Ethics and Law in New Media/The Digital Divide

* Analyse and describe Internet availability in your country. How big is the availability difference for urban and rural regions? Do you consider this a problem?

For this task I chose Poland because by the time when the Internet was coming into our houses I was living with my parents in Poland. And, by the moment I am actually here, using maybe 8 year old pc connected to the net by radio waves (my parents live in a small, 7 thousand people, city).

I remember the times when I saw a computer for the first time in my life – at my mom’s job –  it had the system of windows 98 and no internet connection (we used it to play window’s games as minesweeper or solitaire :))

After, we had courses at school where you would use computers but I don’t recall using the Internet by the time. I am sure that my first mailbox was made during the class of IT at my high school and I was 16 or 17… by the time I didn’t even know what was the point of making it as nobody was using them… There was no need, actually; you were used to be in touch with the people around you and if somebody was far away you just made peace with that and talk to him/her more rarely.

And then opened the first internet cafeteria in the city! As we were young and had nothing better to do we started playing games during the nights. Games from CD, almost never using the internet 🙂 But soon I got quite addicted to emails as my boyfriend moved to another city (300km away). This is the Internet influence’s beginning from mine perspective.  I still have the oldest email that is from 2004, even though I’m quite sure it is not my first received email.

Anyway, I decided to get into the topic and I have found some interesting facts. First of all, the Internet in Poland  is available since December 20, 1990. The domain .pl was registered on April 30, 1991 in Copenhagen.  There was the first email sent on August 17, 1991,  from Warsaw University Faculty of Physics to Copenhagen uni.

On June 1991 the first polish network POLPAK (belonging to polish telecomunication) was launched.

On August, 1993 the first polish www server was opened with this very original name Polish Homepage :). The first portal was named Virtual Poland and still exist since 1995.

In 1996 polish telecommunication launched an anonymous access to the Internet through modems.

Interesting stuff about polish internet now:

  • they have their own chat programme that is really popular among the poles living in the country and abroad. It is called gadu-gadu; i like it because it has tons of emoticons 🙂
  • nasza klasa [tr. our class] is something similar to facebook and it got popular very quickly – now has about 12 mln users
  • allegro.pl – is a pioneer in on-line auctions in Poland. They began conducting on-line auctions in December 1999 with the hope that this form of trading is a great chance of popularity and interest.Today, the Allegro community counts more than 5 million people.
  • They say that polish programmers are ones of the best in the world 🙂

Here you may see the Internet’s users growth from 2002 to 2008:

According to the article on internetstats.pl Luxembourg, Austria, Germany and Italy are the countries with the largest discrepancy in the proportion of men and women regularly using the Internet. In Poland, the differences are not too visible – the network is using 46% of men and 43% of women. You could see it in the following chart:

Curiously, in Estonia there are more women using the net 🙂

According to European Commission data for 2008 44% of Poles aged 16-74 use the Internet regularly. It turns out that this puts the country at the end of the list of countries of the European Union, where the average for 27 countries is 56%. At the same time, in countries such as Norway, Iceland, Netherlands and Sweden over 80% of people regularly use the web. (Probably in Estonia as well, will have to read other blogs;) ).

According to another article at the same page 52% of all households do not have Internet at home. Why is that? The most important reason for not having the Internet is no need. People who are not using the Internet think that their essential needs can’t be satisfied on-line. Over the years 2006 – 2008 the percentage of people sharing this reason increased from 43% to 45%.

In the analyzed period there are two other reasons that have grown in prevalence: the lack of relevant skills (an increase from 19% in 2006 to 23% in 2008) and aversion to the Internet (up from 3% to 5%).

Interestingly, from year to year clearly diminishes the number of people for whom barrier to using the Internet are financial considerations. While still in 2006, 35% of Poles pointed to the high costs of equipment, in 2008, this proportion dropped to 29%. The same applies to the cost of internet access. While in 2006 the very high cost of access indicated 35% of Poles, in the year 2008 they are a problem for only 26% of respondents. But still, these two financial barriers are still on the second and third place of reasons for not having the Internet.

Talking about the differences between urban and rural regions: according to the following chart we can see that the proportion is still the same even though the amount of people living in villages and using the internet has increased during 4 years from 20.9% to 38%.

1. city with more that 500 ooo habitants; […] 5.city with less than 20 000 habitants; 6. village

Looking at the map of Poland we may see right away which regions are more developed and accordingly have better access to the Internet:

Even though there is quite notable increase after only one year but paradoxically the places where the situation was better develop faster. (That just confirms my theory of why staying in a poor country and waiting till the situation gets better when you can always go to a quite developed place and experience the improvement even faster…)

Another interesting thing is the division of country into western (more developed, with more industry) and eastern (more nature, very few industry) parts. And now take a look at the presidential election map (after the plane tragedy there were 2 very strong candidates: the brother of previous president Jaroslaw Kaczynski and more liberal candidate Bronislaw Komorowski)

Almost divided in a half 🙂 (blue – Kaczynski – more conservative society that doesn’t use the Internet that much :), yellow – Komorowski, the liberl and advanced part of polish society).

Answering to the last part of the task – I do consider this as a problem. I don’t think that this kind of division is good. But I know that there are a lot of means that are aimed to eliminate such a strong division, like the following project:

The Operational Programme Development of Eastern Poland (OP DEP) is financed from the ERDF.
The reason for the development of this programme was that additional funding was awarded from the European Regional Development Fund for the five most disadvantaged regions: Lubelskie, Podkarpackie, Podlaskie, Świętokrzyskie and Warmińsko-Mazurskie. These voivodships are characterised by the low living standards of their residents, a low dynamic of their economic development, poorly developed and inadequate transport infrastructure and insufficient growth factors.

More about it here

* Investigate and describe  an illustrative case of digital divide in your country

The best case of digital divide can be observed in the Mazovia region in Poland. I have found the report of the following project

The Ministry of the Interior in Poland has opened a tendering process for eInclusion projects that will help bridge the digital divide and enable digitally marginalised groups to access eGovernment services.

One section of the report is called:

Dualism: the great Warsaw and Mazovia peripherals
– the capital conceals the real problems of eDevelopment in the  region

For the first time a detailed diagnosis of the level of information in the region was made. Three types of areas were distinct according to the level of preparation to adopt new technologies. The highest results have regions close to the capital (dark and the 1st level of lighter green). This is due to their high educational potential of providing residents opportunities to learn and the ability to invest in IT projects due to the favorable budgetary situation and the relatively good access to Internet infrastructure. The situation is similar for the cities – the former capitals of the provinces Ostroleka, Plock, Radom and Siedlce.

Even though Mazovia is considered as the richest region in Poland, areas at risk of digital exclusion constitute over 40% within the voivodeship (white and 2nd level of light green).

Phenomenon occurring in the region is a strong deformation of the realistic picture of the socio-economic development of the region which is the result of statistical effects of “great Warsaw”, which is always making the results higher than they actually are in the rest of the region. In the case of an information society, this deformation is the key causing that in many national rankings region reaches a relatively high positions and high values of indicators, which can be an obstacle in development of the provinces that are in a completely different situation than the capital. Some of the provinces are as close as 50 km from the capital and still reach very poor results:
high unemployment, low GDP/capita, lack of education, low professional activity, as well as the weakness of public sector services.

Taken acction:

  • organized meetings with the “heads” of poorest regions, but:

The vast majority of  mayors and district governors were did not take interest in the development of initiatives for improving the information society, as well as subordinated to the local government employees. Structural inactivity is the strongest factor in deepening the digital division.

Basic problems are a result from a structural deficit of competence of public sector workers and the lack of educational and training support directly addressed to the inhabitants of rural areas.

  • detailed plan of improvement was presented (better education, more public places for accessing the internet, better IT infrastructure, cheaper connections, financial aid for the poorest families, etc.)

 

The case was interesting to investigate, firs of all, because I had no idea that there is such a big digital division in the richest region of Poland. I’m influenced by the “great Warsaw” stereotype…

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