digital divide

Explanation of the Digital Divide

The global digital divide is a term used to describe “great disparities in opportunity to access the Internet and the information and educational/business opportunities tied to this access between developed and developing countries” [Lu, 2001]. Wikipedia reports that it refers to the imbalances in physical access to technology as well as the imbalances in resources and skills needed to effectively participate as a digital citizen. The digital divide also exists between the educated and the uneducated, between economic classes, and, globally, between the more and less industrially developed nations. The digital divide has serious consequences and [Bharat Mehra, 2004] describes it as “the troubling gap between those who use computers and the internet and those who do not”

Percentages of Households with Internet Access

61 %of UK households have internet access.
[UK broadband ISP Reviews, 2007]

75% of U.S. households have Internet access at
[Website optimization, 2008]

30 % of households worldwide would have Internet access
[Khaleej times online, 2007]


  • In 2004, less than 3 out of every 100 Africans use the Internet, compared with an average of 1 out of every 2 inhabitants of the G8 countries (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the UK and the US).
  • There are roughly around the same total number of Internet users in the G8 countries as in the whole rest of the world combined:
    • 429 million Internet users in G8
    • 444 million Internet users in non-G8
  • The G8 countries are home to just 15% of the world’s population - but almost 50% of the world’s total Internet users.
  • It is estimated that top 20 countries in terms of Internet bandwidth are home to roughly 80% of all Internet users worldwide.
  • There are more than 8 times as many Internet users in the US than on the entire African continent.
  • There are more than three times as many Internet users in Japan as on the entire African continent.
  • There are more than twice as many Internet users in Germany than on the entire African continent.
  • The entire African continent - home to over 50 countries - has fewer Internet users than France alone.
  • There are more Internet users in Seoul (Republic of Korea), than all of sub-Saharan Africa, excluding South Africa.
  • There are more Internet users in London than in the whole of Pakistan.
  • Switzerland, host of the first World Summit on the Information Society, has five times the Internet penetration rate of Tunisia, host of the second Summit.
  • Discrepancies in international Internet bandwidth - the critical infrastructure that dictates the speed at which websites in other countries can be accessed - are nothing short of astounding. Tiny Denmark has more than twice the international Internet bandwidth that the whole of Latin American and the Caribbean combined.
  • The high cost of international bandwidth is often a major constraint, with developing countries often having to pay the full cost of a link to a hub in a developed country. More than 40 countries have less than 10Mbps of international Internet bandwidth, whereas in Belgium, a 9Mbps ADSL high-speed Internet package is available for just EUR 60 a month.
  • There are still 30 countries with an Internet penetration of less than 1%.
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