‘Inequality’ springs racism, sexism and classism to mind. However, it’s time we accepted that digital inequality deserves a place alongside more traditional forms of inequality (Robinson et al., 2015). As whilst an ability to access the internet can provide advantages in various aspects of life, from academic performance to entrepreneurship (Robinson et al, 2015) its use is not always a free choice (Halford and Savage, 2010).
Often, factors determining internet usage are out of our control. For instance, a mere 41% of people over 65 use the internet (Pew, 2011). Additionally, young women are more likely to receive abuse online (Lutz and Hoffmann, 2016). Furthermore, location heavily impacts physical ability to access the web (Pew, 2011). One is unable to choose the era or location of their birth, or their gender – so why should they limit their digital potential?
These are but a few of the factors – so to see if I had been negatively impacted, I analysed myself:
I’m lucky – the factors of digital inequality have not negatively impacted my life – rather the macro (location, economic status, age) and individual (motivation, familial and societal role) factors have allowed me to prosper. I’ve never experienced online “trolling”, nor have I been hacked – which often can perturb internet users (Halford, Davies & Dixon, 2017).
However, I remain concerned by the impact which they are having on others.
Preventing these factors impeding usage is crucial if we are to complete a transition into a digital society. Otherwise, the gap between the “haves” and the “have-nots” will only widen. It’s important we ensure our society, as a whole, are able to walk before we allow the luckiest few to run – else it’s an unfair race.
Preparatory steps have already been taken, with talk of internet access becoming a human right (La Rue, 2011), but we must ensure more is done to prevent a new form of inequality becoming prevalent in our society – even if we aren’t personally affected.
Word Count (Excluding in-line citations): 297
Robinson, L., & Cotten, S., Ono, H., Quan-Haase, A., Mesch, G., Chen, W., Schulz, J., Hale, T. and Stern, M. (2015). Digital inequalities and why they matter. Information, Communication & Society, 18(5), pp.569-582.
Lutz, C., & Hoffmann, C. P. (2017). The dark side of online participation: exploring non-, passive and negative participation. Information, Communication & Society, 1-22.
Zickuhr, K., & Smith A. (2012). Digital Differences, Pew Internet
Halford, S. & Davies, H. & Dixon, J. (2012). Digital differences – inequalities and online practices, University of Southampton/ FutureLearn MOOC
La Rue, F. (2011). Report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, United Nations General Assembly A/HRC/17/27