digital divide

Widening the Gulf

Lately, in software, there has been a relentless push to navigate people towards online usage. Everything from wordprocessing to mapping has changed its formats to require accounts and licenses that are annually renewed. Programmers would argue that this trend allows software to updated regularly and reduces the amount of waste generated for software production; people who can afford the constant changes would agree. Unfortunately, what this tactic also does is reduce the access to potentially life-changing software to those who can afford internet access, which varies even within a city.

First of all, not everyone needs upgrades. Every now and then, there are substantial upgrades to software but at this point in time, the basics have been acquired. To imply that everyone needs to have the latest and greatest to perform basic tasks is to imply that the discount electronic business should not exist. Plenty of novels can be written without the most recent editing software, just like marathons can be timed without smart watches. Demanding that everyone keep up with extensive updates means excluding people who cannot afford them.

One of the disadvantages for tech consumption is the fact that 1) internet access is not everywhere; and 2) requiring a renewal means that a company keeps receiving money for essentially the same product. Because internet access is not nationwide, there are plenty of pockets in the United States and elsewhere that have no internet service providers because companies insist on making profits. Even if the software can be updates automatically through the internet, people may need to type regardless of that availability because communication is a need, not a want. If a company keeps asking for more money to keep current, then files that people have can malfunction, meaning that work can be lost because an individual fell on hard times.

Most importantly, insisting that all software be internet-compatible means that more waste will be created. A computer could be perfectly functional while still having difficulty accessing the internet. The fancy smartyphones that keep everyone satisfied end up in landfills or shredded because of companies’ relentless desire to push society into ever greater consumption. Because waste tends to affect the marginalized and not the upper classes, too many people fail to realize that constant upgrades mean more environmental degradation, particularly in poor communities. Landfills are located in distressed communities, while upper class communities marvel at new three-dimensional printers and sleek new tablets. Those who are unable to participate in the marvels should not be delegated to endure the burdens of those marvels.

Internet access is an undisputed convenience for acquiring knowledge and communicating with the world, but society still has an active digital divide. Communities across the nation are constantly battling for who is forced to endure the presence of waste, and technology companies should consider that before forcing people into unnecessary upgrades. It is impossible to keep up with technology advances if one is marginalized; the least companies can do is make it so that those who purchased their products in the past could continue to enjoy them.

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