Access to the internet is a basic need in the modern world. While internet access has become increasingly commonplace for many, there is still a significant divide between those with access and those without—the digital divide. But what are the implications of this divide, particularly for rural communities?
The widening digital divide threatens to leave certain areas in progress and prosperity behind. In particular, rural communities have yet to be able to take full advantage of technology like their urban counterparts have due to limited or nonexistent access to the internet. Tech companies are slowly bridging this gap, but how much impact has the lack of digital access had on small towns and remote areas?
This article will discuss the negative effects of the digital divide on rural communities. We’ll explore how it affects these areas’ education, healthcare and employment opportunities. Additionally, we’ll look into what can be done to close this gap so that everyone has equal access to high-speed internet regardless of where they live.
The Unavailability of Technology
One of the main challenges rural communities face is the cost of technology. Many people in rural areas may need more financial resources to purchase expensive computers or smartphones, which can limit their ability to access digital resources and participate in online activities. Additionally, many rural areas need more infrastructure to support high-speed internet, making it difficult to access digital content even with a computer or smartphone.
Another challenge is the limited availability of technology in local stores. In urban areas, it is easy to find stores that sell a variety of digital devices, but in rural areas, the options may be more limited. This can make it difficult for people in rural communities to purchase the latest technology, which can put them at a disadvantage when it comes to accessing digital resources and participating in online activities.
Addressing the availability of technology in rural communities is an important step in bridging the digital divide. This can be done through initiatives to increase the availability of affordable devices and improve access to high-speed internet. Companies like WOI in NZ provide rural internet access with satellite internet technology. This helps to bridge the gap by providing internet access where hard-lined internet connections need to be set up in the infrastructure.
Helping with Education & Employment
Rural communities’ lack of digital access can significantly impact education and employment opportunities. In today’s world, digital literacy is becoming increasingly important for accessing information, communication, and participation in many aspects of daily life. As a result, individuals who have access to digital resources can be protected regarding education and employment opportunities.
In terms of education, digital access is essential for students to complete assignments, research information, and communicate with teachers and classmates. Students with access to technology at home may need help to keep up with their peers with access to computers and the internet. This can lead to lower grades, lower graduation rates, and limited opportunities for higher education.
Similarly, the lack of digital access can also impact employment opportunities. Many jobs require digital literacy and technology access, whether for completing online applications, accessing training programs, or communicating with colleagues and customers. Without access to technology, individuals in rural communities may be limited to lower-paying jobs with fewer opportunities for advancement.
Facilitating Healthcare Services
Many rural areas, including doctors, hospitals, and clinics, need more healthcare resources. Additionally, individuals living in rural areas may need more transportation options, making it difficult to access healthcare services. The lack of digital access can exacerbate these challenges, as many healthcare services are increasingly offered online.
One way digital technology can help facilitate healthcare services in rural communities is through telemedicine. Telemedicine uses digital technology to provide healthcare services remotely, such as through video conferencing, remote monitoring, and other online tools. Telemedicine can help to improve access to healthcare services in rural areas, particularly for individuals who may have difficulty travelling to a healthcare facility due to distance, lack of transportation, or mobility issues.
Telemedicine can provide various healthcare services, including remote consultations with doctors, virtual check-ups, and even mental health services. In addition to improving access to healthcare services, telemedicine can help reduce healthcare costs. It eliminates the need for patients to travel long distances for appointments and can reduce the need for in-person consultations.
Keeping Communities Connected
Lack of access to digital resources can make it difficult for individuals in rural communities to stay connected with each other and the broader world. This can lead to social isolation, reduced opportunities for collaboration, and limited access to important information and resources.
Digital technology can play an important role in keeping rural communities connected. Social media platforms, online forums, and other digital tools can help individuals in rural areas stay connected with each other and the broader world. These tools can facilitate communication and collaboration and provide access to important information and resources.
In addition to social media and other digital tools, the internet can facilitate access to important community resources, such as local news and events. Online newspapers, community calendars, and other digital resources can help individuals in rural communities stay informed about important local issues and events.
Bridging the Technological Divide
Keeping our communities connected has never been more important. Especially in this post Covid-19 age, the digital divide has become even more pronounced. As we increasingly rely on digital technology for communication, education, healthcare, and other aspects of daily life, individuals who need access to digital resources are disadvantaged.
This is particularly true for rural communities, where access to high-speed internet and digital devices can limit opportunities for education, employment, healthcare, and community connections.