What Is The Digital Divide in Asia and How Is It Being Bridged?

Imagine reaching a destination without GPS or planning your vacation without watching the travelling vlog of others. Let’s admit it is almost impossible for us to separate our lives from digital technology anymore. However, when technologies become so crucial to the operation of our society, it is also essential that we recognise the unequal accessibility of digital technologies in different communities.

What Is Digital Divide?

‘Digital divide’ refers to the gap between those who can access reliable technology, the internet and digital literacy training; and those who do not. At first, this term is used to describe those who had cellphone access and those who did not. But its meaning is constantly shifting as technology is developing rapidly.

This concept can be applied to developed VS developing countries, urban VS rural populations, young and educated VS older and less knowledgeable individuals, men VS women, etc.

Source: NCbroadband   

Types Of Digital Divide

A digital divide can occur between and within countries. Apart from the listed categorisation, there are three areas to define the digital divide:

1. The Access Divide

The ability of people to afford necessary equipment and devices to access the internet differs based on their socioeconomic status. It is the most typical and obvious type of digital divide as we see a huge population in developing countries that lack the resources to access the internet and technology. 

2. The Use Divide

The use divide refers to the difference in skills level of individuals. The generation gap would be a clear illustration when it comes to the operation of computers. Quality of education is also a consideration. Generally, younger, educated people acquire more solid skills than old, less educated people.

3. The Quality–Of-Use Gap

Even though two people spend the same amount of time browsing the internet, it does not mean they receive the same amount of information they need. The different ways people use the internet will impact the quality of their usage.

Source: Investopedia

Is There A Digital Divide In Asia?

A worldwide inclusive digital future is probably the ideal situation for everyone. The first step to fulfilling this ambition is to identify the digital divide. Asia is a fascinating landscape in terms of the development of digital technologies because it is both hyper-connected and under-connected.

The International Telecommunications Union stated that nearly 40% of the population in Asia remained unconnected in 2021. At the same time, internet quality between countries can be very extreme. For instance, China’s national average mobile broadband download speed (202 Mbps) was nearly 12 times that of landlocked countries. In comparison, South Korea (103 Mbps) and Thailand (109 Mbps) had a fixed broadband download speed 4 times higher than the average across the region.

Striving to close the digital divide, the United Nations Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development had set the 2025 Advocacy Targets to enhance internet affordability, universal connectivity, skills, access and use. Yet, 15 Asian Development Bank (ADB) countries must achieve 2% of the target(1.5 GB for mobile and 5 GB for fixed broadband access per month). The slow progress also contradicts the prediction of Ericsson’s 2021 mobility report, which believes that the global average use of mobile data will rise to 35 GB per month in 2026. While the 1.5GB target is barely adequate to achieve meaningful connectivity, keeping pace with the escalating digital usage is even more difficult for developing countries in Asia.

Consequences of the Digital Divide

As much as we enjoy a seamless digital lifestyle nowadays, it was not long ago that access to the internet was seen as a luxury. To narrow the digital divide is not just for entertainment. The consequence of the digital divide is broader and deeper than you can imagine:


Every aspect of our lives involves technology. Limited internet access or skills can cause an individual to disconnect from society. This might lead to not only a constraint on career prospects but also one’s mental health. Since difficulties in communicating or accessing updated government policies are imposed, individuals with limited internet access will drift further away from the majority.


Many studies are endorsing the effectiveness of online education as students’ performance can be raised with the assistance of VR and AR materials. In that case, the lack of affordable and reliable resources for online education can become a barrier for students to develop their skills.


The digital divide can occur as a form of discrimination. The International Telecommunications Union notices the trend that the population of non-internet users in Asia is disproportionately concentrated in the female population. This forms a vicious cycle for women to acquire skills or information to improve their status.

How to bridge the digital divide?

The digital divide is widely recognised as a global issue. Some organisations and countries are devoted to helping improve the situation. The Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI) and Starlink are two outstanding examples of programs developed to increase the affordability and coverage of the internet. The U.S. Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, signed in 2021, is also a significant move aiming to improve internet eligibility. 

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