The Digital Divide is; information rich people who have easy access to computers and all the benefits that it provides while others are cut off from computers because of poverty, living in underdeveloped countries or rural areas without Internet access. In “Intermediaries: Bridges Across the Digital Divide”, written by Maung K. Sein and Bjorn Furuholt, both authors attempt to meet the digital divide by introducing Intermediaries. An Intermediary is an instructor who teaches underprivileged people how to read, write, and use computer technology. Sein and Furuholt list three vignettes of Intermediaries; Sengerema Telecentre (STC) in Mwanza region, Tanzania, Sea Boys Internet Café in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Kantor Pelayanan Terpadu (KPT, One-Stop Services) an e-government in the District of Sragen in Indonesia.
STC was established in 2001 and is the countries first rural telecentre. STC works as a Multi-Intermediary, meaning they offer multiple services to their customers, business professionals, and local government officials. They offer the community a variety of IT-related services and access to an in-house library. Multi-Intermediary instructors help less fortunate people living in surrounding rural areas by offering free courses on computer and Internet use. Additional services provided for a nominal fee include; distance learning courses and training courses which help the locals build their computer skills on a solid foundation. Future plans for STC include working with the local government together with Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO) providing ISP services to support sustainability. These ISP services include consultation services, education in desktop publishing, web design, and secretarial services. A majority of Intermediaries working at STC are volunteers in which the company relies on heavily. Five out of 18 employees have permanent positions within the center.
Sea Boys Internet Café founded in 1999 operates as an Individual Entrepreneurial Intermediary offering basic services to their customers. For example, if you are without a computer or Internet access, for a nominal fee you can use one of nine computers provided within the café. Sea Boys Internet Café, managed by a young gentleman by the name of Gasper who takes pleasure in customer service by offering online services to students, business personnel, tourists, students, both men and women alike. Gasper sits with his customers and advises them on emailing, crafting a school paper, finding employment, web design, and teaching standard operating procedures of how to use the computer and access the Internet. “Before I had a PC I would visit the local library and with the help of a librarian, she provided me with access to a computer, the Internet, and general knowledge of how to search for information of the Web”, says Gasper.
In 2002, Kantor Pelayanan Terpadu (KPT, One-Stop Services) opened their doors in Sragen to provide the public with a protocol to apply for and obtain permits and licenses for their homes and business’. KPT is a Government Intermediary that works to bridge the gap between e-government and the public at large. With various check points throughout the region, community members have to physically visit the e-government offices to submit paperwork for their requests. It is estimated that the district government will help to establish more centers throughout various villages and offer online and offline Internet access to anyone, at anytime, anywhere.
Training and employment of Intermediary’s is another solution to help sustain the Internet café and offer an array of solutions in helping community’s access ICT4D (Information and Communication Technology for Development). Google has initiated a solution to help provide Internet access to those who cannot afford it by establishing Google Fiber which provides super-fast Internet connection and television. Kansas City marked the first city in the United States where Google Fiber could launch its efforts, starting in communities where poverty is at an all-time high. “A world with universal access and 100 times faster Internet could mean 100 times the learning.” “Every Internet user is a potential source of information valuable to all clients”, says Google’s marketing materials. Once established in Kansas City, Google plans to extend their Fiber Internet access to other cities such as Provo, Utah, and Austin, Texas. With multiple cities on the horizon throughout the East Coast and the West Coast, Google Fiber plans to offer customers a faster solution for their Internet and broadband needs. (Google Fiber)
Google announced they will extend their efforts beyond U.S. borders into Africa through Project Link, which provides the same high-speed Internet access and connectivity in Kampala, Uganda, through various ISP’s and broadband servers. (Staff Writer, My Broadband, 2013) While Internet access is compromised throughout much of Africa, Mark D. Bowles author of “Introduction to the Digital Literacy Journey” states that; “Nearly 75% of households in the United States have Internet access in their homes, a distinct variance compared to third-world countries.” Bowles further suggests that there is a wealth of information on the World Wide Web and often recalls the saying that “knowledge is power”.
Statistics show that adults who graduate high school, further their education, and establish a substantial income, have purchased mobile devices, tablets, laptops, and e-readers for personal and professional discretion. In contrast to adults without an education together, lack the resources to acquire such technology. (Bowles, 2013) Bowles also suggests that “Without basic working knowledge of computers and the Internet, people will fall further into isolation and deeper into poverty.”
Bowles, M. D. (2013). Introduction to Digital Literacy. San Diego, CA: Bridgepoint Education, Inc.
Brick, M. (2014, January 21) Is Google Making the Digital Divide Worse? Newsweek Global Vol. 162 Issue 8, p28-39.
Google Fiber. (2014) Retrieved from https://fiber.google.com/newcities/
Sein, M.K. and Furuholt, B. (2012, October) Intermediaries: Bridges across the Digital Divide. Information Technology for Development Vol. 18, No. 4, p.332-344.
Staff Writer. (2013, November 21) Google Fiber Comes to Africa. My Broadband.