The digital divide refers to the gap between those who have access to modern information and communications technology (ICT), such as the Internet, and those who do not or have limited access. This divide exists between different demographics and regions, with those in rural areas, less developed countries, and lower socioeconomic groups often being the most affected.
The digital divide has significant implications for social and economic progress, as those without access to ICT may be left behind in terms of education, employment opportunities, and social mobility. However,
Sofrecom reports that artificial intelligence (AI) has the potential to bridge this gap and provide opportunities for those who have been left behind. In this post, we will explore the potential of AI to bridge the digital divide, the challenges that need to be addressed, and the practical framework that can maximize AI’s impact in reducing the divide.
How AI can help bridge the digital divide
AI can play a crucial role in reducing the digital divide. Sofrecom suggests several ways in which AI can be used to provide opportunities for those who have limited access to ICT:
Launching participatory communication platforms for citizens without internet access
AI-powered communication platforms can enable those who do not have an internet connection to communicate and receive information. Hello Tractor, a Nigerian startup, for example, has created an AI-powered platform that connects farmers with tractor owners, offering access to farming equipment and information.
Offering lifelong learning via digital technology to all populations
AI-powered education systems can help close educational gaps by providing access to training and skill development. For example, Khan Academy has launched Con Labs, which includes Conmigo, an AI assistant integrated into all of its offerings. This program aims to maximize benefits and mitigate risks associated with AI. Sal Khan explains how Conmigo can be used as a coach for students, and how teachers can use AI to save time and create more engaging lesson plans.
While AI has the potential to personalize learning, it’s important to use it responsibly and monitor student activity. Currently, Conmigo is only available to a smaller subset of educators, parents, students, and donors, but Khan Academy plans to bring it out to more people as they refine it.
Putting AI at the service of essential sectors of activity:
AI may make vital services like healthcare and public transportation more accessible and cost-effective. The United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS) is one example of how AI is being used to discover early indicators of diseases such as cancer and dementia in individuals.
There are already multiple effective examples of AI solutions. For example, IBM’s Watson Assistant has been utilized in India to give individualized instruction to rural kids. At the same time, Google’s Internet Saathi program has trained thousands of women in rural India to use the Internet for education and entrepreneurship.
By adopting such solutions, it is possible to use AI to bridge the digital divide and provide opportunities for those who have been left behind.
The Challenges of AI in Bridging the Digital Divide
While AI holds great potential for bridging the digital divide, there are also several challenges that need to be addressed. Some of these challenges include:
The risk of reinforcing the divide in developing countries
The rise of AI-related applications is poised to widen the world’s digital divide, with only a few hundred of the world’s more than 7,000 languages benefiting from speech recognition tools and AI technologies. Poor countries, who already face a lack of connection, may be left behind in the AI revolution, expanding the gap even further.
The danger of bias in AI and the need for ethical guidelines
According to Jane Munga, a specialist on African technology policy at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, there is worry about prejudice in AI. It is critical that artificial intelligence (AI) is developed and used in an ethical and fair manner, with norms in place to prevent bias and discrimination.
The lack of access to connectivity in emerging countries
One of the most difficult barriers to bridging the digital gap is a lack of connection, particularly in developing nations. According to the World Bank, a 75% internet penetration rate in developing nations might result in the creation of 140 million jobs. As a result, it is critical to address this issue by providing access to dependable and inexpensive internet connectivity, as well as investing in digital infrastructure and training.
By addressing these challenges, it is possible to harness the potential of AI for bridging the digital divide and providing opportunities for all populations.
Collaboration between government and private industry to bridge the digital divide
Governments and businesses must collaborate to equip individuals with the knowledge and resources they need to take part in the ongoing digital transformation. The following are examples of useful areas of cooperation:
The importance of connecting everyone to fast internet by 2025
By 2030, UNESCO and the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development of the International Telecommunication Union hope to have connected 75% of the world’s population to high-speed internet through wired or wireless connections. Close the digital gap and ensuring that all people have access to the same possibilities, this must be accomplished.
The Role of Digital Literacy and Skills in Bridging the Gap
Bridging the digital divide entails not just giving access to technology, but also digital literacy and skills training. Governments and private enterprises must work together to offer individuals with education and training programs, particularly those in distant and neglected places.
The potential benefits of bridging the digital divide, such as social mobility and economic growth.
Bridging the digital divide can provide many benefits, such as improved digital literacy, digital skills democracy, social mobility, and economic equality and growth. For instance, providing access to digital technology and training can create job opportunities, improve healthcare access and education outcomes, and foster innovation and entrepreneurship.
By collaborating and investing in digital infrastructure, education, and training, governments, and private industry can help bridge the digital divide and provide equal opportunities for all populations.
This post examined the digital divide, its effects on demographics and regions, and AI’s potential to close it. We’ve talked about lifelong learning, participatory communication platforms, and using AI in vital industries. We’ve also discussed AI’s risks of deepening the digital gap in developing countries, bias in AI, and emerging countries’ lack of connectivity.
Governments and private industry can bridge the digital divide and create equal opportunities by collaborating and investing in digital infrastructure, education, and training. To avoid bias and discrimination, AI must be designed and used ethically.
Bridging the digital divide and giving everyone opportunities is crucial for the future. Readers can help bridge the gap by supporting digital infrastructure investment, education and training, and ethical AI development and use. We can use AI to close the digital divide and advance society.