Years ago, the concept of a digital divide drew a line between the computer literate and illiterate. Both companies and people took varying lengths of time to embrace the power of computing technology and cross the digital divide. We observe that our culture remained essentially unchanged when the majority of the general population was in the precrossing phase. However, as momentum built behind PCs first and then the Internet, cultural foundations such as education, government, entertainment, and health care began to change and adapt to the newly computer literate majority. Over time, those who remain on the other side of the divide become more disconnected from the cultural mainstream that is increasingly driven by the computer-literate majority.
We see a similar phenomenon emerging with data and information connectivity. Here, the new divide to be crossed is the connectivity divide. We see our children crossing this divide in droves, as evidenced by their seeming addiction to wireless text messaging and IM. In time, the two will represent the connected majority, and a similar cultural shift will follow.
For now, most of us have crossed the digital divide (perhaps more so than we would care to admit at times). Pervasive connectivity (wired and wireless) will allow information to ebb and flow through our digital networks more freely and to more places, increasing business and personal productivity, and enhancing entertainment, enticing us over the connectivity divide. In a more perfect Inescapable Data world, cellular carriers will be driven to adopt standard communication methods on a worldwide basis such that we can experience seamless connectivity from home, to work, to the beach. Network intelligence will be cognizant of and embrace the fact that we could have many modes of communication at our disposal and will streamline the appropriate messages to the appropriate devices. We will continue to use synchronous and wired communication modes for both voice and data, but we will increasingly seek wireless modes for the freedom they allow. We will also learn to appreciate the many new ways in which we will be able to acquire information, ways that could be non-numeric, nontextual, and unobtrusive, yet every bit as effective as a red stop light or a blinking elevator button.