Growing up in the information age I have had access too, seen the development of, and utilized the Internet, mobile phones, email, social media, tablets, laptops and many many more ICT’s (Miniwatts Marketing Group, 2012). This age filled with knowledge workers and therefore, is a time where there is constant access and a genuine need for information and communication (Flew, 2008). This information and communication is facilitated by ICT’s which people are using all around us at any given time. In fact I cant even remember a time without these technologies or even image what I would do without them, which makes it particularly difficult to think that out there on the other side of the world there are places with people who don’t even know these technology exists. This is known as the digital divide.
The digital divide can be defined as “the inequality in access to information and communication technologies (ICTs) and the inequality in the ability to derive benefit from ICTs both between and within countries” (White, 2010). In simpler words this means that the digital divide is the difference in the ability and amount of information that people with ICT’s can access, compared to those that do not have, or have limited access to ICT’s (International Telecommunication Union, 2001). The digital divide is generally a result of a difference in race, gender, education, income, disability, opinion, culture, age and location (Atkinson & Black, 2007). Location is possibly one of the major contributing factors, or at least the most discussed factor, of the digital divide, thus making this a global issue.
The digital divide between developed countries and under developed countries can be seen within the research from the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) (International Telecommunication Union, 2001). The ITU found that those within developed countries have 63 times more access to a personal computer (per 100 people), 24965 times more international Internet bandwidth (per person) and 42 times more access to the Internet (per 100 people), then those in under developed countries (White, 2010). As a result of this difference in ICT access, developing countries have become information rich and more highly educated, while developing countries have become information poor and therefore are less educated and economically disadvantaged (Miniwatts Marketing Group, 2012). While the digital divide between developed and under developed countries is obvious, and commonly discussed, it is also occurring within different areas of a country. For example those living in the city and metropolitan areas of Australia typically have a greater access to ICT’s and the Internet, then those within small country towns or rural areas, of Australia (Atkinson & Black, 2007).
While the digital divide gap is currently very evident within society, and is seen as an important issue, it has been predicted that the gap will begin to shrink (White, 2010). This prediction has been made due to the uptake and diffusion rates of mobile phones, and their access to the Internet, within society and particularly within developing countries (White, 2010). This rate of diffusion can be seen in the graph below.
So by now you can clearly see that the digital divide has a direct impact on society, but how does this impact marketing. Firstly the digital divide is impacting marketing due to the difference in ICT capabilities amongst different people within the same target market (The World Bank Group, 2012). As a result of the difference in ICT capabilities, it make it challenging for marketers to effectively target the whole market, using ICT’s, as each member of the market may need to be targeted in a different way (The World Bank Group, 2012). However, as stated before this gap is predicted to shrink due to the development of mobile phones and Internet access; therefore, this provides an opportunity for marketers. As a result of the increase in the diffusion of mobile phones, a standard platform for what medium consumers are using and searching for information has been provided (Eyevine, 2009). Therefore, this means that marketers must utilize mobile phones, and ensure their marketing efforts work on a mobile phone devices. In addition to this they also need to find new and effective ways to use mobile phones as a marketing tool.
In conclusion the issue of the gap the digital divide has created, between the information rich and the information poor, proves to be an issue for society and a challenge for marketers. As a marketer there is not a lot you can do other then look at trends and try and determine what is going to be the most effective method for marketing in the future. It could be mobile phone marketing, that is the next big thing, but then again something new might come along or mobile phones may not diffuse into the under developed countries as well as it has been predicted. So as to how the gap in digital divide will impact the future of marketing, no one really knows so I guess we will all have to wait and see.
Atkinson, J. & Black, R. (2007). Addressing the Digital Divide in Rural Australia. Retrieved from http://ausweb.scu.edu.au/aw07/papers/refereed/black/paper.html
Eyevine. (2009). Mobile Marvels. Retrieved from http://www.economist.com/node/14483896
Flew, T. (2008). New Media: an introduction. Melbourne: Oxford University Press
International Telecommunication Union. (2001). Overview. Retrieved from http://www.itu.int/ITU-D/digitaldivide/overview.html
Miniwatts Marketing Group. (2012). The Digital Divide ICT. Retrieved from http://www.internetworldstats.com/links10.htm
The World Bank Group. (2012). Module 2: Making ICT More Accessible and Affordable in Rural Areas. Retrieved from http://www.ictinagriculture.org/ictinag/sourcebook/module-2-making-ict-more-accessible-and-affordable-rural-areas
White, S. (2010). The Global Digital Divide and Inbound Marketing. Retrieved from http://dstevenwhite.com/2010/06/27/the-global-digital-divide-and-inbound-marketing/
Lendenmann, K. W. (2012). Bridging the Digital Divide – Two Underlying Facts will reshape the digital marketing landscape. Retrieved from http://marketingland.com/bridging-the-digital-divide-two-underlying-factors-will-reshape-the-digital-marketing-landscape-12696
Lendenmann, K. W. (2012). Bridging the Digital Divide. Retrieved from http://marketingland.com/bridging-the-digital-divide-from-consumer-data-to-consumer-engagement-11449
Radovanovic, D. (2011). Digital Divide and Social Media. Retrieved from http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/2011/12/14/digital-divide-and-social-media-connectivity-doesnt-end-the-digital-divide-skills-do/