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Opinion News
May 05,2017

The digital divide

Sikandar Ali Hullio

We live in the age of social media where intercontinental societies can be connected to each other within seconds. This unusual and extraordinary connectivity has been made possible because of communication technology and its widespread usage. This rampant use was led by the process of globalisation.

One of the most frequently used communication tools and applications – Twitter – is a new-age weapon of all wars. On Twitter, wars are not fought with boots on the ground but with wireless armour that is equipped with the latest technological knowledge. Nowadays, people use the core and counter mode to communicate or wage a war of nerves by just tweeting from their electronic devices.

From US President Donald Trump to our military spokesperson, almost every powerful person in any corner of the earth prefers to communicate through social media. In the realm of social media, they prioritise the use of Twitter since anything related to politics and policymaking can reach the audience – the public as well as policymakers – instantly and selectively.

Therefore, in this new era of evolving communication technology, one can forget about the mysterious Star Wars or deadly conventional wars. This war is wireless and borderless. Unlike software games, rightly put and repeated, this is an age of Twitter wars that in the history of humankind are the easiest, fastest and cheapest.

All those who had earlier expressed grievances about not being covered by the mainstream global media can no longer complain. This is because social media is the people’s media. If social media is used and marketed liberally and progressively, it can result in more miracles by connecting all those who are still victims of the digital divide.

Undoubtedly, this recent phenomenon is one of the most effective modes to connect, disseminate information, deliberate issues and share anything by anyone anywhere. With every passing day, new features and domains are added to social media, creating possibilities that could only be dreamt of a decade ago. Technological advancements, combined with the growing needs of the market, are producing innovative ways of connection in the first quarter of the 21st century.

Out of all its modes, Twitter has become the most popular political tool as globally all leaders, companies, groups, personalities and individuals prefer to generate tweets through their self-run or endorsed accounts that are later rallied, followed and quoted by the mainstream media.

Against this backdrop, formal press notes, handouts and dossiers have either become redundant or been reduced to secondary documentary evidences. Those who understand and adopt this technological change as a renewed mode, take lead, seize the moments within seconds and dominate globally.

It was not long ago when a young, frequent user of Twitter, the chairperson of the PPP, Bilawal Bhutto, was mocked at for his excessive use of the application. He seemed more familiar with the technological edge that is now being increasingly followed by everyone on Pakistan’s political earth.

Within the last couple of years, every mainstream political party and its leadership has taken to using this form of social media. Whether it is Maryam Nawaz Sharif or Imran Khan, a large political party personnel or a small political entity spokesperson, everyone in the country is using Twitter to send pictures, videos and messages.

The trending or hashtagging on Twitter has become another measure of checking popularity, scaling or rating anything. Like in other places in the world, our political parties also manage teams that run their social media. These teams keep a close check on the number of likes, retweets, shares and hashtags their messages, pictures and videos receive.

Twitter, therefore, is also used as a propaganda tool. All the posts and pictures convey a one-sided story and do not go through any editorial control – a process that is crucial with stories on mainstream media’s print and electronic mediums. This is considered a top demerit of the social media and all its modes. The stories on social media can arise from anywhere and are rarely crosschecked and vetted before being published.

Besides that, multiple fake entries also devalue and neutralise the impact of social media. This phenomenon also generates cybercrime. Resultantly, the Cyber Crime Bill was also passed by the National Assembly in order to curb the growth of this newest form of crime.

Apart from Twitter, Facebook also has a large number of users not only in Pakistan but worldwide. WhatsApp and Instagram with trendy and purpose-built applications are also popular modes of connection today. Within a decade or so, almost all the applications have become intertwined with peoples’ normal lives and almost every generation is now using technology.

As you read this today – from politics to lifestyles – everything is put or preferred to be put on social media. This form of media has changed the domain and dynamics of communication. It has created a new world of connectivity.

This however makes people indifferent, remote and inaccessible if they are unable to appear online or lack smart phones, internet connectivity and other electronic gadgets. Let us make all possible efforts to add and include everyone to end the digital divide.

The writer is an Islamabad-based
anthropologist and analyst.

Email: sikandarhullioyahoo.com


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