Wednesday, 3 November 2010


How does Age affect the digital divide?
As the technology we see being used today has been developed in the last 40 years or so we see a huge divide between the older and younger generations. Those who were born before the development of personal computers and mobile phones may not have been able to afford such luxuries when they were new, and as prices have dropped they may have felt too out of touch and 'old' to become involved with all the new technology that may seem confusing and too advanced for those raised in simpler generations. However this affect on the generation of today is reversed; they are being brought up with such variety and comlexity of technology all around them that they see laptops, mobile phones and interactive whiteboards as normal without bearing in mind that their grandparents at their age had to use letters to communicate and wrote on chalkboards- the differences in the lifestyles of generations is phenomenal.

How does it affect Computers/Internet?
The first personal computers became popular in the 1990s worldwide as prices were slashed and computers were now available to people all over the world, and not just the richest. The majority of people that adjusted to this amazing advance in technology was the young and those who worked in fields that required frequent computer access, however this didn't apply to those who did not yet understand the importance of computers and how they would influence their life. This same generation of people are now the elderly of today; they have dismissed any technological advances in society as they do not believe it would help them or that it is the young's area of expertese. This attitude towards the phenominom that is the Internet and the computer has caused them to be out of touch with the millions of examples of information that can be extracted online and programmes which have made everyday tasks a lot easier over time. For example decades ago the quickest form of written communication would have been by sending a letter, however through the variety of email and online chat services, written information can be sent instantaneously across the world in seconds and communication can take place for free at a much faster rate than those 50 years ago would ever have imagined possible.

In 2006 in the UK just 28% of over 65s had Internet access at home compared to a general UK average of 57% and more than half of elderly people voluntarily exclude themselves from using the Internet as they don't believe it will benefit them in any way. However two thirds of pensioners without access in this survey admitted they would connect themselves to the internet if given the right support. These elderly folk are unknowingly excluding themselves from the endless online world of information and don't realise how many online and digital features there are available that could benefit their lives and make everyday tasks easier. For example supermarkets online, such as Tesco, provide home delivery for groceries that are bought via their online store; this would be of great help to eldery people who can't manage carrying all their bags on public transport or are unable to frequently get out of the house.

Today in schools children are frequently using computers or digital whiteboards to aid their learning process; the use of such technology helps kids to get a better depth of understanding about subjects as they can now see images and participate in lessons via interactive activites. However the older generation of today did not have this privilege during their schooling years and may not see the true value of what technology can help achieve in todays world, the children of this generation are at a much higher advantage than their grandparents as their access to information is available at the touch of a button, so they can learn anything they want to without restriction.

There are many reported reasons of why the older generation shy away from newer technology and the most commonly stated one is fear- they are adverse to this newer technology that they do not understand and is effectively fear of the unknown. Due to this they are less willing to try and learn how to operate such technology and in their minds the cons outweigh the pros, making technology a scary concept that should be left well alone. Other sources argue that the older generation feel that new technology is beyond their time; they had inventions and their own forms of technology when they were young (such as radios and phones) and now this explosion of new technological advances is the young's turn to experience it.

What's being done to bridge the gap?
  • SimplicITy- computers with a desktop desgined solely for older people to use; it creates simple buttons that allow users to be directed straight to services such as chat and email. It's purpose is to give first time computer users an easy path to getting them familiar with the functions of the Internet.
  • Maxitech- this computer recycling company teamed up with Age Concern to an agreement which allows the company to provide the elderly with wiped computers. This scheme is available for those living in London.
  • an online site full of tutorials and helpful hints for first time elderly computer/Internet users. It teaches them how to use features such as font size and search bars to enable them to experience the best surfing experience.
  • Eons- A social networking site designed specifically for seniors and allows them to meet others, chat and exhchange information.
  • Free computer training has been set up by many councils around the UK sending out volunteers to aid seniors in grasping the basic understanding of a computer system.

How does it affect mobile phones?

When mobile phones first became available to the public in the 1980s they were extremely large, heavy and cost an average of £3000. This was an extremely huge price tag for the time that it became available and ensured that only the rich and those who required constant communication (like those who worked in the stock market in London) bought and made use of them. However as popularity increased and demand from the general public to design similar devices of a more accessible size came in the late 1980s the generation that who are in the divide today may have believed they were too old for the mobile phone or that they did not need to invest in such a purchase when they had a perfectly adequate landline service at home. This attitude towards the development of new technology has caused the development of the digital divide due to age, as the young are reaping the benefits of mobile phones whilst the elderly are relying on the inventions of their youth. 

In 2006 in was reported that over 70% of those aged over 70 in the UK has never owned or used a mobile phone compared to just 15% of all adults under 70. This large difference in mobile phone users shows the divide between age groups across the country. The senior generation however may not understand the benefits of the mobile phone and what it can provide; owning one can provide security and comfort when alone in the house or out on the streets at night, a constant source of access to help to family members or the emergency services in times of need and the ability to store contact numbers and information at the touch of a button. In America the situation is similar with around 66% of those over 55 owning a mobile devices compared to 94% of people in the 18-24 age bracket. However the poverty of a country can also affect these figures; in South Africa less than 1% of the users of mobile phones were over the age 65. People of that age living in developing countries would be extremely adverse to new technology due to spending their lives in simpler times without the need for any kind of technology to survive. However the low age rates in these countries could point towards the lack of elderly mobile phone users; if people are unlikely to live past their 50s then there will be very little data pointed towards over 65s using mobiles as there would be very few left. 

However in developed countries like the UK and the US where the elderly have thousands of opportunities to begin to learn and use this technology, why are they choosing not to? The usual reasons used to explain the elderly's adversity  to technology such as mobile phones is fear of the new features they would be exposed to- they feel that technology has become so advanced that they would not understand how to work the phone. Also, they may believe that each generation has it's own technology that makes it it's own and they may feel that mobiles, texting and mobile internet may be our generation's turn and they don't wish to become involve with something which is ahead of their time. However we need to think about not only how many people won't use mobiles, but how many can't. The mobile phones of today are becoming smaller, more advanced and often controlled by touch screen technology that is hard to activate especially for those who don't really understand how to utilize it properly. The elderly may suffer from sight problems that would make it hard for them to read the often small text used on phones and use the buttons that show what letters are on each number. Also, users that are hard of hearing would have trouble hearing their phone ringing and the voices from the other callers when on the phone.

What's being done to bridge the gap?

  • There are hundreds of types of mobiles around the world that are designed solely for the older generation; in particular the Mobtwo Elderly which has one of the most basic interfaces of all phones. It is perfect for the older user with extremely large buttons to make viewing easy and the most basic of all screens which displays only what is needed to see. However the most useful feature on this device is the 'SOS button' on the back of the phone. This button, when pressed, can call an emergency number stored by the phone automatically (or a series of numbers that are dialled until someone picks up on any). However you can also programme the phone to call 999 in an emergency by holding down the button which could be life saving to people with health problems or conditions that could be fatal.
  • Clarity Phones- This mobile phone designed for the elderly features large buttons and font size, loud ringtones (louder than a pneumatic drill) and easy to use menu options. This completely simplified version of a phone is perfect for elderly first time users and provides the bare minimum, which is all that elderly people want on their phone. It has an extremely basic face to make utilizing it easier and make it seems less daunting to the user.
The current Situation

Currently, despite efforts to get older users more involved in using mobile phones, there is unfortunately still a divide between the over 65s and the younger generations in the world today. In the Western World 61% of our senior members have not used or owned a mobile phones however a promising 28% of those who haven't plan to try one in the future due to advances made in accommodating the old to mobiles. However in developing countries the picture is much more severe, more than 85% of over 65s in these nations have not used or owned a mobile phone and only 2% plan to in the future. However these figures may be affected by the lower life expectancy in these countries and data for over 65s may be affected as there would be a lower population percentage in developing rather than developed countries. This proves that all three of my points link together, as older men are also more likely to use a mobile phone. 

Throughout the UK roughly a third of the older generation have used or own a mobile phone and the numbers are rising steadily each year proving that efforts to bridge the divide are working and that people affected are becoming more inclined to try this new technology and less intimidated by the complexity of it all. There are also new contracts available when buying speciality phones that offer mostly minutes to use as there is a 84:16 ratio of elderly users favouring calling to texting; these extra minutes will benefit users who would not want to waste money paying for texts that they would not use. These contracts are often offered for often £10 or less a month due to the simplicity of them and can be easily afforded by those even on pensions. 

Sunday, 31 October 2010


How does gender affect the digital divide?
There are many factors that cause women to fall behind in technology in comparison to men, these are often cultural, economic or educational reasons that impair women's abilities to access a full realm of technological advances. However the extent of the digital divide due to gender relies partly on cultural difference, economic situation and poverty of a country; showing that all my selected topics interlink with eachother showing how all aspects can affect eachother.

In Developing Countries


In most developing countries the infrastructure in rural and poorer areas is significantly weaker than in urban cities. In Africa, Internet connectivity is often only available in large cities, in which women are least likely to live. Women are therefore a lot more unlikely to have the access to technology that is more widely available to men in developing countries; however limited this may be. In rural towns that women are likely to live in, there is less than a 0.1% chance in some areas of Africa that an Internet connection can be established and the nearest town may be several days walk away, making access to the Internet virtually impossible. Poor mobile phone coverage also may make it improbable for a mobile phone connection to be achieved in rural areas; therefore mobile phones are mostly only used for business purposes. As women are not culturally able to work either at all, or in the fields of work that may require mobile communication, it is unlikely they will require the use of a phone. 

  • Improve Internet and mobile connections so that more mobiles and computers can be used in rural areas.
  • Build better communication towers to ensure connections can be established
  • Make computer and phone centres more accessible to the public by setting up more in busy rural areas so that everybody has the chance to access technology no matter where they live

Education and Skills

Education and skills are two extremely important factors that affect the digital divide; in developed countries education is received equally between genders however in developing countries much less emphasis is placed on women in regards to education and learning. In 2007 Unicef estimated that 100 million school age children in Africa were not in education; 67% of these children were female and two thirds of the world's 900 million illiterate adults are women. Africa is a continent that sees poverty as a normality; some families cannot afford to send all or any of their children to school; often the males are first priority and girls are often sent to the market place or farm to work and earn money that would be more useful to a family than getting an education. It is because of this lack of education that makes women less likely to understand the technology behind computers and phones and be able to utilize them in the correct manner; women that are unable to read will not be able to use digital items effectively. 

  • Ensure that women get the same education as men up to secondary level, until learning is no longer mandatory. This will ensure that as long as an individual wishes to continue in education they receive the same level of teaching
  • Set up basic reading and writing classes at the weekend so that even girls who don't attend school regularly can be taught to read and write adequately
  •  A fund should be set up to pay girls for attending school so they aren't required to work to get money

Language barriers

Linking in with women's lack of education in developing countries is the inability to understand different languages that may be used on the Internet and mobile phones. Charities that send on used mobile phones to developing countries are often programmed to English, as the majority of these charities originate in the USA or UK, and women who have not received an adequate secondary education will not have the skills to understand English and make sense of the vocabulary used. Given this limited language barrier women are much less likely than men to not use technology due to the foreign languages that are often used online or digitally. 

  • Encourage the teaching of English in schools in developing countries so that children get a basic grasp of the English language
  • Set up weekend classes so that girls who aren't able to attend school regularly still get the chance to learn English
  • Create basic web pages in languages spoken in developing countries so that they are relevant to those learning it; even if they can't view the whole web they can get a basic understanding of how the Internet works

Social/Cultural restraints

In many developing countries women are viewed as inferior to men; they are the child bearers who raise the family whereas the men go out to work to earn money to provide for his family. Religion may also come into the picture as in some religions women are expected to be obedient to their husbands and if he does not wish for his wife to use technology or learn how to, then she will be unable to do what she wishes. Also, as places where technology may be found are often situated far away from rural areas, women may be unable to use any form of public transports to get there. This may be due to lack of funds to provide transport costs or how in some cultures women are not able to access public methods of transport and must find their owns means to getting themselves around. However transport may not be an issue in some cases, as in more severe conditions women are not expected to leave the house other than to collect water or food, as they should be tending to the house and the family while her husband is away at work. 
Places in which computers are found may also be in places that women are not socially recommended to visit or may be in environments that make a woman awkward; it is difficult to learn how to use computers in an environment where you may not be expected to be able to cope with the knowledge it takes to operate such devices. 

  • Set up women-only Internet and phone cafes to encourage women to attend without feeling socially awkward
  • Set up a free shuttle bus to transport women to the nearest local internet centre to give her the means to access the Internet
  • Charge lower prices to women so they are the ones that are encouraged to use the computers or phones rather than the men

Media Limitations

The media often portrays technology as a masculine purchase which may deter some women from wanting to use or learn how to use the products it is advertising. Also, in developing countries, a lot of purposes that a computer is used for (such as stocks and social networking) would not appeal to a female market that have no such use for a computer. Also the Internet content that is available in developing countries is often of little relevance to women and doesn't not encourage a woman to learn how to use a computer as she has no interest as to what is offered online.

  • Advertise sites that are appealing to women in developing, such as those that could be helpful in cooking or child bearing, and potentially improve their quality of life
  • Send leaflets in the local language to tell women of sites that are online that may be useful to them
  • Promote female related devices to encourage women to try and use computers/phones.

In the UK
Locally the divide between the genders is not as severe as that seen in developing countries around the world; however we do see a slight difference in the activites carried out on technology dependant on gender. In the UK it is estimated that the ratio of Young people in Britain using a computer regularly is 53:47 percent boy to girl ratio. However in teenagers and children girls use computers slightly more than boys however this may be due to the emphasis teenage boys are now placing on computer games and consoles. And teenage girls are also more likely to use their mobile phone and place greater emphasis on the importance of the newest models of devices and are twice as likely to choose their phone over a computer or a games console. Women in the work place are also 35% more likely to send emails and check their email accounts on a more regular basis than men showing that they are more frequent users of online communication services. Women tend to use and send more personal emails than men and are more likely to recieve emails from friends and family rather than work-related.

However though women may use some features of the web more frequently than men, there are also several areas where males dominate the web. Research suggests that the reasons why many older women in the UK do not spend as much time online as men due to their household responsibilities of cleaning and looking after the children which may shape their ability to access the computer; especially women who work, as they will have to juggle work and home life and would leave little time spare for surfing the web. There is also a lot of sexism apparent on the net; women may feel uncomfortable revealing their gender as they could feel threatened or intimidated by the abuse they may suffer in chat rooms or in forums due to their gender. Also, men search for information on the web on average 125 days each year in contrast to women who only search on average 88 days in the year; this information proves that men are more likely to use the internet as a means of information than women.
The Current Situation
The effects of gender on the digital divide vary from country to country; my research has shown me that the majority of countries that show a large divide between the genders are usually third world or are nations that put large emphasis on religion in which women are seen as inferior. In these types of conditions women would be restricted by social, religious and economic problems that may not allow them to have equality in terms of access to computers and mobile phones. These restrictions to technology can be harmful in women's education and skills in later life as the world is becoming predominately run by electronic based systems and the Internet is becoming the world's most in depth source of information; those who do not have the oppurtunity to research via the Internet and learn basic computer skills will statistically have lower wages and worse jobs in later life. Women in many developing countries are being denied the right to information just because of their gender which is harbouring their journey to success; in these countries women are seen as inferior and get worse education and are lower in the heriarchy of society. If these nations allowed women to achieve an equal status as men and allowed them the same oppurtunities then we would see the digital divide lessen significantly as females all over the world would get to use a computer for quite possibly the first time.
In the UK the divide between the genders is not as stark as in less developed countries; here women and men are seen as equal in society and throughout all stages of life both sexes are offered the same oppurtunites both in education and work related systems. This equality has ensured that the digital divide is dependant on an individual's personal interests and choices of what they wish to achieve with technology; as we are all able to achieve access to technology either through home, school, work or public domains such as libraries which provide free access to computers and the internet to those who do not own their own device.

Other Measures being taken:
  • mWomen- This scheme, developed by Cherie Blair (wife of former Prime Minister) and US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, is designed to allow women in developing countries to have greater access to Mobile Phones.
  • CodeED- a charity which personally pays for colourful notepads to provide to lower income girls in schools in New York to encourage them to create their own websites and use programmes such as Java.
  • Iridescent- A organisation that created a mobile app to get girls to take part in a competition to create a business plan.

Thursday, 28 October 2010


How does poverty affect the digital divide?

Poverty is by far the most important factor that contributes towards the severity of the digital divide; countries that are still developing suffer greatly from this. Residents living in countries that have high poverty levels are more than likely going to spend their wages on their family and bringing food to the table- the average wage is so low that they cannot afford to sustain a family and own technological goods. Over half the world's population reside in developing countries- this means that over half the world's population are likely to have never driven a car, called another person or logged on to the internet. As the divide between the rich and the poor in the world deepens, the digital divide also becomes more apparent. Studies have shown that Africa, as a continent, is the world's poorest- for this reason I will be using Africa as the main example of how poverty affects the digital divide.

Of the approximately 816 million people in Africa in 2001, it is estimated that:
How does it affect the use of computers/internet:

The graph shows the difference in internet costs in comparison to average monthly wages all throughout the world; in most African countrie's it exceeds 100%.

A recent study found that over half of the households in the USA owned a computer compared to less than 1% in Africa; this accounts to 77 million houses in America being connected to the internet while in Bangladesh there is less than 50 known internet connections for the whole country. This huge difference may be due to the low wages in developing countries; over half of the world's population live on less than £2 a day and more than 20% live on just £1- leaving nothing spare after feeding your family as much as possible. The cost of an internet connection in Africa exceeds the average income for the majority of the population, while it amounts to less than 2% of an average monthly income in the UK. This contrast in wages is most likely due to the laws on minimum wage that each country possess- in the UK a minimum working wage for one week is equivalent to 258 euro yet in Zimbabwe the allowed minimum wage law allows for a man to earn just 2.50 euro a week legally. Employers in developing countries are more likely to exploit their workers and force them to work longer hours for little money as they are able to get away with poor treatment and unsanitary conditions allowing them to gain the maximum amount of profit possible- however in developed countries such as the UK this would be against human rights and not allowed by law. Workers in countries such as Zimbabwe would also be more willing to take whatever job they could; as very few people have the ability to read or write due to lack of education growing up, and manual labour is often the only way forward.

This lack of computer and internet access is contributing towards the lack of elementary education; the UN states that everybody of school age has the right to access good education. However due to low funds, lack of teachers and families sending out children to work too young means very little of the developing country's population receives the necessary education to succeed academically later in life. It was estimated in 2008 that 18% of the world was illiterate- in sub Saharan African states over a third of men and half of women are unable to read or write. These figures are almost certainly due to the lack of resources available in developing countries and lead to more people turning towards manual labour for low wages, as mentioned in the second paragraph. As society progresses it seems more information is becoming available online every day; and those who can't access it are falling to a much larger disadvantage than those who can. On the web you can find revision sites, information about almost every topic or question in the world or use chat rooms to discuss similar subjects with people all over the globe. Those in developing countries are not able to reap the benefits of computers and the internet and use them in everyday life; if they had the ability to regularly access the information that a computer could hold then the digital divide would slowly lessen. 

However although the effects of poverty on use of computers and internet predominately affect developing countries, we can still see examples of this in the UK. Although poverty does not seem a realistic problem in a developed country like Britain, recent studies have shown nearly 13 million people live in what the Government deems as poverty-like conditions (1 in 5 people) affecting almost 4 million children in our population. However due to rising birth rates these numbers are likely to have risen. Over a third of UK households choose not to subscribe to the Internet as they believe the price range is out of their reach. These 4 million children that are affected by lack of internet access at home are estimated to cost the taxpayers £80 million over a 40 year working life as individuals are estimated to earn on average a lower wage and may require expensive training in the future to bring them up to date with technological advances. 
Measures being taken:

  • Broadband for all scheme- this scheme in the UK aims to provide a grant of £500 to all 270,000 recorded low income families in the UK (less than £16,040 a year) allowing them to pick out a computer worth that amount- the Government will then provide a 12 month free broadband connection for all the families followed by a reduced price for the years following. This scheme aims to come in place in March 2011 and will encourage families to use the internet and will lessen the digital divide in Britain.
  • One Laptop Per Child- provide laptops that run on low power for under $100 per device, encouraging low income families in developing countries to be able to receive laptops. The computers are sold to the Government of developing countries then handed out to needy families throughout the nation. The company has sold over 2 million laptops so far.
  • Basic PC and Internet course- Officials in the Czech Republic have set up one week courses in Africa to teach young people the basic skills required to use a computer and access the Internet. They hope the skills will stay with them and allow them to teach their peers also- these skills will help them get better jobs in later life.
  • Computer Aid- a UK registered charity that provides thousands of refurbished computers to schools and hospitals in developing countries to deepen their educational learning and provide people with access to the Internet and computers.
  • Close The Gap- A similar project to Computer Aid, computers are wiped and tested then shipped to the country that needs them, although this project also forms partnerships with companies all over the world to 
  • Grameenphone Communication Information Centre- "It is designed to be run independently as small businesses by local entrepreneurs. Each CIC is equipped with a computer, a printer, a scanner, a webcam and a modem to provide internet-based services. CIC entrepreneurs are trained and are provided with continuous support from Grameenphone so that they can extend their knowledge and service to the communities they serve. CICs also provide other GP services, such as payphones and electronic recharge for pre-paid and post-paid mobile accounts."
  • 50x15- aims at providing accessible internet and computer to 50% of the world's population by 2015
  • World Information Society Day- Recognised each year on May 17th, introduced by the UN in a hope to raise the awareness of the digital divide and the effects it has on our neighbours.
  •  Many towns across underdeveloped countries are setting up Internet cafes in which one or two computers are available and connected to the internet. However the government often provides the computers and instructs a man to look after the shop and charge low prices for residents to come and access them; meaning even people on extremely low incomes can afford to use a computer.

Landlines/ Mobile Phones

However the digital divide is not solely about the lack of access to a computer, it covers a wide aspect of technology that is widely available in the Western World- such as telephones. However popular phones seem to be, in 2003 over 50% of the world's population have never made or received a phone call in their life. Some 15% of the world's population own 70% of the phones available worldwide- this accounts to roughly 80 million phones in the top 15% however the 48 poorest countries combined only have access to 2 million devices. This shows the extent of the digital divide and how people who live in poorer countries are likely to never use a phone, or even if they did have access to one they may not know anyone they could call. 

However the lowering costs of mobile phones and subscriptions and charities providing free mobiles caused mobile phone subscriptions in Africa to soar; there are almost 300 million throughout the continent (although this still only covers 6.2% of the population); and like all continent's subscription levels it varies from country to country- there is a 75% or mobile phone owners in the Reunion province yet the whole of Ethiopia only has a 0.1% ownership rate. Though users have learned to use drop calls (hanging up before the other answers) to indicate messages for free; owners have used this technique to tell buyers that their stock is ready, to indicate they have arrived at a destination and so on. Research also shows that even though in terms of ownership the percentages are very low, in Africa it has become custom to share your phone with others who require it for a small fee, so even if a person does not own a mobile phone they may be able to access one.

The use of mobile phones to communicate is extremely important to those living in third world countries as they may require stock prices or to talk to family members who may live a long while away. The rise of mobile phone users in these countries has also lead to a lower death rate as people have more connection to the emergency services quickly and ambulances can be called to the scene at a much faster rate than before. Also, as towns in LEDCs often have no landline phones due to the complex and expensive network required to set up this system, mobile phones are often the only way to communicate over long distances quickly and can be essential in everyday life. Officials in Third World countries have also set up a database that allows people to text information, such as polio outbreaks, to the Government who track the health of the country on a real-time computer, information is now shared instantly but years ago it could have taken months to find out about an outbreak on the other side of the country. This method is helping to stop the spread of diseases and has the ability to save several lives.

In the UK almost every household has a landline service that is unique to the house and area in which a person lives in; it allows houses all over the country to connect with each other no matter the distance and often for much lower calling rates than mobiles. However a recent study showed that 28% of Brits with a landline hadn't used it in more than 6 months and 91% say they use their mobile phone for the majority of the calls they make and receive. This shows that even though as a country we have a massive amount of access to landlines we frequently don't make the use out of them that we should; countries such as Ethiopia have less than 0.05% of the landlines in the UK and yet we barely use them. Graphs show that in the UK there are 126 mobile phone subscriptions per 100 people- this means there are more subscriptions than the whole population; this means that there are several examples of people owning more than one mobile phone (perhaps for work and personal purposes). This shows the extent of the differences in developed and developing countries as we in Britain are exposed to endless landlines, mobiles or public telephone boxes within minutes however there are those in Africa who have to share one mobile often between family and neighbours, as well as themselves. 

Measures being taken:

  • Lifeline- This Government funded scheme in the US provides those within America a free mobile phone and up to 75 minutes of calls per month if they fall below the minimum income line, roughly 1.5 million people have benefited from this scheme.
  • Lifeline for Africa- A brother scheme to the above lifeline, however this service provides phones for those in developing countries in Africa. People send in old phones, some of which are sold in the USA to generate revenue but most are refurbished and sent on for free to African charities.
  • Fonebank- This UK service allows people to sell their old mobile phones to the company who then send on working mobiles to developing countries to be reused for extremely low prices, providing people in developing countries with cheaper alternatives to new mobiles.
  • The Village Phone- Run by Grameen Telecom; mobile phones are sold to women in poor villages for a low cost loan. The women then rent out the mobile phone to those who need it in the village on a cost per minute rate. 
  • Grameenphone CellBazaar- launched in 2006, allows users to search market prices from all over the world from their mobile phone. Has helped millions in developing countries to develop their selling strategies and gain revenue.
The current situation
The current situation about the digital divide based on poverty cannot be completely accurately defined due to individuals getting access to technology more everyday as the world evolves digitally and unreliable data about levels of poverty that may affect a country. For example in the UK the Government's description of a family living in poverty-like conditions may vary largely from how poverty is defined in Africa, with even some of their more well off population living in far worse conditions than the UK's poverty line. However we can clearly see that globally the digital divide is very apparent with over half of our own world's population being extremely far behind in regards to access and knowledge of technology which is in stark contrast to the leading countries such as the US, UK and China who are leagues ahead. The world's richest 15% of countries have 70% of the world's available computers which leaves the developing countries falling far behind in the technology world. Studies have shown that in general countries with a lower GDA have lower levels of access to phones, cars and computers as they do not have the money to support the costs of these systems. Those who would like to connect to the internet the UK would only have to part with, on average, 2% of a household's monthly income whereas those in African countries may have to part with over 100% of their wages- an impossible feat. The lower network coverage in these areas may also alter the prices as it would cost more time and effort to establish an internet connection when you are not situated near communication towers that speed up the process. Although over the last few years as charities are providing computers and phones, and as prices as slashed in many fields of technology, those in the poorest areas in the world are getting more access to technology than they've ever had before.

Locally the situation is not nearly as severe, however the image above shows that more children than we may expect are not given the oppurtunity to access the Internet at home; though we are unsure if this is due to voluntary or unvoluntary reasons (poverty). On the map it tells me that as of 2007 under 20% of children living in Essex didn't have access to the internet at home- this marks our county as being in the lower band of severity in terms of Internet access. In fact the constiuency in Rayleigh is the second wealthiest in the country making Essex one of the richest counties in terms of income. However although Britain has the fourth largest gross income in the world more than 13 million people live in income poverty; the divide between the richest and the poorest is also very severe; the wealthiest 1% owned four times as much as the combined wealth of half the population (28 million people). In England, as a country, poverty is not one of our main problems and as a nation we tend to focus more on helping the more severe cases of poverty in developing nations due to events such as Red Nose Day.
The following website is extremely interesting in showing us how each country in the world ranks in terms of technology; . Some examples from this list show that the leading country in terms of numbers of computers is Switzerland with 865,000 computers per one million people however the lowest ranking country Niger has only 0.76 per one million of the population. These statistics show the strong differences in the best equipped and the worst equipped countries in terms of computers; if you lived in Niger there is less than a one in a million chance of owning a computer. The site also tells us about access to mobile phones; China top the list with 547,286,000 mobile phones in use compared to the 130,000 in the Central African republic. However as these figures are not per/1000 (or similar) they do not give us an accurate insight into how many people have access to phones as countries with a larger population have more chance of owning more phones. These lists are extremely helpful in highlighting the differences between the rich and poor in the world; there is such a large divide it is hard to understand the sheer number of people in our world who will never get the chance to use a computer or a phone.
  • 1 in 4 have a radio
  • 1 in 13 have a TV
  • 1 in 35 have a mobile phone
  • 1 in 40 have a fixed line phone
  • 1 in 130 have a PC
  • 1 in 60 use the Internet

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

The effect of ICT on crime and the law

Internet IP checking, virus protectors, illegal downloads and tracking

Airport Security

Body and bag scanning:
Due to terrorist attacks in recent years and increase in security, all plane passengers are required to undergo two security scanning check before they are allowed onto the aircraft. Passengers must walk through a metal detector; mostly all of these are based on pulse indication (PI). This causes a magnetic field to generate in the machine and sends a current to the alarm if metal is detected on the individual. Individuals who set off this alarm are then further checked by airport security staff for any hidden items. This scanning results in passengers being unable to carry weapons such as knifes and guns onto the plane which could cause in violence and terrorist actions being staged; confirming the security of the other passengers and minimising the risk of violence on board. New technology implimenting x-ray technology is also being put in place in airports today, although this takes longer it gives an extremely clear x-ray image of the passenger showing any hidden items they may be carrying, there is a debate about invasion of privacy for women and minors in regard to these machines however many airports around the world are installing them. 

As you are undergoing these security measures, your bags are also being scanned through an x-ray machine to ensure you are not carrying any dangerous items on board. These machines send x-ray waves at the items, and as different substances absorb x-rays at difference rates it can show what the item is essentially composed of; x-rays can determine if an item is metal, organic or non-organic. This means that security staff can find drugs, home made bombs or further weapons using these machines and can persecute the individual responsible for attempting to carry these items on board.

Passport Control
This is possibly the most important aspect of airport security as it checks that the passengers travelling are who they say they are, and are permitted to be boarding the aeroplane. Passengers must present their passport to a security staff member who will be using a system called CAPPS (Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System)- this causes a large image to be presented on the screen as well as your personal details, and flying history. However these systems are being fazed out and new electronic passports are being distributed to adults around the world and are already widely available in the UK. These e-passports are scanned through a machine and a small camera lowers to take a detailed scan of your face, this is then matched to the picture on your passport and if the photos are approved you are allowed to continue on your journey however if the photos are not matched then you will be checked by a security official to ensure you are exactly who you claim to be. In some countries you are required to have fingerprint scanning to further ensure accuracy and the UK officials are considering this to be added to their line of defence

  • Ensures national security, and the safety of passengers on the flight
  • Reduces the risk of a terrorist attack via an aeroplane
  • Keeps the airport environment safe and weapon free
  • Stops people smuggling goods from one country to another
  • New electronic passports can speed up the time it takes to make it through to the aircraft
  • There are not many disadvantages to the airport security system as it is for all our safety and the only slight problem is that it may cause long waits or delays due to large amounts of people trying to get through to the departure lounge at once.

The Police Force Security

Speed Cameras
Speed cameras are in place all over the UK to reduce the occurance of drivers speeding on the roads and risking the lives of other drivers through their careless driving. There are various types of speed cameras available over the world but the most commonly used on motorways in the UK are SPECs. These cameras are fitted with high tech cameras and ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Reading) techonology and track every vehicle that passes them regardless of speeding or not. The camera takes two pictures from two different locations and from the time and speed the computer can establish the speed at which the vehicle was travelling between the two points. These types of cameras are used mostly on motorways when vehicles are travelling at the highest speed and potenitally causing the most risk to other drivings if they are speeding.

Another type of speed camera are Gatsos; there are roughly 4000 of these in place around the UK and currently account for 90% of all fixed speed cameras. These cameras are expensive and can cost between £20,000 - £40,000 depending on the area in which they are placed and how busy the roads can be. In a particularly busy area a camera's film may run out in just a few hours, and with each speeding ticket costing £60 a time the cost is quickly covered. Each camera can take up to 400 photos, and using speedometers they can determine if a vehicle is exceeding the speed limit and takes a picture of the car. Police can then use the image to determine the number plate, trace the driver and send them a penalty notice in the post.

·        Forces people to drive at a safe speed or face the risk of a ban or fine
·        Ensures the safety of other motorists and pedestrians
·        Keeps people focusing on the laws of the road
·        Reduces the amount of police needed to monitor the roads
·        Good for the economy; the money the Government earn from fining speeders can go towards public works and improvements

·        Makes people look at their dashboard to check they are not speeding which is dangerous in itself
·        Some studies, such as in Swindon, show they make no impact on the number of road deaths and since their removal statistics have actually decreased
·        Sneaky and often poorly placed to catch out unsuspecting drivers

In terms of statistics, the UK has the most CCTV cameras in the world; there are in excess of 400 million cameras all the over the island and there is roughly one camera per 14 heads, and about 40 times as many camcorders. London alone has over 200,000 CCTV cameras installed and the London Borough of Croyden has more CCTV cameras than the whole of New York! In the UK you are caught on CCTV cameras an average of 300 times a day, this may be through private cameras (schools, work) or public cameras that film you as you go about your daily business. In fact every bank machine in this country has a hidden camera that records you making your transaction to stop card thiefs and frauds; a shocking 89% of the population were unaware that they were being filmed.

Well placed cameras have proved a breakthrough in prosecuting criminals at trials and provide undeniable evidence to either prosecute or prove the innocence of an individual's actions. For example the Bulgar case in 1993 in which a three year old child was taken from a busy shopping center and was the victim of terrible violence before being tied to a train track and killed. The CCTV images in the shopping center ruled out the possibilty of a paeodophile being involved in the case and led the police to look for two young boys who were clearly shown leading the young James Bulgar by the hand to his death. Faced with the clear evidence of their guilt the boys were unable to deny the charges and were eventually prosecuted for the murder of James Bulgar. It can also give police leads into missing persons cases; the last known movements of an individual can be viewed via CCTV images and piece together information that could lead to the person being found safe.
However CCTVs are not always used for our benefit; people have argued that they are a violation of our privacy and by being watched almost 100% of the time we are not at home this does not give us the freedom to do whatever we want, within the rights of the law. CCTVs can also be manipulated easily; the lenses can be covered or broken without much effort and the angle of the coverage could be altered so the desired area will not be monitored. Also CCTV images are not always completely clear and persons may be wrongly identified or prosecuted due to the poor quality of images shown and confusion may arise when trying to establish the identity of somebody caught on the camera.

·  Can aid police in identifying criminals and prosecuting people they would never have suspected unless there was visual evidence
·        Gives the police clues in to searching for missing persons; they can trace their last movements to determine where they may be now or if foul play is involved
·        Ensures the safety of people; if security forces spot suspicious activity or violence they can report to the police who can arrest the suspect before anything dangerous occurs
·        Added security to homes, buildings and offices

·        Invasion of our privacy; we are caught unwillingly on average 300 times a day by various CCTV systems
·        Images are not always completely clear and may give police a wrong lead, or lead to them prosecuting somebody who only looks like the vague image they have
·        CCTVs are easily damaged or altered to stop them recording the desired area
·        Expensive, and if poorly placed can be extremely ineffective and non beneficial to the identification of people

Criminals who are released from prison, but do not pose an immediate threat to the society as a whole (such as sex offenderers) may be tagged. This involves an electronic GPS emmiting device to be attached the leg of the criminal and signals are continually sent to a montinoring centre which can track their exact location at all times. If the tag is forcebally removed or damaged the police are alerted and come within minutes to check the individual has not breached the agreed terms and that no crime has been commited. Sex offenders, for example, are often barred from going near parks, schools or other common areas when young people meet. They may also be confined to a certain perimeter ound their home and be restricted from even communicating with the outside world.

Tagging is often seen as an answer to rising prison populations and tries to encourage courts to allow minor offences to be punished using tagging rather than sending the guilty person to prison. Only 2% of people who were tagged have reoffended so it proves that the method is effective and offenders often learn a larger lesson being isolated from the society. These tags also protect the society as any breach of order is reported immediateto the police and forces are often present before any crime can even be commited- it also gives police an idea of offenders in an residential area and can prove positive for controlling crime. These tags are also beneficial for the economy as the money that would have been spent feeding and housing criminals in prison cells is much higher than the cost of providing and monitoring tags. If would cost roughly £24,000 to house criminal for a year however tagging only costs £2000 per year, a massive saving for each case. The individual would probably both benefit and be affected negatively by these tags; they would not have a prison stay on their records and would not have to be exposed to the more sever criminals that prisons harbour. However the individual's social skills would be affected badly as they are now unable to normally communicate with others as they leave the house and lose connections with people who they are now unable to see.

<--Should non-violent offenders be tagged or sent, or kept in prison? 

However many critics see tagging as the 'soft option'; opposed to a lifetime in prison for their crimes, they are allowed to stay in contact with the outside world and family ties be continued. This is of great appeal to offenders who may see this rise of tagging as a way out of serving their time in a cell and an easy way out for their actions. Also, tagging is often only active during the night to ensure they don't breach curfew, however this does not eradicate the option for crime to be commited during the day. And although the tag restricts the movement of the individual it does not stop them from associating with other crimes and organising criminal offences either over the phone or in person.The tagging system, like all computer based systems, is able to crash and fail leaving tagees unmonitored and free to move around freely.
·        Stops the overcrowding of prisons
·        Allows minor criminals to suffer a punishment without mixing with larger criminals who may influence them negatively and persuade to continue to commit crime
·        The location of the individual is available to be seen at all times, ensuring they are not where they are not supposed to be
·        Police can reach the criminal within minutes, and constant watch is not needed
·        Saves the economy a lot of money in regards to not having to sustain them in prison

·        May have affects of the mental state of the subject; lack of socializing and confinement may adversely affect their social skills
·        Considering the ‘easy way out’- if this is an alternative to prison then most would take it, as they are still allowed access to the outside world
·        Tags may malfunction and allow the criminal free range of movement for a period of time

DNA Databases
Police take the fingerprints of all offenders who walk through their doors; this allows police all over the country to track who has commited crimes and the record of anybody's past. This means criminals who lie or try to decieve police about any prior offences can be quickly proved wrong and punishments can be decided based on all accounts. The UK DNA Database contains roughly 3.1 million DNA on record; all those brought into and detained in a police station have their records taken; along with suspects, from crime scenes and the list grows by 30,000 each month. The UK's database is the foremost and largest database of it's kind in the world- containing 5.2% of the country's population compared to 0.5% in the USA.

Whenever a new profile is submitted the database's records are automatically searched for previous criminal records and compared to DNAs in unsolved crimes to determin if the offender is linked with any old crimes. This means that police forces all over the country can use this information to compare DNA and establish possible links between offenders and crimes no matter where they are commited; as criminals may have moved location to aviod prosecution for other crimes they have commited elsewhere. Police now also have portable fingerprint devices that record DNA information on the move so road police can submit roadside offender's for speeding or other minor crimes that do not require the individual's presence in the police station.

However although this database may ensure that the criminals are punished for all their wrongdoings and allows no criminals to lie about their records, it also has many disadvantages. For example, people who are waiting for trial are added to the system; however even if they are proved innocent and have not commited any crime they still remain present on the database and are still given the status as offenders to police around the country. The fact their DNA remains on this database can also affect their future aspirations; workplaces will often not accept any applicant who has any history of crime on their records and people may lose jobs due to this, even if they were cleared. Also, there are over 150,000 records of minor's DNA to be seen- these children are often innocent and is a major breach of privacy as they are not yet adults. DNA can also deteriorate over time and fingerprints become distorted; meaning close family members may be prosecuted wrongly. 
·        Allows police to make quick connections between new DNA and old cases; leading to the completion of thousands of unsolved cases every year
·        Stops people lying about their past criminal record and stores all crimes on one system
·        Can be accessed all over the country by every police force in England and Wales so no matter where the crime occurs it can be added to the system
·        Good for the environment; before this written records were required for each individual but now everything is stored on one system with minimal paper used
·        Innocent people who were placed on the system due to conviction or awaiting trial but were cleared of charges are not allowed to be removed from the system; affecting job chances and future aspirations that will not accept anyone with a criminal record
·        Invasion of privacy; there are roughly 120,000 records of children aged under 18 on the system who were cautioned but no action was taken against them

Drink driving in the UK is a commonly occuring offence and cause a huge risk to other motorists and pedestrians. On average 3,000 people per year are killed or seriously injured due to drunk drivers and if caught you face 6 months imprisonment, a £5000 fine and a minimum of a year driving ban; huge prices to pay for your decision to drive whilst over the limit. The limit in the UK is roughly 4 units for men and 3 units for women before driving becomes illegal. It is possilbe for this exact alcohol content to be measured in your blood (80mg alcohol/ 100ml blood), urine (107mg alcohol/ 100ml urine) or in your breath (30mg alcohol/ 100ml breath). To allow policemen to measure the alcohol content on the roadside; of motorist's they may have pulled over due to careless driving, they use breathalysers.

Breathalysers cannot give a completely accurate measure of alcohol content in your breath but they can give us a pretty good idea; and they are commonly used in the UK; 1 million tests were carried out last year and 300,000 tested positive to being over the limit. This method of condemning drivers is a great benefit to other motorists who are now safer on the roads and reduce the risk of accidents due to a driver's action being marred due to the effects of alcohol. It helps the police force as they no longer have to take the motorist all the way to the police station to check their alcohol limit, and if they are below they are freed immediately reducing the amount of unecessary paperwork. It also saves the economy alot of money due to less frequent crashes and less police are called out to the scenes of accidents. Individuals who are caught with these machines however will not believe they are for the greater good as there is more chance that drink drivers will be caught and prosecuted.

·        Reduces the number of drink drivers on our roads
·        The high penalties for being caught deter drivers from taking to the road drunk
·        Ensures the safety of other drivers as they are less likely to be sharing the road with people over the limit
·        They reduce the number of people the police need to take to the police station and test, it can be practically done on the roadside
·        People can’t pretend they are sober, the machine gives a good indication of their alcohol levels

·        Expensive to buy and stock all police cars with one so they can be used everywhere
·        Not always accurate so if there is a possibility of being over the limit and they are taken back to the Station and further tested to be discovered they are fine is a waste of money, time and effort
·        Sometimes the damage is already done before the police have time to test a subject of being over the limit