Most of the world’s population still does not have access to the Internet. GIIC Chairman Matt Bross calls on his colleagues to step up to the challenge of closing the digital divide…
A Call To Action: Facing The Digital Divide
The GIIC was created in the late 90’s to help governments understand the awesome power of this new thing called “The Internet” and how to best foster its development and growth. Even back then it was recognized that a “digital divide” existed and that it had to be addressed and, to the best of our abilities, eliminated. A quick internet search on “digital divide” (something 60% of the world’s population still can’t do) reveals that articles have continued to be written from the time GIIC was chartered until the present day, and all in some way or another decry the chasm between the “haves” and the “have nots” in the digital world. And despite our efforts, the chasm may in fact be growing.
Many tend to think of the chasm as simply between those that have the Internet and those that don’t, and that certainly is one aspect of it. However, there’s also a divide when measured in terms of speed of access, price of access, Internet access options (competition), and relevant content (content in one’s native language). All of these issues, and undoubtedly more to be discovered, need to be addressed if the digital divide is ever to be reduced and ultimately eliminated. It is painfully obvious that our work is certainly not done.
The digital divide is a wall that separates people.
Part of our mission is “to foster private sector leadership and private-public sector cooperation in the development of information networks and services to advance global economic growth, education and quality of life.” One of the ways we can do this is by working together to bring the Internet to those that currently don’t have access. Reuse of older technology devices, expansion of wired and wireless networks, and advances in technology all can help achieve the goal, and several of our commissioners have strong opinions on these topics. Changes in national and international policies can open up markets to new competitors and allow the spread of new ideas across heretofore closed borders, and we have commissioners with ideas on how to accomplish that. We also have commissioners with ideas on how to use the Internet to help people who don’t have access and may not for some time. We sometimes tend to limit solutions to the digital divide to providing access when in fact if we can use the Internet to provide help to those without access, we are actually closing the divide even though we may not have provided direct access.
It is important to remember that the “www” in Internet addresses stands for “World Wide Web”. What we do impacts the world, and therefore it takes people from all parts of the world to find the right solutions to the obstacles we’re facing. That’s why I’m thrilled to see the makeup of our commissioners. Every continent it represented, and the number of countries represented continues to grow. It’s also heartening to see the various organizations that are represented. The GIIC is not only concerned with expanding and protecting information infrastructure – it’s equally concerned about how that infrastructure is used for the betterment of society. That is why we are actively seeking commissioners more attuned to how networks are used than the technical details of their operation. Both elements need to be represented and doing so helps ensure viable solutions that meet the ever changing needs of users throughout the world. I also encourage each of you to help recruit additional commissioners to work with us in this noble cause.
Most importantly, I call upon all of our commissioners to bring forth your ideas for eliminating this digital divide, to work with the other commissioners to find solutions, and to bring the promised benefits of the Internet to all the world. The digital divide is a wall that separates people. Let us work together to bring this wall down, so that in the near future, a search of the Internet for “digital divide” yields only historical articles. Now is the time for action.