The pandemic and the global public health crisis have proven the resilience and adaptability of the Internet and the ecosystem of digital platforms. Social networks, cloud services, streaming video, music and game platforms, and a wide variety of mobile applications have successfully supported the growth in user demand and services around the world. With millions of people of all ages confined to the home and forced to social distance, networked computers and mobile phones have become the main spaces of work, socialization, learning and entertainment for many. Never before in the history of the Internet, which is a young technology (it is only 31 years old), we had such a high growth in the number of users, content generation, information circulation (and misinformation) and demand for services as that generated during the first half of 2020.
For a large part of the population, daily life today takes place within an ecosystem of digital platforms that allow for social, cultural, educational and economic activities. Particularly for those who have access to technology and the knowledge and skills to use it, this ecosystem has allowed them to overcome quarantine by migrating towards virtuality and increasing their digital practices. However, this process of adaptation to a digital life has been uneven. And it is even more so in the midst of the pandemic crisis. Not all children, youth and adults have been able to access the opportunities provided by digital technology and infrastructure. The deep structural inequalities of contemporary societies (educational, socio-economic, racial, gender, geographic) have been reproduced with the development of the Internet, datification, and the business model that has prevailed in the development of digital platforms. The future of a fairer and more inclusive digital ecosystem depends on multi-sector efforts (public and private), which help to close existing inequalities, especially those related to education and the development of the skills and knowledge needed to participate, as critical and active citizens, in the platform economy and culture.
*This text is an English translation of a short article that appeared in the Colombian newspaper El Tiempo on May 24, 2020, as part of a especial edition on the social, economic, and cultural transformations the pandemic has brought.