The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) has recently published Information Economy Report 2007-2008 which notes that the digital divide is still very much an issue that must be addressed. The report explains that while digital penetration is growing daily through the world, most developing countries are still far behind (with the few exceptions of countries like Korea and Singapore).
The report notes that in terms of information communication technologies, mobile phones are opening new pathways for people around the world to communicate and access information, and are in many occasions frog leaping several steps in the communication development process. Countries with high rise in mobile phone penetrations are starting to experience a new form of commerce, “M-commerce”. People in countries such as Nepal and Ghana are using mobile phones to buy and sell products, as well as keeping in touch. This same report illustrated their point by commenting on results seen in Thailand. The study showed that a 10% increase in computer literary will produce a 3.5% in productivity increase.
In terms of internet penetrations, most developing countries are also still far behind, with internet access being prohibitively expensive, even when it is available. Still the silver lining is that just a few years ago the developed world had ten times more access to internet, and now the disparity is only of 6 times the amount. I guess this is an improvements, but the situation is still highly unequal.
And while a discussion on access is very important we also still need to have a discussion on related policy issues that should ensure equal access, plus security for users.
A couple of days ago the BBC had an article about this issue. You can read it here. For more visual information on this issues check out the for the Internet User Stats showing a variety of graphs on internet penetration, growth, and usage divided by geographical regions.