With the development of information technology (IT), our world is changing rapidly – improves communication, develops science and technology, creates new social groups, strengthen civil society foundations, raises people’s level of knowledge and many other important processes that help humanity to take another step in its evolutionary development. However, it is equally successful for all people, social groups, countries and regions? Unfortunately, it is not. In order to define these differences, the concept of the digital divide has been introduced.

The term digital divide describes the fact that the world can be divided into people who do and people who don’t have access to – and the capability to use – modern information technology, such as the telephone, television, or the Internet.[1]

Digital divide refers to the gap between individuals, households, businesses and geographic areas at different socio-economic levels with regard to both their opportunities to access information and communication technologies (ICTs) and to their use of the Internet for a wide variety of activities.[2]

The rapid development in ICT has created a wealth of opportunities for businesses and societies around the world. Yet, the disparity in the ICT adoption between developed and developing countries, often referred to as the digital divide, continues to widen. As a result, the digital divide has remained an issue of significant importance to policy-makers and scholars.[3]

The European Commission has, recently, earmarked 1 billion Euros extra to

help rural areas get online, bring new jobs and help businesses grow.[4]

There are a lot of good practices to support companies using ICT tools and appropriate legal solutions while protecting consumers by providing information about their rights. The company’s competitiveness in the internal and external markets has become an integral part of the government.

Organizations should implement ICT to their business activities in order to achieve competitive advantage, but not all of them are ready to do that, which results in the digital divide between them. The digital divide has also become an important issue of the EU Digital Agenda for Europe, which aims to maximise social and economic impact of information and communication technology, especially in doing business. Specifically, some of the goals are that 50% of the population should be buying online by 2015 and that 33% of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) should establish an online shop by 2015. [5]

SMEs can benefit from using new technologies because they can easily connect with larger corporations and become part of their business, as well as with other small firms which are geographically distant. Firms operating in rural areas are much more ready to implement and use ICT, especially in e-commerce.

ICT sector plays a key role in the Latvian economy, with total added value in 2011 of LVL 419 million, or 3.3% of GDP. Latvia has achieved high e-government online availability, both for citizens and for organizations.[6] (See picture below)

On-line Availability

Inclusive society and ICT development go hand in hand, providing modern society’s expectations and needs. ICT technologies could make government more accessible and closer to the people by providing the necessary information, support and services for complex and time-consuming procedures.

Latvia_ICT_Infographic

Latvia is advanced in terms of e-government indicators. For instance, 46% of enterprises send or receive e-invoices in a format that is suitable for automatic processing (the average in the EU is 30%), 85% of enterprises are returning filled in forms to public authorities, over the internet (the average in the EU is 69%), moreover, almost 60% of Internet users in Latvia are uploading self-created content for sharing (the average in the EU is 32%).[7]

In the video below you can see an overview how Latvia, being fastest country globally by high speed internet, uses it to run things. Latvia runs 17 e-registers which is the base of e-Latvia. There are about 1000 e-services available for the public and much more.

In the next video it is clear said, that in business environment companies can use available resources and IT to facilitate their work and improve time management – starting from company’s registration, payment of taxes and products sells online. It makes business more productive. Most of entrepreneurs in Latvia have learned this and many more lessons recently due to growing popularity of different e-services available to business community. 

ICT has changed and continues to change people’s behaviour and their social impact. Availability of infrastructure and digital literacy is a practical solution used in the countries, taking into account the specificities of each country.

The digital divide can be bridged by making ICT more accessible and improving the knowledge of its use.

Lattelecom_ConnectLatvia_infographic_ENGLike it was said in the overview video about Latvia, being aware that the role of knowledge based economy, including also new technologies, will keep increasing, Lattelecom has assisted thousands of senior citizens in obtaining the necessary computer skills, thereby contributing greatly to individual and overall country growth, bridging the digital divide and improving competitiveness of senior citizens in labour market. This is one very good example how to reduce digital divide.[9]

To address the existing situation in the country where 2 out of every 3 persons aged 55+ lack necessary computer skills and are thereby subject to social exclusion, Lattelecom has launched the Get connected, Latvia! Project (“Pieslēdzies, Latvija!”)  – a large scale social initiative  aimed at providing free computer literacy training to senior citizens in Latvia.  (Overview about this project in the next video.)

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Digital technologies are becoming more pervasive in all areas of society. Enabling everyone to have access and capability to use the Internet and associated digital technologies, summed up in the term digital inclusion, is seen to have wide-ranging benefits to the individual, to the economy and to society. For older people, being digitally included can help them to maintain their independence, social connectedness and sense of worth in the face of declining health or limited capabilities, as well as also offering new opportunities to improve their quality of life. [10]

Development of different cultures have always been based on knowledge. Just as knowledge was necessary for industrial revolution in 18th century, the knowledge is needed now for information revolution. The digital divide is a major obstacle towards an information and knowledge society and, consequently, one of the fundamental problems of modern society. To achieve some kind of solution, great importance is based to economic factors, countries, international organizations and various institutions. Also individual creative minds are able to find alternative solution with minimal cost. Just need to act.

 

[1] Rouse, M. (2005, April 1). Digital divide. What is ?. Retrieved June 13, 2014, from http://whatis.techtarget.com/definition/digital-divide

[2] Digital divide Definition. (2002, August 5). OECD Glossary of Statistical Terms. Retrieved June 13, 2014, from http://stats.oecd.org/glossary/detail.asp?ID=4719

[3] Ayanso, A., Cho, D. I., & Lertwachara, K. (2014, January). Information and Communications Technology Development and the Digital Divide: A Global and Regional Assessment. EBSCO. Retrieved June 13, 2014, from http://web.a.ebscohost.com/ehost/detail?vid=7&sid=4b6cac1e-6872-4e13-87d3-20a3b111998d%40sessionmgr4004&hid=4206&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#db=bsh&AN=94573924

[4] Cruz-Jesus, F., & Oliveira, T. (2012, October 5). Digital divide across the European Union. ScienceDirect. Retrieved June 13, 2014, from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S037872061200064X

[5] Bach, M. P., & Zoroja, J. (2013, December 31). Determinants of Firms’ Digital Divide: A Review of Recent Research. ScienceDirect. Retrieved June 13, 2014, from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2212017313001679

[6](2013). Latvia. Valsts kanceleja. Retrieved June 14, 2014, from http://www.futureforum2013.gov.lv/en/about-nff/topics-for-the-forum/addressing-the-digital-divide/latvia-digital-divide

[7]Ibidem

[8](2013, January). About Northern Future Forum 2013. Valsts kanceleja. Retrieved June 13, 2014, from http://www.futureforum2013.gov.lv/en/about-nff

[9] Gulbis, J. (2013, February 22). Bridging Digital Divide – Computer Literacy to Fight Social Exclusion. Valsts kanceleja. Retrieved June 14, 2014, from http://www.futureforum2013.gov.lv/images/2013_02_22_Piesledzies_LV.ppt

[10] Olphert, W., & Damodaran, L. (2013, October). Older People and Digital Disengagement: A Fourth Digital Divide?. EBSCO. Retrieved June 13, 2014, from http://web.a.ebscohost.com/ehost/detail?sid=56acf861-0b28-472a-ac72-6223297e9842%40sessionmgr4005&vid=1&hid=4206&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#db=aph&AN=91660612

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