It used to be a cloistered virtue: to be locked in chaste chasms in dark caves and monasteries; accessible only to those who spoke directly to the gods - the shamans, the priests, the Brahmins.

It wore veils of mysticism to remain a mystery - unreachable and inaccessible - to lesser mortals.

Rulers were prepared to pay a king’s ransom for it, and indeed paid such to its gatekeepers to get a mere glimpse into its luminous depths.

Some of the worst atrocities against mankind have been committed in its name or in the cause to maintain its sanctity.

Even as mechanisms for its mass spread were developed, the power mongers jostled to monopolise it and to use it to leverage power on the more ignorant masses and to maintain the status quo. Only a privileged few, and a few of the privileged classes had access to its treasured vaults.

Dabblers who were believed not to have divine or kingly sanction for its use were subject to the severest of punishment. Less than 500 years ago, those who sipped of its chalice were thought to be sacrilegious and were burnt at the stake.

Knowledge and the forms of accessing knowledge have always been the preserve of the privileged few.

Technological advances to make it more accessible to the masses over the years - the printing press, audio transmitters; audio-visual transmitters, and, now, simultaneously print, audio, and video transmitters in the form of the internet, have broadened and widened access to this still prized commodity.

The democratisation of knowledge that enables so many to cruise luxuriously along the information highway as equals is celebrated as one of the prime accomplishments of our age.

Or is it really?

Is it not, even in changing the status quo, really defining its own new status quo? Is it not really replicating in new forms the old divides  and entrenching them more deeply and structurally so that those who are south of this river in its raging and tumultuous currents, continue to be pushed further and further downstream of the northern, more accomplished compatriots?

Is it not just facilitating the haves to have more and the have nots to have to make that much more of an effort to catchup?

Though more and more of the sea of humanity seem to be crossing the digital divide, the challenge of whether it will ever be bridged remains a real development challenge, given that it was a journey that began with some contestants already having a head start.

In the uneven playing field, in playing catchup, it is still a race for the strong, the swift and the innovative, as it has always been. Maybe more are able to cross over if they push hard enough and extend their reach far enough, but what of those who cannot?

There is an assumption, if not in much of our discussions, certainly in much of our actions, that all the world is evolving into a giant ball of interconnectivity in a current that will pull all, even the stragglers, along with it.

There are some affirmative actions, even, - outreach, training and education and creation of opportunities - to help some of those with lesser vantage to catch up.

But what of the several millions, reflected in the last review of the Millennium Development Goals, who are still illiterate, who would not be able to afford any of the gadgets that will give them access to the magnificent and pulsing world of new media, not in this generation, nor in the next, nor the next.

In our exuberant celebration of the marvels of our age, we need to give more than a passing thought to, and, in fact, find proactive ways of, reaching those to whom the mysticism of this new knowledge is no different to their circumstances than if they were living in the dark ages, and not render them further invisible by pretending that the large numbers who have not yet partaken of this feast of knowledge, do not exist.

Dr. Kris Rampersad is an author and development trainer and facilitator in media and culture.