As a proponent of technology, it’s startling how easy it is for me to look at a new gadget and think how everyone should be an early adopter. I have been ignorant to the fact that the world outside my own is radically different, and many people simply do not have the resources to keep up with the current technological trends. With our high-tech society advancing faster than ever before, the global population is divided between those who use technologies, such as the personal computer and the Internet, and those who do not. This is a disturbing issue known as the technological gap or the digital divide.

While this separation can be due to choice, it is more likely due to a lack of availability. More specifically, those who have higher incomes and greater education are less likely to be alienated than those who are not.

The personal computer and the Internet are the two most important technologies in this generation. While some consider the Internet to have reached universal accessibility, with usage in the U.S. around 70 percent, the reality remains that world Internet usage only hovers around 18 percent.

It’s true that computer component costs have steadily declined, therefore lowering the cost of computers in general. However, even with lower computer hardware costs, the software needed to make the hardware of any use is still far too high. For example: Microsoft Office, which is considered an essential piece of software, still costs anywhere from $149 to $499. While a computer itself can cost as little as $299, software can easily double the price of owning a computer.

The technological gap is not just about having access to computers and the Internet, but can be about technological literacy as well. Even if the technology is readily available, some people are still uneducated on how to use it.

More and more companies require the use of relatively new technology as well. Online applications and contact by email limit those who are not afforded these amenities.

In a world growing exponentially in technological advancement, it’s obviously going to require specialized knowledge. Having these skills provides that individual with more pay and, more importantly, more opportunities. Thus the technologically skilled become more skilled, and those who aren’t fall by the wayside. Like the saying, “It takes money to make money,” it takes a firm foundation of understanding technology to become more competent at it. This is an issue that will quickly unfold in the next century.

How do we try and bridge this gap? No clean-cut solution exists to this complex issue. Nonetheless, advocates of open source technologies – such as open-source software and open-source hardware -definitely strive to help minimize costs for the consumers. For instance, the group provides a great, free alternative to the highly priced Microsoft Office. While it may not have the same development polish as Microsoft’s flagship office suite, it is hard to get around the fact it costs zero dollars to the user.

Some projects try to address the fundamental issue behind the technological gap, which is access to a computer. One Laptop per Child is a non-profit organization based out of Delaware now producing a laptop partially built on open source technologies that will cost just $200. These laptops are designed for use in third-world countries and the organization will not sell them to the public. In spite of this, they have devised a clever system allowing people who are not in third world countries to purchase two OLPC laptops, one to keep for themselves and one to donate to the organization.

It is important to note that Internet-based companies, such as Google, are working to provide universal access to the Internet by advocating open networks and devices. One can only hope that if they win the 700MHz auction it will help narrow this gap between Internet users.

In order to become a greater technological society, it is importantly not only to focus on the new technologies of tomorrow, but also to help those who are not afforded these privileges today.