Technology Usage Differs Among Individuals. Who Is Left Behind?
Rapid improvements in technology and Internet accessibility allow more people to go online every year. Many of us use our mobile phones and computers daily. We communicate with our loved ones through video calls, read the news on our tablets, or watch videos online. But not everybody has the same opportunities in terms of access to technology.
Mobile Device Adoption
Are you aware how often you use your mobile devices? What about the people around you? How do you spend your time on the way to work, or while waiting for your order at the local coffee shop?
Mobile devices carry more importance every day since they can do pretty much everything a desktop or laptop computer does wherever you may be. But the adoption levels vary even among these portable devices.
As of 2021, 85% of Americans had smartphones while only about half the population owned some kind of tablet. Where people choose to use their mobile devices heavily impacts adoption rates. Smartphones can be easily carried and used any time, anywhere. But when at home, most people prefer to use their tablets due to their bigger screens.
Impacts of the Pandemic
Not only did technology improve quickly, but the Coronavirus pandemic skyrocketed the adoption of technology.
As COVID-19 became a part of our lives, connectivity through the Internet increased tremendously. Socially distancing accelerated the adoption of Internet technologies for government and health services, e-commerce, online banking, and many other services.
We depend more on video chat and Internet telephony now than ever before. A 9% increase in online call usage was observed with Internet users in only a year. Nonetheless, the COVID connectivity boost also revealed that a significant share of the population is not connected to the Internet in one way or another.
What is the Digital Divide?
The digital divide describes the gap between individuals who have access to information and communications technology (ICT) and those who do not. By ICT, we mean any communication technology such as television, mobile phone, computer, and Internet. People do not have equal access to technology. One’s connection to technology depends on whether the person lives in a rural or urban area, in a developed or developing country; their education level and financial status; or even their age and gender. Other factors behind sociodemographic differences include previous knowledge, motivation, and lack of training. In addition to having the access and abilities to use technological devices, the courage and comfort while using these devices are highly important.
A study conducted by Pew Research Center revealed that Internet usage depends on various demographic factors, but is also heavily related to age. Older Americans are less likely to engage with the Internet. In 2021, 25% percent of Americans older than 65 reported not using the Internet, while this ratio is much lower for younger adults. Some of the reasons older adults do not engage as much as their younger peers are considered to be the lack of exposure to the Internet in the early stages of life, and their personal or social experiences.
Moreover, age affects how much individuals use the Internet for different purposes. For example, the use of social networks for private communications is 78% and 63% for the age groups 16-24 and 25-44, respectively. However, this ratio drops to 36% for people aged between 45 and 64, and drops to 15% for the ages from 65 to 74.
It is particularly important to address the age gap because the older adult population grows rapidly. The U.S. Census Bureau revealed that the population aged 65 and older increased by almost 35% in the past decade since 2010, and is expected to continue increasing.
Other Factors Affecting the Digital Divide
Other factors impacting the digital divide include gender, financial status and urban-rural differences. More specifically, women, people in rural areas, and households with low incomes tend to score lower on technology and Internet participation. A study conducted by Pew Research Center shows that 24% of adults in the U.S. with an annual household income lower than $30.000 do not own a smartphone.
All of these factors are influenced heavily by a country’s level of development. The gaps are largest for developing and least developed countries.
What Can Be Done?
There are several possibilities to narrow down the digital divide. Removing the complexity of devices can help people without necessary skills, and with little time, or disabilities to adopt technology. By making easy to use devices available, we can prevent people from being left behind because of missing knowledge. Increasing awareness of the benefits of technology would create value for people without any incentives to go online. There are several advantages of technology, but one cannot benefit from them without knowing the possibilities. Lastly, more affordable alternatives can help people with financial constraints.
Digital connectivity and technology adoption rapidly advanced in recent years. The Coronavirus pandemic boosted the process. While many individuals go online for various activities that they were previously performing in person, many others are left behind. At Eimy, we aim to create new opportunities for the ones who do not have access to information and communications technology (ICT) by catering to their specific needs and requirements, while enabling loved ones to help from afar. Our goal is to break down the barriers and equalize access to the digital world, improving the quality of life for everybody.
What do you think about the digital divide? Let us know in the comments!