Editorial Board 2000-2001
So you're desperately poor. You're starving, cold, and god forbid you don't have access to the Internet.
While a recent Statistics Canada survey of the availability of the Internet between different economic classes draws attention to the lack of access for the poor, it does not serve as a realistic measuring tool to determine a person's quality of life.
The question: Is Internet access really that important to a person dealing with poverty in comparison to life's more immediate priorities, like food and shelter?
E-life is still in its infancy, and still has quite a ways to go before it reaches its true potential. Phrases like the "Digital Divide" have become buzz words for what is otherwise a natural inequity of resources. Outcries of non-existent Internet access are more hype then substance.
While statistics are showing that a greater percentage of Canada's population is online, as of 2000 only about half of Canada's population were actually connected to the Internet. Assuming that half of Canada's population is not below the poverty line, this only serves to show that even the wealthy are not concerned with being connected to the Net. Does their quality of life diminish at all because of their lack of interest? Moreover, can the Internet be considered a luxury?
Consider for example the origins of print in comparison to the Internet. When print first emerged, it promised the masses easier access to information. Unfortunately though poverty was not abolished, and there is still a strong correlation between illiteracy and poverty. What this points to is that when your first concern is fighting off starvation for yet another day, you may find it difficult to keep up with that week's set of readings from your local book club.
The same can be said about the Internet. What does the Internet provide that can not be currently accessed by any other means? While many government services are now available online, they are still being offered through more conventional means. If you need to apply for a government service, yes it would be easier to apply online, however you still have the option of picking up the phone, or visiting their offices in-person.
While it is unfortunate that some people cannot afford the luxury of having access to the Internet, the quality of their lives are not being significantly being affected. Only when a person is unable to conduct the business of their daily lives will the Digital Divide really mean something.
Until that dark day, the Internet is a brand new toy, and should not be viewed as a life-living essential.