High speed internet creates new global digital divide

I really found The New York Times article, “The New Digital Divide”  interesting, just by noting the fact of how far we have come with technological advancements since the publish date of December 3, 2011. To me, I find irony in the statement, “a new digital divide”  from author of the article, Susan Crawford.  By this statement she is referring to the pace of technology and specifically internet usage and access, that we as users better swim or sink within this “new digital divide”. To help further prove her point about the digital divide or the sink or swim notion with internet access she states, “millions are at risk as businesses move online.” I find it ironic, because today more people have wider access to the internet, even more so than just 3 years ago.

Although I do agree with her in regards to the notion of the digital divide within the first movements of technology, like that of the early days of the internet. However, I feel that most technological advancements when first launching,  like her example of the cell phone, has proven to show the main consumer as urban, white and middle class.  There is nothing “new” to that idea.  It seems it has been known that with technology and progression of technology, the price of new items and services will always remain high until demand is lower and more product is released. Thus, urban, white and middle class people being the first to purchase products or services. Today, I see a new platform bridging together the once digital divide as,  Verizon commercials offer new iPhones for $99.00 with a 2 yr plan/internet subscription or 0.00  down and $23.00 a month for internet subscription.  In the article she states, “Just over 200 million Americans have high-speed, wired Internet access at home, and almost two-thirds of them get it through their local cable company.” Today, we see internet access at home doubled. According to internet world stats, with internet usage as a whole in the United States, we have 245,203,319 users today versus  95,354,000 users in 2000 from people just using the internet. Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google predicts that in year 2020, “nearly everyone in the world will be online”.  Locally, even the City of Dallas has expanded their internet access for those wanting to “hook up” to high-speed internet can, in libraries, public offices and now in local parks like The Klyde Warren Park or Main Street Garden Park to name a few.

Main Street Garden Park Dallas, Texas

Crawford’s article shows that online classrooms are on the rise and that those children who do not have access to the internet or high speed usage, that they are getting left behind.  I can understand where she is coming from saying this back in 2011, however today we see classrooms issuing computers and now ipads to students in middle schools. Even rural town in Mooresville, North Carolina shows proof that issuing computers to students serve as technological advancements to help improve students education, but also stands as a symbolic success. The New York Times published this article about the success of the small rural town issuing computers for students stating, “Mooresville, a modest community about 20 miles north of Charlotte best known as home to several Nascar teams and drivers, has quietly emerged as the de facto national model of the digital school.” Even locally, the Dallas Morning News has pushed to issue a free app to those wanting to read the news instead of paying a subscription every week/day. Technology has some barriers to entry for sure, however with the advancements of today, we see the bridges coming closer together as more technology advances from the earlier and more expensive days.

Internet Users in The World

Internet Users in The World

As the article shows, we as Americans have no government intervention when it comes to Internet oversight and laying down new and faster lines. Crawford states, “only 200 million americans have high-speed internet access.” Now, lets remember that this was published in 2011 and was around the time that Google Fiber, the data network for Internet access speeds up to 100 times faster than basic broadband systems, was getting ready to lay new lines in Palo Alto, Kansas City and then Austin in 2013. Even recently, Google Fiber announced new lines being laid this month in an article published by the Chicago Tribune. It is the same notion that, “telecommunications should bind us together , but divides us in practice”. We are currently witnessing this new divide with other countries from around the world. We are lagging behind in comparison to these other countries who have help from local and state government.

Eric Schmidts states,”Users are growing in Africa and Latin America at a fast pace with support from the local governments. Already in Colombia Internet Penetration in the larger cities (with over 200,000 population) has reached 80%Internet World Stats data shows 34.3% penetration worldwide for mid-year 2012. For mid-year 2020, we predict Internet world penetration will be in the range of 75-85%. For the majority of developed countries, our forecast is a 90% Internet user penetration rate”.

Countries with High Speed Internet

One thing is for certain, the U.S. is lagging behind in the competition to have more access to higher speeds of internet services. Even the Boston Globe published an article in December stating that not much has changed since Susan Crawford published her article in 2011. Ironically, she was mentioned in the Boston Globe article stating, “In terms of Internet speed and cost, “ours seems completely out of whack with what we see in the rest of the world.” I too share the same worry that Crawford has with the current state of the U.S. being left behind, due to our lack of high speed internet. Sadly, this is creating a larger digital divide on a global level,  in comparison to other countries. In his book, The Internet Of Elsewhere, Cyrus Farivar says, we shouldn’t be too surprised that we are lagging behind other nations considering, “Skype was invented in Estonia–the same country that developed a digital ID system and e-voting; Iran was the first country in the world to arrest a blogger, in 2003; South Korea is the most wired country on the planet, with faster and less expensive broadband than anywhere in the United States; Senegal may be one of sub-Saharan Africa’s best chances for greater Internet access, and yet, continues to lag behind”. Cyrus points out the obvious when it comes to the competivitiness spurring from this new modern understanding forming the complexities of how and why the Internet spreads globally. To be competitive in the global marketplace, we as a country need higher speeds of internet services or we will get left behind. Today we are creating our own “digital divide” as a country on a global level instead of on a national level and it is just getting worse. Below you will find a current spreadsheet from internetworldstats.com showing the countries with the highest use of internet usage. Also check out the video with Susan Crawford explaining why the U.S. internet services are overpriced and slow.

June 30, 2012
World Regions

( 2012 Est.)

Internet Users
Dec. 31, 2000

Internet Users
Latest Data

(% Population)


Users %
of Table

Africa 1,073,380,925 4,514,400 167,335,676 15.6 % 3,606.7 % 7.0 %
Asia 3,922,066,987 114,304,000 1,076,681,059 27.5 % 841.9 % 44.8 %
Europe 820,918,446 105,096,093 518,512,109 63.2 % 393.4 % 21.5 %
Middle East 223,608,203 3,284,800 90,000,455 40.2 % 2,639.9 % 3.7 %
North America 348,280,154 108,096,800 273,785,413 78.6 % 153.3 % 11.4 %
Latin America / Caribbean 593,688,638 18,068,919 254,915,745 42.9 % 1,310.8 % 10.6 %
Oceania / Australia 35,903,569 7,620,480 24,287,919 67.6 % 218.7 % 1.0 %
WORLD TOTAL 7,017,846,922 360,985,492 2,405,518,376 34.3 % 566.4 % 100.0 %

NOTES: (1) Internet Usage and World Population Statistics are for June 30, 2012. (2) CLICK on each world region name for detailed regional usage information. (3) Demographic (Population) numbers are based on data from the US Census Bureau and local census agencies. (4) Internet usage information comes from data published by Nielsen Online, by the International Telecommunications Union, by GfK, local ICT Regulators and other reliable sources. (5) For definitions, disclaimers, navigation help and methodology, please refer to the Site Surfing Guide. (6) Information in this site may be cited, giving the due credit towww.internetworldstats.com. Copyright © 2001 – 2013, Miniwatts Marketing Group. All rights reserved worldwide.



One thought on “High speed internet creates new global digital divide

  1. Interesting facts over here! I disagree with Cyrus Farivar though that the digital divide in the US relative to the world is getting worse, and I’m talking from experience. I just feel that there is a lot of room for complains over here! For instance, “Damn it why is it raining?” “Damn it why is so hot???” We hear this every day, people complaining about the weather. And now, people just complain about the internet and nobody is satisfied! The internet here is good, trust me! When we compare the US to the other world in terms of internet access and speed, we are not taking into consideration everything. When was the last time the US government shut down the internet on its people? When was the last time someone in the US tried to access a website and saw “The page you are trying to access is block because it violates the country’s blah blah blah…” We don’t see this here. In terms of digital divide amongst users, I also disagree that the divide here is getting worse. Maybe not everyone can afford internet at home, but they can still get access one way or another. Worst case scenario is they can go to the public library and access it for free. Let’s take Starbucks’ internet access for instance. I’m not sure if all the Starbucks in the US have free internet, but the ones that I’ve been to all provide it for free. Now in Dubai, which is also called the “City of Lights,” you can never get free internet access at any coffee shop. Again, internet here is much easier to access than the majority of other countries. Good luck accessing internet for free in Paris or Amsterdam too! You got to pay for everything. I’m not saying that the US is not behind at all; Finland and the other Scandinavian countries are definitely better, but that’s only four or five countries. Add South Korea and Japan and you only get a handful of countries that can really compete with the US. Internet accessibility in the US is really not that bad as we think. It’s just that our expectations are too high. Looking at the table you provided, it shows that Asia has the biggest percentage of people using the internet compared to the other continents. But that’s just because Asia has more people. If you add all the people in all the other continents together, Asia will still have more people, thus have more people accessing the internet. We immediately think that they are miles ahead of us. What we fail to consider is the ratio of internet users relative to their corresponding populations. When we consider this, North America (US and Canada) is top of everyone at 78.6%. Asia is second worse ratio-wise at 27.5%. Europe is only at 63.2%. Therefore I do not think the digital divide in the US is a serious problem. Our internet speeds are maybe lagging behind a bit, but that’s all business- just for businesses to provide more internet packages with different prices. In terms of accessibility, as long as you have a device that connects, you will always find a way to connect.

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