The Digital Divide: Two Ways IoT Can Bridge the Gap

Neil Anthony Daruwala -
The Digital Divide
Illustration: © IoT For All

Opposition to new technology and consequent social division is not a recent phenomenon. The first Industrial Revolution created swathes of marginalized groups who felt their livelihood and traditional artistry were threatened by corporate entities. In England, the government was even forced to dispatch 14,000 troops to quell a riot inflamed by the infamous Luddites.

Fast-forward to 2022, and IoT-based technology is now a fundamental component of modern society. Gradually, cities are becoming more digitized, and urban dwellers have to embrace new technology to successfully maneuver in modern society. However, sections of society, including the elderly, low-income, and less educated populations are struggling to keep abreast of the new technological world. Yet, two sectors using IoT architecture are helping to close the digital divide.

IoT in Healthcare

The growth of e-health and mHealth has enabled technology to play an increasing role within the medical sector. The elderly are already benefitting from the Internet of Medical Things (IoTM). Ambient assisted living (AAL) alerts families or a support center if a monitored older person does not perform their usual routine in the home. This type of smart technology has added a sense of security, independence, and enhanced well-being for people of advanced age.

Wireless body sensor networks (WBSN) and super medical sensors (MSS) are used to monitor people’s health status. These advanced sensors attached or implanted into the body provide crucial information regarding body temperature, blood pressure, heartbeat rate, respiration rate, ECG, and oxygen saturation. They use various standards such as Bluetooth, ZigBee, RFID, NFC, and UWB for intra-communication. The massive amount of health data is stored on cloud-based platforms, such as ThingWorx, OpenIoT, Nimbits, and GENI. Telecare can also provide access to medical professionals for people with mobility problems.

In addition, using Intelligent Voice Assistants (IVA) has resulted in positive outcomes for people who may feel insecure around IoT technology. Autistic children gain essential life skills such as controlling smart homes, ordering weekly shopping, communicating with peers, and accessing information via interactions with IVAs. Although IoT technology can help people more prone to being on the wrong side of the digital divide, they will still need someone to assist them periodically as technology is not fail-proof. Hence, a support system must be in place when the technology needs maintenance and updates.

IoT in Education

Apart from the elderly, individuals with a low socio-economic status exacerbate the digital divide. They have less access to technology, especially in developing countries, and as a result, do not possess the digital skills needed to maneuver successfully in the digital world. Yet, education based on IoT systems can help bridge the divide by eradicating old education systems and introducing more creative, interactive, and fun ways to learn.

Instead of pen and paper, IoT education solutions include competitive games and audio/video animation to help increase participation and retention. IVAs can also take notes as the student reads out loud, and their spoken word is converted onto a virtual notebook. Companies are now fitting school buses with a free Wi-Fi connection for students who may need that extra time to finish and turn in homework. Students living in remote areas can now attend class remotely with platforms that allow access regardless of bandwidth capabilities. Indeed, virtual classroom apps enable students to stay connected with classmates and teachers through digital class discussions and real-time virtual class sessions.

Moreover, learning management systems (LMS) can pinpoint which students are struggling in class, track their progress with attractive and intuitive displays, and keep students on track for learning success. The IoT-based classroom has many possibilities to enhance the learning experience. Automatic Lighting and Air Control Systems benefit students as room temperatures impact academic performance. Using an RFID reader to monitor student attendance could encourage students to participate in school. Interactive blackboards using Intelligent liquid crystal display technology create a dynamic learning experience using visuals, text imagery, video, and sound. As a result, students with difficulties can engage effortlessly and become more involved in the learning process.

Reducing the Digital Divide

One could argue that the digital divide will significantly reduce as IoT becomes more pervasive, ubiquitous, and normalized over time. However, a digital divide will always exist, as technology changes and morphs quickly within small-time frames. Therefore, IoT manufacturers, governments, and policymakers must ensure IoT-based healthcare and education is available to all, irrespective of their social standing. Yet, it is also the individual’s responsibility to stay up-to-date with the latest IoT technology and be willing to learn new skills to better understand the digital world.

Neil Anthony Daruwala - Human to Computer Interaction Researcher

Guest Writer
Guest Writer
Guest writers are IoT experts and enthusiasts interested in sharing their insights with the IoT industry through IoT For All.
Guest writers are IoT experts and enthusiasts interested in sharing their insights with the IoT industry through IoT For All.