Will the Digital Divide slow down the Fourth Revolution?

This nice infographic about the digital divide in the US raises the interesting question of the Digital Divide in society, as the Fourth Revolution expands. Will it slow down the Revolution?

Interestingly as much as it was high on the political agenda in the middle of the 2000’s in many developed countries, this subject does not seem to receive as much attention today. Many developed countries have fostered the development of broadband connections in rural areas.

internet access globeInternet connectivity, in the meanwhile, has dramatically expanded in the developing world, although it still remains very low for some countries. A map of internet availability in the word in 2010 is for example available here, or a list of the most and least connected countries here.

For the least developed countries we can probably expect that in the few years to come, internet availability will increase through mobile networks exactly as the phone did expand as it is a cheaper infrastructure to build.

So, there is still a large share of the population that does not have access to internet, both in developed and developing countries. Yet, the amount of people worldwide that can connect together is unprecedented, creating huge amount of value.

Historical analysis shows that a communication technology becomes ubiquitous, changing society, when it reaches 10-20% penetration. It is the case today in most developed and emerging countries. At this penetration level, everybody can access the communication technology, even if that means borrowing or renting access to a terminal, and having access only episodically.

That’s why we do not share a pessimistic view of the situation. Today in developed country, even if everybody does not own an access to internet, everybody can access it. It is also the case in emerging countries. It creates tremendous opportunities for a large share of the world population.

Yes, the issue of Digital Divide needs to be tackled and access to internet needs to be progressively included in the basic needs as are water and power. No, the Digital Divide is not any more a big issue except in the poorest countries.

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