The digital divide, or the unequal distribution of technology access, is a growing concern in society. As technology continues to play a vital role in shaping the way we live and work, the gap between those who have access to technology and those who do not is becoming increasingly apparent. A linear age has developed based on a “take, make, use, dispose” model, where resources are extracted, used to create products, consumed, and then discarded.
“Bridging the digital divide is crucial for ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to participate fully in the digital age and create a more circular economy.”
With the COVID-19 pandemic, this dynamic has been further exacerbated as many people are forced to rely on technology for work, education, and communication. Bridging the digital divide is crucial for ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to participate fully in the digital age and create a more circular economy.
A Circular Economy: How it Works
A circular economy is an economic system that is designed to keep resources in use for as long as possible, extracting the maximum value from them before recovering and regenerating them. The goal is to minimize waste and pollution while maintaining economic growth. In a circular economy, waste is minimized by designing products and systems that can be easily reused, repaired, refurbished or recycled, and by using renewable energy sources. This not only minimizes environmental impact but also creates new business opportunities, improves resource efficiency and increases resilience.
“The concept of a circular economy can also be applied to technology, where the lifecycle of technology products is designed to be circular, reducing waste and increasing the efficient use of resources.”
The concept of a circular economy can also be applied to technology, where the lifecycle of technology products is designed to be circular, reducing waste and increasing the efficient use of resources. This can help to bridge the digital divide by making technology more accessible and sustainable for all members of society, while also reducing the environmental impact of technology production and consumption.
This is crucial for ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to participate fully in the digital age whilst promoting a sustainable circular economy. With that goal in mind, it is important to examine where Canada currently stands in terms of the growing technology access gaps.
Assessing Canada’s Digital Divide
The size of Canada’s divide can be approximated by comparing the penetration rates of technology and internet usage between high and low-income households. According to data from 2000, there was a significant gap in the penetration rates of computers and the internet between these two groups, with a difference of 65.2 and 62.5 percentage points, respectively. This divide was also evident in cell phone usage, with a difference of almost 12 percentage points. Additionally, data from 1996 and 2000 shows that the digital divide is greater for newer technologies, with high-income households being significantly more likely to use the internet than low-income households.
To become a world leader on this issue, it is crucial that all levels of government, industry leaders, entrepreneurs, researchers, funders and others take action now to address these challenges and capitalize on the opportunities that a more circular economy presents. This includes calls to action on what needs to be done to reach circularity and ensure a sustainable and prosperous future for Canada.
Addressing the Issues with Circular Economy Concepts
1. Increase Access to Tech and Training
One of the key ways to bridge the digital divide is through providing access to technology and digital skills training. This includes providing access to devices such as computers, laptops and smartphones, as well as internet access. This is particularly important for disadvantaged communities, where access to technology may be limited due to financial constraints.
2. Combat Discrimination
Issues such as racism and sexism can create barriers to technology access and must be actively addressed in order to ensure that everyone has an equal opportunity to benefit from it. This involves addressing discrimination within the tech industry itself, as well as providing resources and support for marginalized communities to access and utilize technology. Without addressing these underlying issues, the digital divide may continue to persist and widen.
3. Address Underlying Socio-Economic Issues
Another important aspect of bridging the digital divide is addressing the socio-economic and structural factors that contribute to it. This includes addressing issues such as poverty, lack of education, and language barriers that can limit access to technology. For example, providing affordable housing and education can help to create a more level playing field for people from disadvantaged communities.
“It is also important to consider the systemic issues of discrimination that may prevent certain individuals or groups from accessing technology.”
In addition to addressing the digital divide through increasing reuse and dissemination of devices themselves, it is also important to consider the systemic issues of discrimination that may prevent certain individuals or groups from accessing technology. By increasing access to native-language support services, for example, organizations can help to ensure that people from non-English speaking backgrounds are able to access technology and digital skills training.
The Role of Recycling Associations in a Circular Economy
The Electronic Recycling Association collaborates with local companies to responsibly reuse electronics and IT equipment, and increase equitable access to this equipment. Partnerships with community charities can facilitate the repurposing of donations for future use, thereby supporting local communities. This not only helps the environment but also promotes social responsibility by providing access to technology for those in need.
Studies have shown that the fear of data recovery from old equipment is one of the biggest obstacles to reuse. Recycling associations can address that issue – the ERA possesses robust data wiping and physical destruction capabilities and has partnered with Canadian law enforcement agencies to raise awareness of the dangers associated with inadequate due diligence around personal computing devices.
“The approach to promoting sustainable practices must be multifaceted, and working with local companies and community charities is a key component of this approach.”
The approach to promoting sustainable practices must be multifaceted, and working with local companies and community charities is a key component of this approach. By embracing this approach, companies can not only reduce their environmental impact but also generate new revenue streams from the repurposing of devices.
In order to bridge Canada’s digital divide, it is essential that we continue to promote sustainable practices and address the complex issues that contribute to unequal access to technology. ERA is committed to doing its part in addressing this issue and encourages individuals and organizations to take action in their own communities by supporting local efforts to bridge the digital divide. Together, we can work towards a future where everyone has equal access to technology and the opportunities it provides.