Digital divide

Josep Burcet © 2002, 2005


Spanish version


When talking about digital divide we usually refer to some social segments which could be excluded from the benefits of the new coming communication society. 

Forms of transition to
advanced usage of
new technologies

A low speed transition will produce in 2012 a kind of society where there will still be a lot of people with relatively poor experience in handling the new communication technologies. Conversely, a high speed transition may produce another kind of society where productive people and serious advanced users proliferate. 

The worst scenario for the low speed transition consists on a kind of society where an important proportion of decision makers and leaders will still have no direct experience on using advanced forms of new communication technologies. 

Users typology

High speed transition
Low speed transition

Population structure for 2012
depending on new tech usage


Persons directly involved in the production of goods and services in the area of new communication technologies. 

Advanced users

Persons who draw important benefits from computers and the Internet, regardless of their profession or occupation.  Such individuals operate by themselves on their own advanced forms of new communication technologies and manage productive and efficient personal and professional e-relationships.  

Basic users

Persons who operate the easiest forms of Internet and computers usage, and obtain some few professional benefits from them. 


Persons who currently use communications technologies in a non productive way 

Digital analphabets

People with no personal experience in using computers and the Internet. 

In a society resulting from the high speed transition will prevail productive users while in societies resulting from low speed transition non productive consumers and non-users will be the rule. 


Grouped USERS 

Low speed transition societies have less muscle to deal with new coming opportunities, but the real will be the lag of decision makers. This applies to all the professional sectors: lawyers, doctors, politicians, teachers, public servants, etc. 

Decision makers in the
low speed transition

After the low speed transition, society is ruled by people who have a limited experiences on new communication tools. Most of them are mere consumers.

Decision makers in the
high speed transition

Conversely, after the high speed transition, society is mainly ruled by people who have direct experiences on advanced forms of computers and Internet usage. This could have very positive effects on the way this society produces plans and projects.


The tools people use have a strong influence on the way they perceive their work, on the way they try to solve their problems and even on the kind of problems they perceive. 

A professor who uses paper, pencils, chalk and a blackboard think about new educational projects in a very different way than another one with a good Internet knowledge and who is also an effective advanced computer applications user. The chalk professor could conceive an e-learning project using diffuse general references and the advice of  some tech guys. But a technically wise professor is likely to produce a better one.

Similarly, a builder who uses picks, shovels and primitive scaffolds thinks about a possible house in a very different way than another one who uses powerful cranes, computers, and advanced logistic paraphernalia. This applies to all the occupations, from medicine to law, from politics to defense.

Depending on the tools one uses, the possible futures are seen in a very different way. As the tools one uses become more powerful,  the projects become more powerful as well. This is the reason why the digital fracture of decision makers implies severe limitations on what a society will be able to do in 2012 and further.

The low speed transition is likely to produce large marginal groups. So, it will convey a poor leadership, but a larger digital fracture at the bottom, as well. 


The main conclusion is that to prevent the digital divide at the bottom we have to counteract the current decision makers lag. 


in terms of new comms usage

Quick and effective transition scenario

  Slow and ineffective transition scenario

Productive users
Consumers and non-users
PRODUCTIVE USERS Decision makers who are productive users. (Able to produce good visions of the future)  
Remaining productive users

Not involved in economic activities but efficient users


Decision makers who are not productive users. (Not able to produce good visions of the future)  
Remaining non users
Not involved in economic activities who are not effective users

The problems we may expect from a low speed transition are very similar to those we have right now. In the second part of this article I will analyze those current problems and propose some suggestions which could accelerate the transition.

Other on-line documents
Paradigms for the XXI century

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