HomeNewsThe “digital divide” is already affecting people’s quality of life. Will...

The “digital divide” is already affecting people’s quality of life. Will AI make it higher or worse?

Today, almost 1 / 4 of Australians are digitally excluded. This means they miss out on social, educational and economic advantages Provides online connectivity.

Given this ongoing “digital divide,” countries are actually talking a few way forward for inclusive artificial intelligence (AI).

However, if we don’t learn from the present problems with digital exclusion, it can likely impact people's future experiences with AI. This is our conclusion recent research published within the journal AI and Ethics.

What is the digital divide?

The digital divide is a well-documented social division. People on the mistaken side struggle to access, afford or use digital services. These disadvantages significantly reduce their quality of life.

Decades of research have given us a comprehensive understanding of who’s most in danger. In Australia, older people, people in distant areas, people on lower incomes and indigenous persons are probably to experience digital exclusion.

zoom out, Reports show that a 3rd of the world's population – representing the poorest countries – stays offline. It is worldwide Digital gender gap The problem stays: women, particularly in low- and middle-income countries, face significantly greater barriers to digital connectivity.

During the COVID pandemic, the impact of digital inequality became far more apparent. With large portions of the world's population “sheltering in place” and unable to go outside, visit stores, or seek in-person contact, anyone without digital access was at great risk.

The consequences ranged from social isolation to limited employment opportunities to an absence of access to necessary health information. The UN Secretary General stated in 2020 that “the digital divide is now a matter of life and death.”

People without digital access have been severely affected through the COVID pandemic.
Miriam Doerr Martin Frommherz/Shutterstock

Not just a matter of access

As with most types of exclusion, the digital divide works in some ways. Originally it was defined as a niche between those that have access to computers and the Internet and those that don’t. But research now shows that it’s not only a matter of access.

Little or no access results in less familiarity with digital technology, which in turn undermines trust. promotes withdrawaland at last starts moving an intrinsic feeling of not being “digitally capable.”“.

As AI tools increasingly transform our workplaces, classrooms, and on a regular basis lives, AI risks deepening quite than narrowing the digital divide.

The role of digital trust

To assess the impact of digital exclusion on people's experiences with AI, we surveyed a representative sample of tons of of Australian adults in late 2023. We first asked them to rate their trust in digital technology.

We found that digital trust is lower amongst women, older people, those with lower salaries and people with less digital access.

We then asked the identical people to share their hopes, fears and expectations for AI. In general, the information showed that individuals's perceptions, attitudes and experiences with AI were linked to their attitudes towards digital technology normally.

In other words, the more confident people felt digitally, the more positive they were about AI.

To construct truly inclusive AI, it is vital to think about these insights for several reasons. First, they confirm that digital trust just isn’t a privilege shared by everyone.

Second, they show us that digital inclusion is about greater than just an individual's access and even digital skills. How confident an individual feels using technology can be necessary.

Third, they show that if we don’t address existing types of digital exclusion, they’re prone to spill over into perceptions, attitudes and experiences of AI.

At the moment, Many countries are making progress of their efforts to scale back the digital divide. So we want to be sure that the rise of AI doesn’t slow these efforts or, even worse, worsen the divide.

A person working on a laptop and viewing the ChatGPT loading screen.
AI tools are already changing lives – but only in case you’re on the proper side of the “digital divide.”
Matthew Bertelli/Pexels

What can we expect from AI?

Although there are numerous risks related to it, when used responsibly, AI can have a major positive impact on society. Some of those may directly address problems with inclusion.

For example, computer vision can do that Trace the trajectory of a tennis ball during a game in order that it could be heard by blind or visually impaired spectators.

AI was used for evaluation Online job advertisements to assist improve employment outcomes in underrepresented populations akin to Indigenous people. And although they’re still within the early stages of development, AI-powered chatbots could improve the accessibility and affordability of medical services.

But this responsible AI future can only be achieved if we also address what divides us digitally. To develop and use truly inclusive AI tools, we must first be sure that feelings of digital exclusion don’t take over.

This means not only addressing pragmatic problems with access and infrastructure, but additionally the knock-on effects on people's engagement, aptitude and trust in technology.


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