The Linguistic Aspect of the Digital Divide

Dr. Michel Nguessan
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The concept of “digital divide” is commonly used to refer to the gap between people in terms of access to computers and digital information. Most people see the digital divide as an economic issue. In simple terms, the general belief is that, if you do not have money, you do not have access to computers or digital information. It is true that the digital divide has an economic aspect. But in many cases, economics is not the cause of the divide. The subdivisions within this digital divide extend far beyond economics. Language represents one of the major barriers to access to digital information. In fact, a large number of people in the world do not have access to digital information because they do not have access to the language(s) of cyberspace. The problem is deeply rooted in the current linguistic order in the world. All languages of the world do not have the same status in terms of geography, demography, economic and scientific power. The English language is at the center of the prevailing linguistic order. It is a language which conquered the world through colonialism and it is also the language of the USA, the current political, economic, scientific and technological center of the world. English is -- de facto -- the first of language cyberspace. It is the language of computing technology and the Internet. In addition to English, you have a few other world languages such as French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Russian. If a person does not have access to English (or any other major language), (s)he does not have access to digital information. Based on statistical information about language(s) usage in the world and in cyberspace, the study discusses: 1) the current linguistic configuration of the world; 2) language(s) and access to information; 2) language(s) and access to cyberspace. The study concludes that a comprehensive solution to the digital divide is one that takes into account the linguistic aspect

Keywords: Digital Divide, Language and Information, Language and Cyberspace, Digital Information
Stream: Technology in Community
Presentation Type: Virtual Presentation in English
Paper: Linguistic Aspect of the Digital Divide, The

Dr. Michel Nguessan

Head of Library & Academic Technology, Governors State University Library, Governors State University
University Park, Illinois, USA

Professor Michel Nguessan is Head of Library and Academic technology at Governors State University. He holds academic credentials from the Ivory Coast, France, the USA and Canada, including a Masters in English Linguistics (Ivory Coast), pre-doctoral studies in Language Science (University of Lyon 2, France), a Masters in Software Engineering (University of Quebec), a Masters in Information Science (University of Michigan), and a PhD from the University of Illinois at Urban-Champaign. Prof. Nguessan worked as instructor, translator, software engineer/systems analyst and digital librarian in the USA and Canada. His research interests include: computers in libraries and in education; social aspects of computing; digital libraries, institutional repositories; learning objects and online learning; library systems; metadata and information standards; terminology and digital information retrieval and exchange. His faculty web page is available at:

Ref: T07P0019