Human society has come a long way since prehistoric civilization. The Enlightenment, the Renaissance and the Industrial Revolution are a few of history’s greatest periods of expansion and higher thinking. We are now in the midst of a new revolution: the digital revolution. We are moving from traditional means of storage and communication. We are opting for cloud-based digital reserves for our information as opposed to large file cabinets; we use our laptops, smartphones and tablets to stay connected through social media and messaging services. We are all constantly connected through digital means. But with this new digital age comes a serious problem: digital poverty.
You may be asking yourself, “what is digital poverty?” and you aren’t alone. Although it is not well-known, it is a global phenomenon. In essence, digital poverty is much like any other kind of poverty. Millions of people around the world do not have access to basic technologies, such as computers, smartphones, tablets, Internet connections, etc. And while that may sound, at first, incredibly negligible, it is a serious issue. At this point you may be asking yourselves, “aren’t there worse types of poverty in the world?” And while the ultimate answer is subjective, most would agree that there are worse kinds of poverty, such as financial poverty. However, the lack of access to technology is a large factor in hurting access to financial stability.
In today’s world, the mere ability to connect to the Internet is almost a necessity. If you want to apply for a job, a loan, or perform certain educational tasks, you need an Internet connection and a device for accessing that connection. Those without this access are at a clear disadvantage. And this problem extends beyond the individual person. Countries whose economies are slow to develop are also lacking in technology.
There are companies out there that are working to combat the issue, but when only 39% of the world’s population has access to technology, that makes it a very large challenge.
Digital poverty may not sound like a clear and immediate threat, but it is. Digital access is so much more than commenting on Facebook or streaming the latest Hollywood blockbuster. It can allow us to create new and profitable businesses, it can allow us to earn new jobs and it can allow us to become educated and excel in school so that we may have successful careers. Digital access is not an option anymore, it is a necessity, and the majority of the world is in the dark. In fact, the issue is so large that it is being called “the civil rights issue of our time” as this opportunity gap furthers the ever widening income gap and other related disparities.