Disadvantaged people can sign up for free courses to improve their online literacy skills under a “Barcelona, Digital City” plan. (www.barcelona.cat)
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In the fashionable Poblenou district of Barcelona, hipsters and entrepreneurs rub shoulders with homeless people and immigrants, as the city authorities try to reduce digital inequality.Miami-based organization One Laptop per Child (OLPC) continues to hand out free laptops to children in developing countries, while Google promised in 2017 to teach online skills to 10 million Africans over the next five years.The catch with some of these initiatives, however, is that they only work if people are already connected to the internet or own the necessary technology, experts say.The so-called "digital divide" has traditionally referred to the gap between those who have access to computers and the internet, and those with limited or no access.Globally, around 3.2 billion people are using the internet, according to the International Telecommunication Union, a U.N. agency.Digital inequality can no longer be viewed simply as the gap between those with physical access to devices and those without, experts say.Prohibitive connection charges are a major cause of digital inequality, especially in emerging economies, said West of the Brookings Institution.A physical access divide persists, however, between rural and urban areas in the United States, Warschauer noted.
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