Social media and mobile technologies in bridging digital divides

Digital inequalities such as digital divides are a big issue in the information society, potentially influencing engagement in political, social, and educational life. They create marginalized, excluded groups who do not have access to the Internet, to information, or maybe to the necessary skills for using these devices and social applications. At some point, these people will not be able to engage fully in social, economic or political life.

The notion of being social on the Web is constantly evolving since we are connected not only via computers but also via mobile phones and other handheld devices. There is no doubt that these technologies, along with social media and apps, help to bridge the present digital divides, by providing an interactive and engaging platform for otherwise excluded voices, globally.
However, it is still a challenge, not only to make those technologies available everywhere, but also to create programs and initiatives for educating, engaging, empowering and interacting so that those digital gaps would break down or at least lessen.

Despite the way in which social media and mainstream news like to talk about ‘’new digital divides’’, they are not new at all. From my own research in the field (a new the book where I contributed with the chapter), it seems that the core issue is not always about technology as a liberator (that breaks down the digital divide), but that the central issues are about social power, access to information and skills (even to the level of fundamental literacy).

Opening up the access to knowledge and its deployment in everyday work and education is crucial for producing the results and fostering the competences of the members of one’s society. Access to information is the key to an individual’s position in society.
We are all participating on a daily basis in a networked world and we are the creators and the producers of the content online, all together in the same hyper-connected world where the issues and patterns of inclusion and exclusion need to be observed and addressed.

Although there is still limited access to the Internet in some developing countries, connectivity continues to grow and mobile technology and social media applications are playing vital roles in shaping the trends of social activism and raising awareness, in the context of freedom of expression and giving citizens a voice to address social issues. According to the International telecommunications Union, about 70% of mobile phone users are in developing countries, mostly in the global South – making mobile devices the