Crossing the Digital Divide on the Mobile Web

The Digital Divide is a distressing problem for those on the wrong side of the Divide. The term “digital divide” was coined in the 1990s to describe the perceived growing gap between those who have access to and the skills to use ICT and those who, for socio-economic and/or geographical reasons, have limited or no access. Access to the Internet is an enabling technology leading to improved knowledge, skills and well-being. The term was used for example to describe the challenge faced by a large section of the school population in the U.S. Equally or even more important is its application to the problems of the Developing World.

At the W3C Mobile Web Seminar held today in Paris, France, St?phane Boyera, one of the W3C Mobile Web Initiative staff, gave a presentation entitled, Mobile Web to Bridge the Digital Divide. There is some fascinating information to confirm the power of the Mobile Web to improve the economic lot of the Developing World. Mobile Devices are in general much cheaper than Desktop PCs and they can be readily to hand for people on the move. Here are some of the data from the presentation:

Mobile Phones are there

  • India: Penetration rate of PC: 2% stable – Mobile Phone 11% increasing 47% per year
  • China: Penetration rate of PC: 8% – Mobile Phone 30%
  • Morocco: 4 fixed-line/100 people (4 in 1995) – 24 mobile lines (0 in 1995)
  • More than 2 billion people have access to a mobile phone
  • Number increases by 1 million/day with 4 billions expected by the end of 2010
(Sources: World Bank, “Africa: The impact of mobile phones – March 2005” – PDF, “Market Trends: PC Penetration Data Highlights Market Maturity, Gartner April 2005” and “Universal Access Report by GSM Association, October 2006” – PDF)

The W3C is pursuing Improved Web Access in Developing Countries. There will be a Workshop on the Mobile Web in Developing Countries on 5/6 December 2006 in Bangalore, India. All credit should go to those who are getting involved in this.

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