Multimedia equipped mobile phones have made life so much easier, faster and simpler.
However, we have only been talking about the positives of the digital world. There is a flip side to it also. As more and more information travels over the internet, digital crimes too are on the rise. Internet hacking, phishing, spam, malware attacks in computer systems are just a few examples of the same. Another disadvantage with the explosive growth of internet technology is that it is leading to an increase in the gap between the rich and the poor or the developed world and the developing world. While in the U.S, a home might be having subscriptions to landlines, personal mobile phones and PCs and laptops for each member of the family, in places like Africa, not every home has access to any of these conveniences. Thus, there is a huge digital divide between various regions of the world.
"In 2004, the developing world had 4 times fewer fixed telephones and 4 times fewer mobile subscribers per 100 people than the developed world. In the same year, the developed world had 8 times the Internet user penetration rate of the developing world." [WSIS, 2005].
In 2004, less than 3 % Africans used the Internet, whereas in the G8 countries (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the UK and the US), on the average, 50% of the population was using it. The WSIS, 2005 reports that Switzerland, the country that hosted the first World Summit on the Information Society, had 5 times the Internet penetration rate of Tunisia, host of the second Summit. It is also shocking to learn that 14% of the world's population that is concentrated in the developed countries accounts for 34% of the global mobile telephony users. On the fixed line front, Africa has a penetration of 3% on an average, while countries in Europe and CIS has a penetration of 40%.Also, in African continent itself, there are still over 20 countries which have a national average of less than 1 main line serving every 100 people. The digital divide manifests itself within Africa too where there are developed countries like Egypt and South Africa having a high teledensity as compared to countries like Ghana or Nigeria [WSIS, 2005].
The digital divide is also quite visible within the Asian countries. On one hand, there are countries like Singapore and China that are highly digitally enabled (90%) while on the other hand, are economically weaker countries like Nepal and Bangladesh, with low digital penetration ratios. The distribution of fixed phone lines in the world in 2004 is shown in the figure given below.
Thus, thinking about the digital divide in a positive light, we can say that there is a lot of scope for developing the digital world in various parts of the developing world. Digital way is the fastest way for any region to develop, so all individuals and agencies concerned with development must concentrate on digitally empowering the people of the region to be able to achieve sustainable development. To keep pace with developments in other regios of the world, it is most important to be knowledgeable about these developments. This can only be done when there is free communication between regions.