A letter to Santa Claus

Enrique Dans. Professor. Instituto de Empresa

29 December 2003

A look at the current digital divide.

Dear Santa:

I have been good this year and want you to bring me all these things: a new computer – a notebook, otherwise Mommy won’t leave me enough space for it. I want one with a DVD recorder and also want ADSL – or cable – and, if possible, I’d love Wi-Fi, because I could then connect to Internet all round the house. Oh, and I also need a huge hard disk for all the photos I take with my digital camera, a color printer and a memory stick with a half or one gigabyte.

By the way, Daddy also needs a mobile with Bluetooth, so he can connect from the new car – and not run the risk of accidents – and also to his PDA. And so we don’t get lost while driving, GPS would be really handy. And finally, a games console, so I can watch DVDs in my room and enjoy online gaming…
This could be the letter to Santa from a child in any home. It makes an important point when considering the so-called digital divide. We have gone from the digital gap between the computer and Internet connection haves and have-nots, as defined by my colleague Prof. Arjan Sundardas, to a “double digital divide,” one which separates the connected from the disconnected and those with broadband from the poor mortals who still browse at ordinary modem speeds. The first distinguishes those with a car from those without one. But the second divides those driving a Fiat 500 from people cruising in a Ferrari, and that too can be important. While the latter are offered an enormous range of products and services, the others are suffering a user experience that is progressively losing quality as time goes by, at the same time as the offer is considerably reduced.

In Spain, practically two million users of ADSL and cable find themselves on the right side of the double divide. This places them in the privileged-citizens class, given the benefit and experience they can reap from the Internet. Indeed, we can imagine that their letters to Santa are rather different. And what is clear is that they are not just a bunch of weirdos, but are clearly marking the trend and the way to go. Of all the “wannas” in our letter to Santa, some are mere whims, but others are true innovations that change the way we use the Internet. It can thus be transformed from being simply a work or study tool, restricted to the office and slow speeds, to a device that invades the living room, allows us to surf from the sofa, look up things as we see them on TV or play music, either original or downloaded. When you ponder this year’s Christmas presents, think about what you are actually giving. It is in your hands to leave the ranks of the poor and join the club of the privileged.

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