|The concept of the digital divide is becoming more and more complex as access to computers and the use of computers, changes over time. When the existence of a “digital divide” first emerged, it revolved around access to computers and related technologies. The high cost of computers create a large divide between people who could afford them, and who had access to all the advantages of a computer, and those who could not.
The falling cost of computers, combined with initiatives in many countries to create community access points or telecentres [link], has meant that more and more people are gaining access to some form of computer. As more people gain basic access to computers, the term “digital divide” has grown to encompass technological literacy and the total cost of running a computer—in other words, the ability, both technical and financial, to make full use of the technology available. The digital divide now takes into consideration access, or lack of access, to the Internet, as well. The digital divide is not only an issue in developing countries. Even in very wealthy countries, various communities face barriers to access, for economic, linguistic, and even generational reasons.
Some organizations and even countries are trying to close the digital divide using free and open source software (FOSS). FOSS allows anyone to modify the software for his or her needs. One common reason to turn to FOSS is language: many software programs do not include language support for more than three or four languages. FOSS programmers can provide translation and localization for the software by changing the software code. To do this with non-open source, or proprietary, software users must wait until the company who made the software translates it.
Different groups are trying to close the digital divide in many other ways. The World Summit on the Information Society was a global policy process where governments, civil society, and businesses tried to solve some of the most pressing issues, ranging from basic access to who controls the flow of information on the Internet (Internet governance and net neutrality). There is also a large group of individuals, called the Digital Divide Network (DDN) [link] who are trying to close the divide in a number of different and innovative ways.