The Technology Divide
the great divides
An in-depth assessment of how the megatrends will have a profound impact at the societal level, reveals that these megatrends, in combination, exert strong pressures for growing divides within society in three primary areas: The Wealth Divide, The Health Divide, and The Technology Divide.
the technology divide
Old vs. Young; Rural vs. Urban; Poor vs. Rich. All of these divisions that we have now in access to technology are potentially exacerbated by the megatrends. A growth in the number of older people, and with people living longer and longer lives, together with increasingly sophisticated technologies becoming a part of everyday life, is likely to lead to an increasing Technology Divide based upon demographic lines between older people who often have less capacity and desire to access new technologies and younger people who have grown up in a much more technological age.
Urban regeneration and the flight of people to urban areas is also likely to exacerbate the Technology Divide between rural and urban populations. While rural populations often lag behind their urban counterparts today in terms of their access to technology, such as high speed internet or reliability of cell service, this divide is likely to become more prevalent with an even higher percentage of the population living in urban areas, incentivizing companies and governments to concentrate resources and deployment of new technologies in these urban centers, and ignoring the needs of rural customers. Even the development and use of peer-to-peer platforms is concentrated in urban areas where people have closer proximity to each other and more widely used technology platforms to facilitate transactions. Even now, according to the International Telecommunications Union, while by 2015 89% of the world's urban population had access to a 3G network, only 29% of the rural population enjoyed such access. Indeed. with a reduced percentage of the population living in rural areas, and often the high cost of deploying infrastructure in these areas relative to the number of potential customers, this value proposition gets substantially worse with the megatrend of urban regeneration exacerbating the Technology Divide.
Although in some respects technology has become accessible to poorer populations, with more than 60% of the population of sub-Saharan Africa having access to a mobile phone, other technologies taken for granted in much of the developed world are more out of reach. As of 2015, only 7% of the population in least developed countries had access to the internet, and less than 1% had access to a fixed broadband connection.
societal and business challenges posed by the technology divide
As more and more commerce is dependent on technology; for reaching customers through marketing; for facilitating the point of sale through web or mobile; for the product or service itself through software or 3D printed products; or through delivery of the product via drones, the threat of an increasing Technology Divide becomes problematic for business as although it facilitates customer interaction with a portion of the customer base, it further alienates and makes less accessible another portion of the potential market.
The Technology Divide is also a threat to societies and governments, and itself further feeds the Wealth Divide and Health Divide as access to technology plays a large role in facilitating the growth of wealth and access to advanced healthcare. Addressing inequalities in access to technology, whether the inequality is driven by demographics, the urban versus rural divide, wealth inequalities, or other factors is an imperative for a society that wants to make the most of its productive potential.
International Telecommunications Union ICT Facts and Figures