My life reeks of technology, as I assume does yours. I am sitting in the back seat of a car on my way to Boston. The car trip will take six hours. My computer battery lasts three. Uh-oh. I will write no part nor any draft of this article by hand. I will type all of it on my 15-inch MacBook Pro. My iPod is in my jacket pocket in case I get bored of the conversation. My cell phone is on the seat next to me, ready for text messages and phone calls. I am on the ‘have” side of the Digital Divide, and I can’t imagine it any other way.

The Digital Divide refers to the discrepancy between those in developed countries who are able to easily access technological commodities such as Internet, phone and television services, and those in poor, underdeveloped countries who see these products as unattainable luxuries. As children in countries like the United States begin to get cell phones at younger and younger ages (stop texting go enjoy kickball at recess!), and parents are putting individual computers and TVs in their kids’ rooms, the Digital Divide can’t help but grow when the opposite is happening in many of the world’s poorer countries.

Our technology is already so advanced that do we actually expect underdeveloped countries to catch up and keep up with us? In this era of the new technological frontier, there is a danger that we might get too ambitious in our need for new devices, and our zeal for technology could hinder our relations with less affluent countries if our technological capital continues to dramatically outweigh theirs. The further immersed we become in our new opportunities and endless technological possibilities, the harder it will be for us to approach and communicate with countries lacking our technological pizzazz. Being a technologically conscious and competitive country, must we pace ourselves so that we do not outrun all other nations? As the technological Goliath, are we obligated to help the David?

Bringing technology to these countries could lead to better economies in underdeveloped nations, ultimately allowing for more countries to hold global responsibility. There are certainly people who see the benefits and merits of trying to help less developed countries. One such person is Nicholas Negroponte, founder of the Media Lab at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He developed a project in which $100 laptops were sent to children in Third World countries. However, there are unavoidable conditions in these countries such as high heat and dust, as well as fixable issues like computer maintenance and Internet service that are obtrusive to Negroponte’s project. Even if it is not possible to truly stimulate technology in other countries, we must be wary of the fact that we are a technological superpower. We must not get ahead of ourselves because our quick and frequent developments hurt parts of our own country as well.

The Digital Divide, though obvious when comparing countries, is a national issue here in the U.S. It causes even greater class divisions among those who can afford computers and monthly Internet payments, and those who simply cannot. As for the demand for wireless Internet, only the most prosperous in our country can afford the fastest, clearest Internet service, leaving dial-up to be used by those who cannot afford the more expensive wireless packages. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is attempting to close this national gap by ensuring Internet access in almost all public libraries, thus allowing people free Internet access even if they can’t afford it in their homes. The growing phenomenon of free Wi-Fi is another way to limit the Digital Divide. Although in this case individuals need to use their own computers, they can get Internet wherever and whenever it is available, not only when they can afford it.

We may be the first generation to truly come of age in an era so enamored and engulfed by technology, but this doesn’t allow us to write off the technologically less fortunate. You may not be able to live without your BlackBerry or your DVR, but people have before, and even now there are certainly those who still do.

Berrin-Reinstein is a member of
the class of 2013.



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