Technology and Equality – Two of the Most Discussed Topics and Why they Rarely Go Together

Technology and Equality – Two of the Most Discussed Topics and Why they Rarely Go Together

In the 1970’s, the world entered what we now call the “Information Age” or “The Digital Age”. Personal computing had been a conceptual idea at best until this point in time, and the pathway for humanity to gradually work its way into symbiosis with technology started changing the world.

Today, technology has become the backbone of everyday life, utilized during most waking hours of the general public around the world. Communication, transportation, lifestyle, and entertainment are now commonly done and managed at people’s fingertips through mobile phones and other digital devices since the birth of the Internet.

Advancing mankind

Good examples of technological symbiosis in the world of commerce are how common business scenarios now carried out with computers such as transactions being digitized, records stored in the cloud, and communication with employees and clients done through Internet hosted channels. In the wake of this progress, industries have stemmed purely on the research and development of new technological integrations that assist in human everyday life.

The integration of technology into the world as we know it today has helped mankind advance in fields and industries at a rate unimaginable until less than half a century ago. Mines that would have taken decades to build and exhaust a mountain now take years. Photographs and letters that would take days or weeks to deliver now take fractions of a second.

This spike in advancement of industry around the globe after the 1970’s was no doubt led by the rise of Information Technology and its quick progression into becoming a widely and easily accessible commodity in the world.

Mobile technology, internet and social media use more common in advanced economies

Although technological progress has definitely benefitted the world of human endeavour, this rapid advancement also has adverse effects. When a group moves forward, it’s no longer a question of whether or not anyone will be left behind, but rather of how many and by how far.

A widely accepted standard of measuring the degree to which technology is integrated in a person’s life is (1) whether or not the person owns or has regular access to a mobile phone, (2) whether or not the person has regular access to the internet, (3) whether or not and how active the person is on social media.

Researchers from Pew Research Center have been studying various aspects of human behavior and in 2019, they reported on the levels of digital connectivity in people with relation to their home country’s economy, age, education level, and gender. Their studies have shown that smartphone ownership in countries with advanced economies is higher compared to countries with emerging economies, however the latter is seeing a higher rate of progression when comparing survey results from 2015 and 2018.

A good example of this trend is in comparing the survey results of Russia and the Philippines, where 76% of adults aged 18-34 from Russia responded that they own a smartphone in 2015 which grew to 91% in 2018, showing a growth rate of 15%. In the Philippines, the results in 2015 for the same age group was a dismal 31% but this grew to 74% in 2018, showing a growth rate of 43%.

In terms of age, survey respondents between the ages of 18-34 are generally more likely to own smartphones than respondents ages 50 and up. What’s interesting is that in certain countries with more advanced economies are showing high growth rates in smartphone ownership in the 50+ age group, such as Israel where their survey showed only 50% of adults owned a smartphone in 2015 compared to 80% in 2018.

Smartphone ownership in older members of the community has generally shown a better growth rate compared to those in the 18-34 age group, and we can expect this trend to be even more noticeable especially because several healthcare technologies are now available on smartphones, such as health tracking apps, prescription refill services, and even virtual doctor’s consultations.

Vaccination test results via mobile phone

Particularly now during the COVID-19 pandemic, several tech companies such as Q Services have been developing systems that help people centralise and authenticate test results and medical certificates for travel purposes, and even for entrance into certain facilities around the world. Systems like these allow users to have their authenticated test result on hand anywhere they go, right on their smartphones.

Other factors that have been observed to affect smartphone ownership rates are education rates and income levels, with higher-educated and higher-income individuals being more likely to own a smartphone. This is shown in the example of Nigeria where the gap of smartphone ownership between citizens with secondary level or higher education and those with less is 48% (58 and 10%, respectively).

While only a portion of the global population is reaping the benefits of owning a smartphone, it’s not necessarily true that everyone must own one to survive in today’s day and age. A popular argument from advocates for equality is for equality in opportunity instead of results, where individuals from all walks of life can have the ability to pursue their hearts’ desires in various aspects of life, whether in lifestyle, education, industry, or even access to technology.

The unfortunate prevalence of this kind of inequality is exemplified in the situation of India, where gender still plays a major role in whether or not people have access to smartphone technology. Men in the country today are 19% more likely to own smartphones today than women (34 versus 15%, respectively) as compared to five years ago when the gap was a mere 9% (16% compared to 7%).

In the end though, we are all equal when it comes to our progression through time and space on this vehicle that those before us have named Earth. Let’s always remind ourselves of this fact, and strive towards true equality as a species, together.

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