It has been a great pleasure to be invited by the Foundation University of Islamabad to give a keynote talk (albeit virtual) about Digital Divide. The event has been moderated and coordinated by Dr. Sadia Jamil (Khalifa University) and Dr Shabbir Hussain (Bharia University, Islamabad) introduced the phenomenon of Digital Divide in Pakistan. It was pleasure see participants from Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh.
In my talk, I emphasised how access to, and use of ICT is a new civil right: an essential necessity to be a full citizen. In fact, an insufficient and unequal access to the Internet can create new forms of social segregation that exacerbate already existing social inequalities. In a digital-reliant society being excluded from the digital realm means missing opportunities to improve one’s quality of life.
Throughout my talk I underlined several times how the advent of ICTs have granted many privileges to their users, but have also given rise to complex forms of exclusion affecting those already marginalized. We focused on the obstacles that prevent certain social groups from accessing and properly using technologies. This limited access and use of ICTs is defined as the “Digital Divide”. The metaphor of the digital divide suggested a division between two dichotomous groups that can be clearly determined. However, it is possible to observe different degrees of e-inclusion and use of ICTs.
For this reason, I focused on the three levels of Digital Divide, namely i) Inequalities in Accessing ICTs; ii) Inequalities in Usages and iii) Inequalities in Outcomes of Internet Access and Uses.
I concluded by emphasizing that accessing the internet, alone, is simply not enough to be digitally included. It is also necessary to have the capacity to create, successfully navigate, understand online content and use ICTs to improve their life chances.
Citizens need the ability to utilize digital infrastructure and not simply to access it.