Digital Divide and Social Inclusion (I): Social Impact of Technologies

Notes from the first II Conferencia Internacional Brecha Digital e Inclusión Social (II International Conference on the Digital Divide and Social Inclusion held at the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid will be hosting at their campus in Leganés (Spain) on October 28th to 30th, 2009.

Plenary session: Social Impact of Technologies
Moderator: José Antonio Moreiro, Dean and professor at the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid

Spanish and the Digital Divide
Jesús Jiménez Segura, Director of CIDIC, Centro de Investigación y Documentación of the Instituto Cervantes

Beyond phisical access, language is a major issue to be able to engage seriously in the Information Society.

Undoubtedly, political systems — and citizen freedom — have an important impact on the access to the Internet. That might be one of the reasons Spanish is increasing its presence on the Net despite Chinese being spoken by much more people around the world.

But it is also true that while freedom to access content (e.g. P2P networks) allows for a higher access, it also puts some stress on the sustainability of the whole system. So, there is a trade-off: the more free access to digital content, the better for quick adoption; the more access to content is free, the more difficult to stablish sustainable business models.

On the other hand, as visibility is so important always but specially on the Internet, many people migrate form their original mother tongues towards English so that to make themselves accessible to a broader public. This, of course, plays havoc in trying to establish a language on the Internet and provide its speakers with quality digital content.

The Instituto Cervantes has thus put a lot of effort to foster publishing content in Spanish on the Net, among many others through their Cervantes TV platform; by enabling physical access to the Internet at the Institute’s buildings; through the Oficina de Español en la Sociedad de la Información (OESI), which provides an automatic translating service; or the Aula Virtual de Español, which offers Spanish courses.

Security as a digital segregation factor
Arturo Ribagorda Garnacho, Catedrático de Ciencias de la Computación e Inteligencia Artificial de la Universidad Carlos III de Madrid

Functional literacy: how to effectively use the Internet. Despite the zillion advantages, some drawbacks due to the Internet:

  • Unemployment? Some sectors negatively affected by automation, etc.
  • Isolation?
  • Insecurity?

When there’s insecurity, there’s fear and lack of adoption. For instance: almost 40% of people are afraid to use their credit card number online or 47% to do bank transactions; 70% of people think that leave comments on the Internet enables third parties to spy one’s lives; 60% feel there is no privacy on the Internet; 75% feel afraid of the Internet in general and their data scattered around.

INTECO measures security in Spain. In their 2008 survey, most people use anti-virus software, firewalls, anti-spyware… but the problem is that this software needs updating: most people install it for the first time (or just comes installed with the new computer) but never updates, which makes the software totally useless.

How to foster the Information Society from a security point of view:

  • Affordability of equipment
  • Attractive online services
  • Basic citizen training
  • Confidence in technical processes

Still, people get information from the Internet but interaction rations drop drastically, reasons being, most of them, related with fear of the Internet: security, doubting what is being bought (in the case of e-commerce), not clear identity of the issuer of information or the online service, etc.

Managing Content
Juan Beitia Gorriaran, Especialista en gestión de contenidos, industria y mercado de la información. Baratz, Servicios de Teledocumentación S.A

In a world where everyone can publish content, Universities and Libraries should educate people to understand all that’s found on the Internet. Indeed, they could even manage that content and sort it in some way.

In Spain, libraries have gone through a deep process of modernization, automation and technological advancement, led by to librarians, who usually are technology lovers.

[Beitia details the advancement of automation of most of the 3,842 libraries in Spain]

The Future Web 3.0 and its Social and Technological Impact. The convergence of the Web 2.0 and the Semantic Web
Luis Joyanes Aguilar, Catedrático de Lenguajes y Sistemas Informáticos de la Facultad de Informática de la Universidad Pontificia de Salamanca

Nova Spivak divides the evolution of the web as follows

  • The PC era (1980-1990)
  • Social web or Web 2.0 (2000-2010)
  • Semantic web or Web 3.0 (2010-2020)
  • Web OS or Web 4.0 (part I) (2020-2030)
  • Intelligent web or Web 4.0 (part II) (2020-30)

Source of this evolution and a chart: How the WebOS Evolves?.

[Joyanes explores the common territories of the web 2.0 and their main concepts and applications]

Semantic Web: web content that is significant for computers. This is going to happen by means of extended markup languages rich in metadata:

  • Ubiquitous network
  • Everything open and linked data
  • Adaptive information
  • Adaptive services in the “cloud”
  • Federated data
  • Simulated intelligence

But there is no consensus on what the Web 3.0 really is.

Some examples related to the topic:


Q: What is the hazard of collusion or monopoly practices on the Net? Joyanes: Huge, indeed, and increasing. Jiménez: we should balance the power of the NTIA or the FCC in the US with international organizations like the ITU or the IGF.

Q: What happens with the long life of data on the Internet? On the other hand, if technology evolves quickly, can we lose information? Ribagorda: increasingly, international institutions are trying not only to agree on standards (e.g. to enable interoperability) but also that these standards are open enough so taht they can interact with past standards and make possible that future standards interact with them.

More information


II International Conference on the Digital Divide and Social Inclusion (2009)

If you need to cite this article in a formal way (i.e. for bibliographical purposes) I dare suggest:

Peña-López, I. (2009) “Digital Divide and Social Inclusion (I): Social Impact of Technologies” In ICTlogy, #73, October 2009. Barcelona: ICTlogy.
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