Effects of the Digital Divide

A person comfortable using electronics. Image from Pexels.com

In today’s society, everything we do seems to drive us online, whether intentional or not. But what if we just don’t want to go online or, what if we can’t? When it’s not possible to access the internet because of 1) geographic reasons or 2) financial reasons, it’s referred to as the Digital Divide ( The Digital Divide: impact on Education).

The digital divide is the term given to gap that exists between people that have access to the internet and digital media and those that don’t (The Digital Divide: scarcity, inequality and conflict). From the definition proposed by The Digital Divide: scarcity, inequality and conflict, the digital divide highlights the problem of accessibility when society needs it.

Writing about a doctor’s online booking system, Ross Clark of Express.co.uk argues “Technology has disenfranchised some of the most vulnerable people in society who do not have internet access or who are unable to use it.”. He adds what use is an online booking system for those who are blind, poor or digitally illiterate. Society as a whole are not digitally literate ( explanation in the video below), so why are retailers, educational and financial institutions acting like they are?

What is digital literacy?


Recently I had an issue with my new mobile number and my online banking. I rang the number provided then they directed to my local branch to get my new mobile number verified.  I arrived at the bank, only to be directed to a computer and phone, exactly what I had been doing minutes prior to that. I refused to sit there and repeat what I had just done. A significant amount of time had passed before an employee came back. After explaining what I had been told on the phone numerous times, they finally verified my mobile number. If there were not instructed to send me to a phone and computer upon arrival, my issue would have been resolved a long time ago.

Based on research conducted by The Central Statistics Office, half of Irish people over the age of 60 do not use the internet while 49% of them have never been online (independent.ie). It’s quite unreasonable that most banking is online when nearly half of the elderly population have never even been online. Older people are being left behind as banking continues to offer more services online.


Michele Hanson recalls an experience when she sought to buy a dress in a physical retail outlet. She was told to go online and order it then pick it up in store (thegaurdian.co.uk). Hanson continued to protest that she was standing there “with money, wanting to buy it”. She also wanted to “see it, feel it and try it on”. It seems retailers assume everybody has the same access and capabilities to direct their purchasing online but when that isn’t the case, the digital divides ensues.

Computerweekly.com argues that “The physical store is not dead”, that even online-only stores are building physical stores and showrooms for people to interact with. Like Hanson, people want to see, feel and try things before purchasing.


Independent.ie  suggests that “It’s essential these days that students are digitally literate.” This can be achieved by ensuring their teachers are comfortable teaching digital literacy but as a social enterprise  CEO John Fitzsimons pointed out ” a lot of teachers are very uncomfortable using ICT because they haven’t been supported,” ( Independent.ie ), but the problem doesn’t just lie with people in education, it affects those wanting to be too. The Digital Divide: impact on Education argues that you need to have access to the internet and have sufficient skills in order to just apply for further education.

I grew up with technology so using the internet to apply for college wasn’t a big deal, in fact, it was expected, but for those who aren’t  digital natives, they must develop their skills in order to keep up or be left behind as the gap of the digital divide widens.



Video games as Social Spaces

Video games were once marketed as places for lone soldiers to “save the vulnerable from inevitable harm” (Social Gaming and the Culture of Video Games). In the 80s/90s, these type of video games were said to be isolating but remained very popular among teenage boys, but now gaming is now perceived as a social, collaborative spaces to communicate with the real world and virtual friends in an online environment (Social Gaming and the Culture of Video Games). Sherry et al. (2001) acknowledge that there has been a shift in how video games are perceived suggesting that “the practice of standing around on the street corner has shifted indoors to video game play”. It seems Sherry et al. are suggesting that players are now opting to meet and chat with their friends in a virtual context rather than a real one (Social Gaming and the Culture of Video Games).

The Video Game Player’s Social Network

Video game console controller. Hand using the controller
Video game controller. Image from Pexels

Newman argues that significant supportive and non-confrontational social networks have been derived from online gaming  (Social Gaming and the Culture of Video Games). Users are freed from societal pressures and tradition, feeling more comfortable and confident with online interactions rather than face to face ((A) Social Reputation). Players are also communicating with, and praising each other in game play. It is suggested not all video games are isolating, solitary experiences (Social Gaming and the Culture of Video Games).

A player’s social network often helps with ideas and tips when a player is ‘stuck’ in a game like locating a secret door (Social Gaming and the Culture of Video Games). The player’s social network is also important for sharing and trading knowledge about game play; an important aspect contributing to social interactions taking place among video game users. Game users learn, develop and improve skills from watching others in their social network play the game (Social Gaming and the Culture of Video Games), promoting social interaction among the gaming community. At this point, online gaming can be treated as a social space allowing users interact with each other and share knowledge and ideas.

It is understood that social interaction takes place in online gaming environments, but it poses the questions, why there? What are gamers benefiting from, that the real world doesn’t provide?

Why choose online environments over real ones?

“Internet-based social spaces have come to be branded as ‘pseudo communities’ that provide a superficial sense of social support and displace the time that could be spent fostering meaningful offline relationships” (Playing for Social Comfort). Research on social interaction and friendship formation has indicated that there are two types of social ties that may contribute to our understanding of why players opt for online friendships: 1) feeling informed or inspired by each other and 2) emotional support and understanding (The Social Side of Gaming).

Jane McGonigal in the talk above suggests that people are better at games than we are at reality, which may be a factor as to why some people choose online over reality. She adds that gaming provides constant feedback, either from the game or your social network, which coincides with the point of feeling inspired and supported as mentioned in (The Social Side of Gaming)

McGonigal believes ‘we like people better when we play games with them’ while some users believe the virtual world allows them achieve things they can’t achieve in the real world. A virtual world allows users believe they, themselves are capable of cultivating and managing friendships (Playing for social comfort). Perhaps this may be the answer to why some people have opted for online friendships in game play. Playing online may allow the adoption of an alter ego where they user believe they can achieve anything, where everything is possible.

Public Information Campaigns


Public Information Campaigns (PICs) aim to influence behaviour to bring about a societal change like to smoking cessations or road safety campaigns (PR Today).  For this purpose of this assignment, I chose campaigns that highlighted the top issues affecting men and women in 2017.


“Man Up” 2014 was the third phase of the Man Up Campaign devised by Safe Ireland in 2013 and was developed to highlight the positive role men can play in ending domestic violence against women.

I will also look at “This Girl Can” 2017 campaign funded by the National Lottery and commissioned by Sport England which encouraged women to get active in sport and exercise, promote body positivity and challenge stereotypes.

Man Up



The purpose of the third phase of the Man Up campaign was to show that men can positively influence the lives of women and children around them. There has been a lot of negative perceptions about men and domestic violence. To fight the negative perception, Safe Ireland wanted to show that men can play an important role in ending domestic violence.


  • End domestic violence against women and children
  • Challenge negative stereotypes of men and enforce the idea that man can be positive role models.
  • Raise awareness of the issue of domestic violence
  • Raise money for Safe Ireland.

Campaign Strategies and Messages

This strategy employed in this campaign was to use real men as a method of ending domestic violence. It also enlisted Irish influencers to spread awareness of the campaign. It was a much more positive approach to tackling domestic violence by focusing on men as role models rather than abusers.

The campaign sought to end domestic violence against women by targeting men and portraying them and positive role models and careers.


Campaign Title

A subtle but interesting message of the campaign was enlisting the destructive term “Man Up”, the title of the campaign and using it to take action against violence.

Safe Ireland transformed the term Man Up from a phrase used to insult men to a phrase used to empower and encourage them to stand up for women and children.


UFC MMA athlete Cathal Pendred approached Safe Ireland as he wished to get involved with the Man Up campaign to help raise awareness about the issue and the role men can play in ending domestic violence.


Man Up partnered with respected Irish musician Hozier to promote the campaign. Hozier’s song Cherry Wine highlights the issue of domestic violence with its accompanying video starring an injured and hurt Saoirse Ronan. Hozier has dedicated the proceeds of Cherry Wine iTunes downloads to the respective charities of the country the download was made. Safe Ireland is the Irish recipient of those proceeds.

Photography Exhibition

Safe Ireland worked with Galway-based Italian photographer Andrea Zipoli to highlight the positive role men have in the lives of women and children. Zipoli produced a series of photos capturing moments in which men are supportive, encouraging and kind. Each photo was captioned to include one sentence describing what the man in the photo has promised to do.


A website was designed and implemented as part of the Man Up campaign and is the primary information source. There is advice on how to get involved with the campaign and how as man you can help make Ireland a safe place for women and children. The video is also embedded on the website as well as the photographs from Andrea Zipoli’s exhibition.

An interesting feature of the website in an incorporated “Quick Escape” button that brings the user on to the google homepage giving users who view the page a quick escape perhaps in the case their abuser happens to walk in on them.

quick escape

Posters with various men were also produced to help raise awareness about the campaign.

Social Media

Safe Ireland focused on targeting men through social media and ran campaigns with joe.ie, balls.ie and benchwarmers which included page take-overs and wallpapers, promotion on Facebook and Twitter as well as editorial pieces and promotion from her.ie. Facebook ads were also used and targeted specifically at men.

The hashtag #faceuptodomesticviolence was employed by Safe Ireland and Hozier to aided in promoting the organisation through the hashtag driving traffic to the website and starting a conversation around domestic violence.


Safe Ireland took advantage of the upcoming general election and lobbied politicians to include strategies to end domestic violence in their manifestos.


Based on the above stats, it’s clear that the Man Up campaign has been successful if we are to look at its reach but it is difficult to ascertain if the campaign succeeded in ending domestic violence as some sufferers may not come report abuse.

The success of the campaign speaking to men about the role they can play is unclear as most social media reactions involved women supporting women. Perhaps there’s still a stigma attached to men publicly speaking about domestic violence that could be examined, despite the work of the campaign.

This Girl Can



This Girl Can is a celebration of active women who are getting involved in exercise overcoming the fear of judgement about their physical appearance and how they look while doing it. “This Girl Can” follows on from the success of the 2015 campaign featuring real women who “sweat and jiggle”.


  • Encourage women to get active
  • Promote body positivity among women
  • Tell the real story of women who exercise and play sport

Campaign Strategies and Messages

The strategy employed in this campaign was to use real women to tell their stories of why they are involved in sport and exercise. The campaign shows a variety of women of all nationalities and sizes telling why they got involved primarily through video.

The campaign seeks to promote the benefits of getting involved in exercise and sport by promoting body positivity and challenging negative stereotypes.


Video Ad

The video featured various women of the UK participating in sport and exercise. The video features the voice of Maya Angelou (a civil rights activist and poet who passed away in 2014) reciting her poem “Phenomenal Women” while clips of different women in various sports are played through.

Sport England also developed mini-documentaries about all the women featured in the video and hosted them on their website via their YouTube channel.


The website was the hub of activity for the campaign where users could find stories, videos and suggestions on how to active and involved with the campaign. It listed sports and fitness classes available in London which was the location of the video accompanied with a list of questions and answers about getting involved like the benefits associated with it and what sort of equipment needed.  There also a section on the website that featured Instagram posts from real women to help people get inspired to exercise.

Social Media

Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram were the main channels used in this campaign. The hashtag #thisgirlcan was used across their social media channels to encourage easy navigation of users posts and join the conversation. Users posts on Instagram that had the hashtag were featured on the website in the feel inspired section.

get inspired
Shot of feel inspired section on website

User- Generated Content

The campaign encouraged women to get involved and share their stories and photos. They developed an app where users uploaded an image of themselves participating in sport or exercise and attached a pre-determined slogan to it. They were then given the option to share the image on social media and download it.



It is evident that this campaign was successful as it achieved its goal of getting more women involved in sport and exercise. It was mainly executed through online channels with its focus centred on video and user generated content.


“Man Up” aimed to influence a group of people whereas “This Girl Can” wanted to influence individual people.

Both campaigns utilised similar tactics in order to promote the message to different target audiences. “Man Up” used video to reach men with the help of an influencer from a male dominated sport associated with aggression and strength to get men’s attention. “This Girl Can” also used video as part of their campaign but with real women instead of influencers.

Both campaigns focused on similar and contrasting public relations tactics demonstrating the versatility and the extent of which PR can be used to achieve organisational objectives.