Across The Divide

23 02 2011

There are two groups of people in the US: The Haves and the Have Nots. Although this bifurcation may be an over-simplification of our reality, it is a truism we must all accept. Equality exists on paper as a noble ideal, but in reality it only exists, at best, in the realm of fundamental civil rights. Everything else is up for grabs.

Fair? That’s your call. I may not like the fact that I am only 5’8″ and can neither shoot, run, jump or dribble, but that’s the DNA I was dealt. It probably explains why I chose a sport (cycling) that favors short, lightweight folks.

But most of the discussion about these two groups tends to center on things like money, possessions and access to services society deems important. For example, in the late-1990s, the big brouhaha was over the pervasive digital divide surrounding computer usage. The axes of this divide were many at the time, including age, gender, income, race and education. In other words, the more male, youthful, white, smart and rich you were, the more likely you were to own and use a computer.

Today, there is a still a digital divide, but it centers more on smartphones than computers. There is still an advantage for wealthier people using both computers and mobile devices, particularly the latter. There is much concern at present regarding this gap, especially given the proliferation of mobile devices of all kinds, as well as the exploding use of QR codes. There is fear that the Digital Have Nots of 2011 won’t be able to partake of these soon-to-be-ubiquitous boxy codes. It is estimated that about 50% of USAmericans will own a smartphone by Christmas 2011, hardly a mandate for their usage.

Those fears may be true, at least for now, but there are optimists who foresee a future in which even all children K-12 will eliminate the digital divide because prices and data plans are getting cheaper. Maybe so, but until then , if all you have is what is known as a “feature phone,” you just can’t begin to appreciate how much better the Digital Haves have it.

But as Jesus said in Mark 14:7, “The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want.” (NIV) I’m not sure if that means we need to provide all of those kids (or their feature-phone parents) a new iPhone. I’ll leave that point for you to ponder.

The fact remains, though, no matter how much we try to level the playing field, no matter how much prices drop, there will continue to be Digital Divides. Why? Because technology is not a lumbering turtle. It is a sprinting cheetah. And the people who live on the bleeding edge of tech will always be among the first to adopt the new gadgets. It will take time for a proletariat drift to occur in which the masses can join the party.

In the mean time, marketers must keep apace of the changes around us, even if it means leaving some folks wondering how in the heck to order their hamburgers on the iPads the Stacked chain provides. Sure, we must be cognizant to not just leave them standing in the cold, yet be ever diligent in exploring new ways to do old things, leveraging the latest technological innovations of the day.

To them I say, “Have at it!” I welcome the change, and will meet them on the other side of the divide.

Dr “I May Be Short, But I’m Fast” Gerlich



2 responses

23 02 2011
Austin Jones

When you mentioned the “sprinting cheetah” life cycle of technology, it brought the thought to my mind of leasing technology instead of buying it. I proceeded to finish reading the post and my questions were answered… “Buy Back Program”! I’m actually surprised this is the first time I have come across a program such as this…(although I will admit to being a bit of a lagger due to my profession as a stingy bean counter)

It seems Best Buy hit the bulls eye with that particular ad.

23 02 2011

You are so right! Best Buy is very smart to offer this, because the ear of obsolescence often keeps people from ever buying in the first place.

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