Home  › Media › Media Buying

The Other Digital Divide

  |  May 15, 2009   |  Comments

Could you get through your workday day with less than 32 MB of Internet access?

There is yet another digital divide -- and it's measured in bandwidth.

To most us, "digital divide" is the gap between people who own personal computers and those who don't. But there's another digital divide: the gap between those who have access to adequate broadband and those who don't.

The broadband digital divide isn't a big gap in most major post-industrial countries. For example, 98.6 percent of households in Hong Kong have broadband Internet access. In South Korea, 96.7 percent do. Singaporeans have it in 89.5 percent of their homes. The percentages are in the 80s in Australia, Israel, Baltic, and Scandinavian households, too, according to Point-Topic. Even in the now technologically backward United States, more than 50 percent of households have broadband access. But these are only a few of the world's approximately 200 countries.

What if you're a Brazilian, Egyptian, Filipino, Indian, Indonesian, Jamaican, Mexican, Moroccan, Peruvian, Saudi, South African, Romanian, Russian, Thai, or Turk who has purchased a state-of-the-art personal computer running Windows Vista or Apple Leopard? Perhaps this computer also runs Microsoft Office or the Adobe CS4 suite of software programs.

Those operating systems and software programs were designed by people sitting in Redmond, WA, or in Cupertino or San Jose, CA, places bathed in broadband connectivity. Vista, Leopard, Office, CS4, and similar state-of-the-art operating systems and programs are designed for broadband connections.

Those operating systems and programs routinely, some almost constantly, connect with the Internet for updates, codecs, plug-ins, and the like. For examples, Microsoft Word 2007's thesaurus function goes online to check for synonyms. Click the "Help" command on most Adobe programs, and you'll discover that Adobe's help functions nowadays are online. Designers of today's personal computers and personal computer software assume everyone has a broadband connection. (Many laptops and desktops no longer even have built-in telephone modems.)

When you don't have broadband, or when it's extremely limited, how are you supposed to use personal computers and software programs designed intentionally for broadband use? I encountered this problem when I spent the past three weeks in the Republic of South Africa. I was at Rhodes University, teaching a postgraduate course in digital news media management. In the early 1990s, Rhodes was among the first places in Africa to get Internet access, but the rapid rise of broadband during the past several years has left it and almost all of Africa behind. Each student and each member of the staff or faculty at Rhodes is limited to a quota of how much Internet access they may use per day. The quota when I was there was 30 mebibytes per person per day. (A binary mebi is 2 bytes to the 20th power, or 1,048,576 bytes. Compare that to a megabyte's 1,000,000 bytes. And 30 MiB equals 31.46 MB).

Could you get through your workday day using less than 32 MB of Internet access? It's equivalent to 15 minutes of YouTube video or downloading a single day's edition of a newspaper in PDF format. Here in the U.S., I've been averaging 13.6 GB per month, or 454 MB per day. I used 847 MB on Tuesday and more than a gigabyte on Monday (I'm writing this on Wednesday). I probably use more than the average American with broadband access, but not by a factor of 10.

Moreover, my personal computer's operating system, antivirus software, and other programs go online to check for updates; friends, associates, and students send me unsolicited e-mail with attached files that are megabytes or hundreds of kilobytes in size; and the Web pages I visit contain all sizes of photos and sometimes video that starts playing automatically. (To conserve bandwidth, Rhodes' IT department intentionally blocks banner ads sent from DoubleClick and other online ad networks). All this chews up 32 MB very quickly.

The problem at Rhodes University and within South Africa, Brazil, and other countries isn't the IT departments but that the Internet bandwidth within those countries is too little for the new personal computers to function ably and for the people in those countries to use the Internet as we do here.

The new digital divide isn't between who does and who doesn't have personal computers, but among who has the bandwidth to use them. It's a whole different dimension.

Join us for a one-day Online Marketing Summit in a city near you from May 5, 2009, to July 1, 2009. Choose from one of 16 events designed to help interactive marketers do their jobs more effectively. All sessions are new this year and cover such topics as social media, e-mail marketing, search, and integrated marketing.

ClickZ Live Toronto On the heels of a fantastic event in New York City, ClickZ Live is taking the fun and learning to Toronto, June 23-25. With over 15 years' experience delivering industry-leading events, ClickZ Live offers an action-packed, educationally-focused agenda covering all aspects of digital marketing. Register today!

ClickZ Live San Francisco Want to learn more? Join us at ClickZ Live San Francisco, Aug 10-12!
Educating marketers for over 15 years, ClickZ Live brings together industry thought leaders from the largest brands and agencies to deliver the most advanced, educational digital marketing agenda. Register today and save $500!


Vin Crosbie

As managing partner of Digital Deliverance LLC and publisher of the "Digital Deliverance" newsletter, Vin Crosbie advises news media worldwide about new media strategies and tactics. As adjunct professor of visual and interactive communications and senior consultant for executive education in new media at Syracuse University's S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, he teaches that wisdom to graduate students and media company executives. "Folio" magazine called him "the Practical Futurist." "Editor & Publisher" magazine devoted the overview chapter of its executive research report "Digital Delivery of News: A How-to Guide for Publishers" to his work. And his speech about new media to the National Association of Broadcasters annual conference was one of 24 orations (including some by President George W. Bush, Condoleezza Rice, Hilary Clinton, and Barack Obama) selected by a team of speech professors for publication in the reference book, ">Representative American Speeches 2004-2005."

COMMENTSCommenting policy

comments powered by Disqus

Get ClickZ Media newsletters delivered right to your inbox. Subscribe today!



Featured White Papers

Gartner Magic Quadrant for Digital Commerce

Gartner Magic Quadrant for Digital Commerce
This Magic Quadrant examines leading digital commerce platforms that enable organizations to build digital commerce sites. These commerce platforms facilitate purchasing transactions over the Web, and support the creation and continuing development of an online relationship with a consumer.

Paid Search in the Mobile Era

Paid Search in the Mobile Era
Google reports that paid search ads are currently driving 40+ million calls per month. Cost per click is increasing, paid search budgets are growing, and mobile continues to dominate. It's time to revamp old search strategies, reimagine stale best practices, and add new layers data to your analytics.




    • GREAT Campaign Project Coordinator
      GREAT Campaign Project Coordinator (British Consulate-General, New York) - New YorkThe GREAT Britain Campaign is seeking an energetic and creative...
    • Paid Search Senior Account Manager
      Paid Search Senior Account Manager (Hanapin Marketing) - BloomingtonHanapin Marketing is hiring a strategic Paid Search Senior Account Manager...
    • Paid Search Account Manager
      Paid Search Account Manager (Hanapin Marketing) - BloomingtonHanapin Marketing is hiring an experienced Paid Search Account Manager to...