to the rural sector, thus enabling more people to join internet. To guarantee better implementation of schemes the government must develop stricter policy checks to ascertain that the schemes and tools are adopted at the grassroots level and provide for better implementation.