1 Menoufia University (EGYPT)
2 Carleton University (CANADA)
3 University of Ottawa (CANADA)
About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2020 Proceedings
Publication year: 2020
Pages: 4483-4492
ISBN: 978-84-09-17939-8
ISSN: 2340-1079
doi: 10.21125/inted.2020.1241
Conference name: 14th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 2-4 March, 2020
Location: Valencia, Spain
The concept of Digital Divide was originally interwoven with the notion of democratization of technology. The idea focused mainly on equal access to computing and connectivity regardless of race, age, education, location, and income. In other words, the Digital Divide dealt with the obstacles around expanding access to information technology platforms, and supporting the un-connected societies become connected. The solutions varied and usually sought different paths such as granting universal access, raising awareness, motivating the public to embrace technology, enhancing digital infrastructure, establishing community access centres, and spreading digital literacy programs.

The advances of Data Science (DS) and Artificial Intelligence (AI), particularly in the last decade, has allowed a few tech companies to gain unprecedented control over the world's data. This domination and autocratic approach, combined with the widespread access to Internet-ready mobile phones, and desktop computing platforms, introduced a fragmentation in the meanings of Digital Divide that no longer fits into the original discourse.

With corporate ownership of public data, inequality has become less about access and more about ownership and rights, including the abilities to provide, process, and access, to particular types of data. The Divide is now about members of society who generate the data (and theoretically should own it) and tech corporations who process it (and in practice, own it). Therefore, trust in data remains fragile since online societies are ambushed and abused with their own data, for monetary purposes as demonstrated in the case of the Cambridge Analytica Scandal for interference in elections. In another case, Ashley Madison Scandal was accused of mishandling personal data. We have also witnessed the failure in combating fake news and harmful content, cyber-attacks of businesses, the spread of cyberbullying and ransomware, and online surveillance coordinated between governments and telecom companies. Although each case is different, they are all connected together by one factor: the inappropriate use of data that continues to grow, creating a behavioural mistrust in data and related services. This is why an alternative definition of the term Digital Divide should be sought in order to emphasize the gap between users and corporations rather than focusing on users alone.

This article theoretically and philosophically argues that the Divide is currently in need for a different theory to explain its entanglements while considering the emerging factors that shifted the meaning away from its origins.

While the new definition reflects the original annotations of equality of access to information technology, it suggests an ethical framework and measurements to govern the functionality of technology and the ownership of data. In essence, gaining true sovereignty over data and empowering individuals rather than corporations. The new meaning of the term Digital Divide must incorporate accountability and transparency of data service providers.

Since AI was one of the main reasons for shifting the meaning of the Divide, it must be considered as the main element for making the Divide more meaningful. The same power of algorithms and knowledge of data science can be used to reverse the negative implications on the Divide, prevent exploitation, and grant a true digital-equality.
Digital Divide, democratization of technology, artificial intelligence, digital equality, data ownership, digital trust, trust in data, tech corporates.