Everyone knows information is a form of power


By Amie Milton


It could be said that Australia is a country highly dependent on the internet, with a large percentage of business and personal activity run through this outlet. By December 2010 there were 10.4 million active internet subscribers and “8.3 million mobile handset internet subscribers” in Australia [2]. But despite these large numbers, Australia currently holds 1% of the worldwide internet usage [3]. And so what may seem significant to us, on a worldwide scale Australia’s internet usage is infinitesimal. Evidently new media outlets such as internet have expanded significantly in past years which begs the question, how are some countries still unable to access this life changing development?

The internet is a viable source of information, a place people go to seek or provide answers. “Everyone knows information is a form of power.” [1] Developed countries are manipulating new media to achieve just this, gaining power to revolutionize the healthcare industry. A documentary showcased by CNN recently showed the use of technology in the healthcare system in India, a doctor consulting a patient via satellite [4]. “Telemedicine, as it is called, is practical, safe and not expensive. With telemedicine, the patients and their doctors don’t have to be in the same room for the treatment, monitoring and examination to happen. This is basically to facilitate the patient who at times, cannot be treated by his local doctor and instead of being sent to a city doctor, telemedicine makes the patient’s life easier.” [4] Telemedicine, although a great concept for improving health in third world countries, will be more difficult to introduce into under-developed countries. But why is this so?

The term digital divide is a good place to start.

The digital divide refers to the gap between individuals, households, businesses and geographic areas at different socio-economic levels with regard both to their opportunities to access information and communications technologies (ICTs) and to their use of the Internet for a wide variety of activities.” [5] This idea of socio-economic levels within the globe privileges the lack of communications technologies within under-developed countries and their inability to use this information to gain power. “Simply setting up Internet facilities in disadvantaged areas of the globe does very little to empower local populations that lack the cultural and social capital to render such facilities intelligible and useful.” [6]

Evidently, cultural and social capital are putting third world countries at a loss, unable to achieve technologically driven medical advancements like those in developed countries. Although this is just one example of a digital divide, if overcome it is one that could boost the health of third world nations. And so I leave you with this:
“If information is no longer to be treated as a "commodity" and become instead a "service" at the disposal of all humankind, and if a new world order in the field of information is to be established, the Third World countries must consolidate their information media and the Western highly developed technological countries must assist.” [1]


Comments


Comment 1:

By Jae Moran
Amie makes an interesting point in reference to the digital divide and the global community. This led me to investigate the development of the global digital divide. The global digital divide describes the differences in access to technology between different regions of the world in relation to generalised rates of social and technological development [7].


The global digital divide can be visualized in the image below.

global_digital_divide11.png

In countries where the Internet and other technologies are less/not accessible, uneducated people and societies that are not benefiting from the information age cannot be competitive in the global economy [8]. Unfortunately this appears to be a social issue as well as an issue of technology.


Comment 2:

By Wanda Rebolledo(N7181175)

The countries that are most disadvantaged now, are the same that have been disadvantaged in the past and will be in the future. These are countries in continents such as Africa, South America, and the Middle East.

The following two images demonstrate how the world would be shaped based on the amount of internet usage[9]. As it is seen internet usage in the developing countries were slim to none at the turn of the millennium [9]. With Africa barely even registering on the map and while it did go between then and 2007, there really was not a major change in the circumstances [9].

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While the following image shows the internet usage in 2010 and the predicted amount of usage for 2014. The pattern for all the contents seems to be growth. Similar what was happening in the previous pictures [10]. In this prediction it can be seen that yet again Africa and the Middle East will still be an insignificant player in this game, with both showing minimal growth in comparison to the continents [10].

internet_1174402a.jpg

Therefore as previously stated countries in Africa and the Middle East are particularly at a disadvantage.

Comment 3:

By Sarah Marris (N5122384)
The digital divide Amie refers to not only exists in relation to medical treatment in third world countries. The lack of new media communications, and in some instances, their complete non existence in such countries affects all aspects of these people’s lives. Technology has the ability to change communities and really help people, the Internet and telecommunications can be used not only for medicine but for education and small business development.
The below articles detail how technology is changing communities:
http://www.un.org/ecosocdev/geninfo/afrec/vol17no3/173tech.htm
http://globallearningtoday.com/2010/01/technology-helping-educate-the-third-world/

Comment 4:

By Kate Bell (N7187955)

external image world.jpg
[11] A snapshot of the digital divide

The above diagram captures yet another visual perspective of the divide experienced when it comes to digital technology. As stated earlier, the Digital Access Index (DAI) measures the overall ability of individuals in a country to access and use information and communication technologies. According to the International Telecommunications Union (2010) [12], only 21 percent of the population in developing countries is online. Furthermore, it is estimated that at the end of 2010 internet user penetration in Africa reached 9.6 percent, far behind the world average of 30 percent (International Telecommunications Union, 2010). This clearly highlights the growing need for greater access to this information in developing countries. This could be implemented through a variety of potential schemes including price reduction or subsidies, advances in intelligent computer systems and donations through charitable organisations such as One Laptop per Child.

References



[1] Mitchell, J. 2011. “A reflection on media in the third world.” Accessed September 19, 2011. http://www.medialit.org/reading-room/reflection-media-third-world

[2] Australian Bureau of Statistics. 2011. “Internet Activity.” Accessed September 19, 2011. http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Latestproducts/8153.0Media%20Release1Dec%202010?opendocument&tabname=Summary&prodno=8153.0&issue=Dec%202010&num=&view=

[3] Internet World Stats. 2011. “Internet users in the world distribution by world regions- 2011.” Accessed September 19, 2011. http://www.internetworldstats.com/stats.htm

[4] Lacy, K. 2010. “Technology in third world countries in changing.” Accessed September 19, 2011. http://kylelacy.com/technology-in-third-world-countries-is-changing/

[5] Pascual, P. 2003. “e-Government.” Accessed September 19, 2011. http://www.apdip.net/publications/iespprimers/eprimer-egov.pdf

[6] McLelland, M and Gerard Goggin. 2009. Internationalising Internet Studies: Beyond Anglophone Paradigms. New York: Routledge. Accessed September 19, 2011. http://blackboard.qut.edu.au/webapps/portal/frameset.jsp?tab_tab_group_id=_2_1&url=%2Fwebapps%2Fblackboard%2Fexecute%2Flauncher%3Ftype%3DCourse%26id%3D_75786_1%26url%3D

[7] Wenhong, C and B. Wellman. 2004. “The global digital divide – within and between countries”. IT & Society.1(7): 39-45. Accessed September 21, 2011.

http://homes.chass.utoronto.ca/~wellman/publications/digidiv/chen_wellman_digidiv_it_society04.pdf

[8] Burks, M. 2001. "Economic Factors Involved with Universal Internet Access and People with Special Needs hi- A Working Paper". Accessed September 21, 2011. http://www.icdri.org/BurksMISC/economic_factors_involved_with_u.htm

[9] Worldmapper. 2008. Internet Users. Accessed September 30, 2011.
http://www.worldmapper.org/animations/internet_users_animation.html

[10] Simpifying Complexity. 2011. Global Internet usage and projections. Accessed September 30, 2011.

http://blog.rigelcommunications.com/?p=89

[11] ICTP Digital Divide Simulator. 2004. “What is the Digital Divide?”. Accessed October 4, 2011. http://wireless.ictp.it/simulator/

[12] International Telecommunications Union. 2010. “Two billion people on the Internet...but too few in Africa”. Accessed October 4, 2011. http://www.itu.int/ITU-D/ict/material/FactsFigures2010.pdf