The VCN Community Youth Magazine is an online magazine which supports the work of the Vancouver Community Network (VCN), sheds light on the significance of the ‘digital divide’ in Metro Vancouver, and showcases the success of VCN Youth Internship (YI) Program.

The Vancouver Community Network

The Vancouver Community Network (VCN) owns, operates and promotes a free, publicly accessible, non-commercial community computer utility in Metro Vancouver, BC.  Its vision is to be an inclusive, multicultural, community-based organization that ensures free, accessible electronic creation and exchange of the broadest range of information, experience, ideas, and wisdom.

VCN has been fulfilling this mission since 1993 and continues to engage in activities, projects, and partnerships that aim to enhance the knowledge, experience and productivity of individuals, organizations and networks through increasing their access to, and effective utilization of, the Internet and Information and Communication Technology (ICT). VCN’s mandate is to support universal access to the Internet, but universal access is not only limited to providing the basics of software, hardware and connectivity.  Instead, universal access in Vancouver is also dependent on the level of training, education and comfort one has in using these technologies. 

What is the Digital Divide?

As technology becomes further integrated into everyday life, it becomes, increasingly, an essential and necessary tool for communication, government services, political participation, and business and commerce.  However, this integration lies under the presupposition of ‘equal access,’ the idea that these technologies are accessible to anyone who wants to use them.  In reality, this is not the case – there is a digital divide.

The ‘digital divide’ is a concept that describes the uneven distribution and accessibility of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs).  This unevenness is often expressed as a ‘gap’ between those who have sufficient and effective access to ICTs, such as the Internet, and those who do not.  There are a host of variables that can be attributed as determinates for the digital divide including physical (physical disabilities such as paralysis, blindness and deafness, which act as physical barriers to access), socioeconomic, political, demographic (age, ethnicity, and gender), geographic (urban or rural, and ‘developed’ country versus ‘developing’ country), and cultural.

‘Bridging the digital divide’ means to close the gap between the inaccessibility of ICTs and the ability to access and utilize such technologies.  Accessibility is the extent to which and ability of someone to access and utilize something.  This means that someone must have both the physical access to the technology itself and the knowledge or skills needed to use it.