Introduction

•March 14, 2011 • 1 Comment

The digital divide refers the clear disparity that exists between those that have access to and fluency in new media and those that do not. These two divergent groups can be broken down categorically for easy consideration. The gap created by new technology and communication innovations divides race, gender, income, and location. The effects of where we fall in the technological spectrum are far reaching, effecting our education and economic success. All of these will be briefly addressed in our research blog as we seek to bridge the digital divide.

Perspectives on Access and Digital Inclusion

•March 14, 2011 • Leave a Comment

By Eric Brown

Beyond the standard barriers in technological growth that allow one to access a computer or a digitally mediated machine for communication or their social aptitude to indulge in such a practice lies their age factor. While these other factors clearly divide users and categorize different subsets of persons based on use, age is more dynamic. While the use trends and proficiency may and most likely will differ from a five year old, to a teenager, to 30-something, and 60-something person; age does not define ability or access in the digital age. A five-year old today, generally, has more access and ability to digitally mediated means than a five-year old 10 years ago, and most likely less access and ability than a child 10 years from today. A visual explanation of these obvious facts can be seen here.

The age debacle represents the notion of digital inclusion as a part of the digital divide that deals with access to the Internet and digital media. Since both the extent of use and the reasons for low- and non-use of the internet vary by age, a different explanation for the digital divide is required for children compared with adults. Looking beyond the idea of a binary divide, its is then that we come to the continuum of digital inclusion. (Livingstone  & Helpsper 2007)

AGE GRAPH

AGE GRAPH

As presented in the researched statistics above based of a Pew Center survey(Pew Center’s article on Internet based research survey), we can see that there is a difference in usage by categories of age. Why then does it seem the younger generations show higher usage levels? Easy, they are more included. As new technologies emerge and as new communities are formulated online and applications such as the nest Facebook or innovations such as e-mail become more prolific it is through the younger generations that this is accomplished. As children are taught to use such digital means from a younger age, they have a higher propensity to use such means. (Livingstone  & Helpsper 2007)  They learn “new” ways of doing things as “the” way to do things and thus break the barrier of change that is stagnant in many adults. In Stern’s 2010 treatise “Inequality in the Internet Age: A Twenty-First Century Dilemma” he explains that digital inequality is addressed in terms of access and technological proficiency, including Internet access and proficiency. Thus the propensity to succeed, or proficiency of children can be documented , and thus growth can be charted, and as such we have an understanding of the varying levels of digital prowess different age groups have. As well as the likelihood of those age groups to adapt to newer forms of media.

Much of our perceptions on digital inclusion, and the how and why things are the way they are in the digital age, depend much on how one perceives the current state of affairs. Now that we understand how people can be divided at least along lines of age (see posts on gender, socio-economic/education levels for more about division), we can understand the reason for certain perceptions on digital culture.

Optimistic Perspectives

-Access

Racial and gender differences in Internet access disappear after other variables are accounted for statistically. I.E. Though gender and race differ globally, in America the variables seem o even out considerably, leaving the problem more socio-economic and geographically placed. This also allows disabled persons unprecedented communication via various technologies that would have otherwise been impossible or estranged.

-Civic, political, and community involvement

Users of the Internet, through research show a higher likelihood of being involved in communities or organizations both on and offline. People generally are more plugged in and aware of things according to AOL research polls, where people say they get most of their news and are active members of their communities.

-Social interaction and forms of expression

Diversity! An increase in the frequency and diversity of interactions will lead to more people developing more relationships, learning more, and becoming more involved. With a free Internet and freedom of expression, ideas will be created and shared and growth can occur.

Pessimistic Perspectives

-Access

Not everyone has access or a computer, so some might be left out or behind by not being a part of the digitalization. Ease of use and operation may deter individuals and cultural ties may hold back some, creating a division in those who access digital means and those who do not.

-Civic, political, and community involvement

Narrows the political focus of groups and in part the government in their select inclusion and rampant activism, which may overshadow other traditional or larger, less active and organized groups. Internet provides political power and can be manipulated just as other media to promote agendas, not truly free.

-Social interaction and forms of expression

It is not meaningful enough nor relevant enough for us to continue to consider as the preferred means of communication. It creates barriers in relationships that are unnatural to the human condition and direct interaction with others is drained by indirect action over digital means. Thus interpersonal skills are not being utilized and a key part of socialization is being underused.

Below is a video about what is the digital divide:

Below is the video we watched in class about the digital divide:

Coyote Chronicle Tech Blog Article (Page 13 “How the digital divide can become the digital culture”)

Coyote Chronicle Digital Opinion (Page 6 “Forward Slash Get Digital”)

References:

Livingstone, S., & Helpsper, E. (2007). Gradations in digital inclusion: children, young people and the digital divide. New Media & Society, 9(4), 671-696. doi:10.1177/1461444807080335

Stern, M. J. (2010). Inequality in the Internet Age: A Twenty-First Century Dilemma. Sociological Inquiry, 80(1), 28-33. doi:10.1111/j.1475-682X.2009.00314.x

Gender

•March 13, 2011 • 1 Comment

By: Rudolph Butler Jr

Technology is getting more and more advanced everyday. In today’s day and age, everything is done with computers. Many people rely more and more on technology to perform their daily activities, and wouldn’t know how to do it without the use of computers. To find directions one doesn’t go to a map anymore, they would just pull out their GPS and it would navigate them to their destination. Phones are now beginning to do everything. Before they were just used to make phone calls, but now they are used to shoot videos, play video games, surf the web, manage your bank accounts, plus almost anything you could possibly imagine. And I don’t even remember the last time I went into a library to do research, the Internet is gives me access to basically everything that I may find in the library. Even though technology plays such a big part in peoples everyday life, women are being left behind. The digital divide refers to the gap between those who have access to technology and those who do not. There are different reasons why women fall behind in the digital divide, and if it does not change it ultimately hurt them.

For years, women have had a small role when it comes to technology, using technology, and inventing technology. Across a broad spectrum of activities, girls and women report that computers are not a source of fun amusement, but rather the source of anxiety. Computerphobia disproportionately affects women. Many studies in the 1900s showed that female students showed more anxiety and negative attitudes towards computers than that of males. Women generally feel less comfortable to use a computer therefore they use computers a lot less than that of men.

It all starts from when you’re young, according to Cooper. Most children begin their interactions with computers through video games. Schools are always trying to find new, fun ways to help in teaching the children, and what could be more fun than making educational video games being that children voluntarily play hours of video games so they would enjoy playing them and not even realize they’re learning at the same time. The problem that went unnoticed was the fact that predominantly boys are the ones that visit arcades and they are also the ones that spend hours playing their video games. Turning the classroom into an educational video arcade is something that is more appealing to boys than it is to girls.

Another thing that holds back females from using computers is the stereotype that links computers to gender. The general public believes that men are more interested and more competent at the use of computers. This video shows the stereotype that people have towards women. According to the man, it is a fact that “Women have no grasp at all of technology”

Without knowing, people can produce behaviors in others that are consistent with the beliefs they think about them. Women tended to have started to use the Internet more recently than men and were somewhat less confident about their ability Teachers who believe that girls dislike computers or are not competent with them can direct their attention to the boys in the room, introduce activities and examples that the boys like and then discover that, just as they had thought, boys are more interested in computers than are the girls. Also, A student who believes she is not going to do well may alter her own behavior to conform to her expectation. A student who believes she will do well may behave in ways that produce that result.

Women’s access to computers also holds them back from advancing. In virtually all developing countries, communications infrastructure is alot weaker in the poorer areas, where the majority of women tend to live. In Africa, Internet connectivity is frequently available only within the major cities, while the majority of women live outside these cities. Women tend to have less access than men to the facilities internet is available . Information centres or cyber cafes are often located in places where women may not be comfortable frequenting or where it is culturally inappropriate for them to visit. Women’s lack of access to transport and inability to leave the home also prevent their access to information.

The digital divide for women persist at work. According to Nielsen//NetRatings nearly half of all male Web surfers were employed in professional, executive or managerial roles, versus just one third of all female surfers at-work. During the same time period, a disproportionate share of clerical or administrative workers who were online were women, accounting for 27 percent of all female Web surfers at-work, only 3.5 percent of all male surfers, occupied clerical or administrative positions. The senior Internet analyst of NetRatings said, “The occupational stratification by gender among surfers demonstrates that males may be heavier consumers of the Web in the workplace because of the type of jobs they perform, even though both men and women have computer and Internet access at work, women trail in their use of Internet technology in the workplace and a digital divide between men and women still exists.”

In order to allow females to benefit from the ongoing technological revolution, we need to pull together as a society to reduce the digital divide. We can help to fix it by putting an end to the stereotype, making gender-neutral educational games. And by focusing on females as role models in the classroom and workplace, so girls can see that not only boys use computers. Solving these problems wont be easy, but we need to encourage women so that they too can benefit from the innovations of modern society

References

Cooper, J. (2006). The digital divide: the special case of gender. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning. 22. 320-334

Enock, Y & Soker, Z. (2006). Internet use (%) by gender 1995-2002. chart. Open Learning. 2. 107

Education

•March 13, 2011 • 1 Comment

By Uriel Ortega

Digital divide in education is an issue that limits access to information technology. It separates those with competencies and skill to benefit from computer use, from those without. This gap is between people with effective access to digital technology compared to those with little or no accesses. These factors include inability to physically access, confined to remote areas, lack in technological infrastructures, income, education, and geographical locations.

Education in digital technology is important to access because it has become part of our everyday life. It is important for student learning, business, personal communication, information gathering, job search, and career deployment. Being able to access the Internet has become part of our culture. “The digital divide looks at the role which computers are playing in widening socioeconomic and educational gaps throughout our society” (Bolt & Crawford, 2000, p. 121).

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/digitalnation/learning/schools/the-new-digital-divide.html?play

Digital divide prevents people from getting an education because they don’t have access to the right technology. Bridging this divide will accelerate everyone’s ability to learn, share, interact, and solve problems together. One major factor for accessing Information Communication Technology is the cost. Remote rural areas may lack the infrastructure to supply communities with telecommunications services and internet connection.  Finding hardware and software at affordable prices is yet another challenge. Third world countries often have equipment donated to them with low bandwidth giving them slow Internet connection. Other factors are the lack of technical support to repair equipment. “School administrators and teachers with little experience with technology need some guidance as to how to work with the equipment and how to integrate its use into the curriculum. Student skills with technology will be minimal, so developing their ICT proficiency will be a challenge” (Castro, 1998).

The most sever consequences of the digital divide are the long-term effects it will have on children that do not have access to technological education. “It is virtually impossible to ignore the need for technology in an education curriculum” (Di Bello, 2005). Information and Communication Technology is playing an increasingly influential role in reshaping employment in large parts of the world. Information and Communication Technologies presents unprecedented opportunities to combat poverty by increasing income, opening markets and providing employment opportunities. Knowledge based economies have an advantage in today’s global market. Countries with extensive knowledge of technology are able to open employment opportunities, which create technological progress to benefit economic growth. Technology advancement has the potential to alleviate the digital divide especially in education and employment. Being trained and skilled will better prepare people to meet global needs for well paying jobs. While lack of Education will damper employment and slow down the countries economic progress. Students today must be able to perform basic computer functions to meet minimal job requirements. “Students in higher education are dealing with more than a digital divide; it has now become a degree divide. Students that are prevented from getting bachelor degrees are at a disadvantage in gaining employment” (Garmon, 2003).

Another factor that hinders educations is the socioeconomic side. Studies show that families with low-income, who are African-American, and none-white Hispanics are less likely to possess computers, therefore not giving them the opportunity to participate on the Internet. New technologies in general may bridge gaps between rich and poor, powerful and powerless, and have and have not’s (Downing, 1989). Other disadvantaged groups can be identified in advanced countries, such as linguistic and ethnic minorities, those who live in isolated communities and those who are socially excluded, for whatever reason. Women in many societies are much less likely than men to have access to ICT. And there may be inter-generational gaps, such as for men in mid-life whose work skills are no longer in demand, whose modest educational achievements have left them ill-equipped even to want to become computer literate. For some, the workplace stimulates awareness of the potential of ICT and promotes the development of ICT skills. Others, lacking this incentive, are left aside.

It has become increasingly clear over the past two years that offering the whole world a phone and a computer screen will not in itself help bridge the “digital divide” opening up across the world. The technology is practically worthless unless people are equipped with the know-how, and the willingness, to use it. Those who cannot use it confidently, whether whole countries, groups or individuals, will become increasingly marginalized within the modern world.

The developing countries that do not have access to extensive educational opportunities still have the potential for prosperity. Some companies have sought to bridge the digital divide in the classroom through programs such as One Lap Top Per Child. This organization’s mission is to raise money and awareness by providing low cost laptops to underprivileged children. By closing the digital divide, people would be given equal opportunity to communicate and support their quality of life. “It is necessary but not sufficient to provide avenues to information and knowledge. What is more important is to empower people with appropriate educational, cognitive and behavioral skills and tools,” says Wadi D. Haddad of the Global Infrastructure Commission, in Learning to Bridge the Digital Divide.

References:

Judy Block (2010). Distance Education and the Digital Divide: An Academic Perspective. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, University of West Georgia, Distance Education Center,Volume XIII, Number I.

Howard, P. N., Busch, L., & Sheets, P. (2010). Comparing Digital Divides: Internet Access and Social Inequality in Canada and the United States. Canadian Journal of Communication, 35(1), 109-128. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

http://thejournal.com/articles/2008/06/23/digital-divide-what-digital-divide.aspx

http://www.oecdobserver.org/news/fullstory.php/aid/408

http://www.westga.edu/~distance/ojdla/spring131/block131.html

Location

•March 9, 2011 • Leave a Comment

15% of the world’s population represent 88% of internet users. These grossly disproportionate statistics signify an ongoing geographical dilemma that perpetuates poverty for some and affluence for others. Simply put, in a postmodern globalized era, where you are born determines what you will know and how far you will go.

As a result of the globally disproportionate development of the internet some countries have fallen behind in “technology, education, labor, democracy, and tourism.” The global digital divide has created a technological demarcation between industrial nations and developing nations. Because of this disproportionate advantage the industrial nations continue to prosper and extend their influence in the world market while the developing nations continue to flounder. The “haves” get more while the “have nots” are, at best, in a state of arrested development.

The internet revolution has created a preferred medium for information in the modern era. Through this channel one has access to all manner of social and personal advancements including various goods and services that are not otherwise available. With the vast majority of the world’s population severed from this information channel, a new hierarchy of influence and dominance is created with the “haves” who profit and produce in the global economy at the top at the expense of the “have nots” at the bottom.

This autocracy has terrible ramifications. Mossberger, Tolbert, and Stansbury write in their book Virtual Inequality: Beyond the Digital Divide that, “A country with a well-educated workforce is more productive and competitive, particularly within the context of the knowledge-intensive economy that has developed in the advanced capitalist countries over the past few decades. Just as widespread education raises the level of human capital in an economy so do critical technology skills that are increasingly important throughout the economy.” As a result of the global digital divide we have created entire countries brimming with untold human capital that is going absolutely un-actualized because they are operating in an obsolete medium without access to the internet. The result is that countries, already at an economic disadvantage, are now actually in greater economic turmoil.

This global digital divide loosely separates the north and the south, with the northern, or developed countries in possession of this information and communication tool and the southern, or developing, countries without access or with limited access. These countries include most of Latin America, Africa, and Southeast Asia. It should not be a surprise to find out that these countries with limited or no access are amongst the poorest countries in the world. (See map below)

In many of these geographical regions the need for new media is overshadowed by more base and fundamental needs for survival. It is difficult to argue with the premise that when people are starving they don’t need the internet, they need food. While this is true, it neglects to confront the underlined issue that many countries cannot provide their own food because their work force has been hobbled by a globalized economy that has no place for them but to extend pity to them. Greater than charity would be access. Access will do more than feed these countries for a day it will equip them to feed themselves for a life time.  

While the cost and logistical technicalities of granting equal access to all countries is staggering it as in arguably essential. Many countries lack the basic infrastructure to support the internet. They cannot power it or distribute it and they don’t have a network to support it. Many counties can’t afford computers, don’t have enough computers, or its citizens do not know how to use computers; and still while other countries have computers many of them limit the internet on these computers through censorship. The solutions to these obstacles are not easy or obvious and it is not as if the “haves” have not sought a manner by which the gap might be bridged. Unfortunately most of these movements seek to assist the “have nots” within the confines of their own country. Usually this is a country of affluence seeking to strengthen its own, already advantaged, citizens. An example of this would be the “e-Learning Foundation” in the United Kingdom, which provides computers and training to those who do not currently possess them. While such groups are beneficial as a small-scale solution, they do not address the greater problem created by the globally disenfranchised.

Among the most inspirational glimmers of hope for the soon resolution of the global digital divide can be seen in Uganda where natives have pioneered a movement to resolve the matter for themselves with little outside assistance. They see the future success of their citizens in everything from farming to global commerce actualized in internet access and education.

It is time to bridge the global digital divide. The gap is large and is growing every day. Entire countries are falling by the wayside as a result of unequal access. If we continue to neglect this geographical plight we might never know the untapped human potential of billions of individuals who are stripped of the information and opportunities necessary to be economically competitive. Our most valuable global resource is our people; let’s strive to equip them with our most valuable global innovation.

References:

http://homes.chass.utoronto.ca/~wellman/publications/digidiv/chen_wellman_digidiv_it_society04.pdf

http://books.google.com/books?id=lEzJlG0ByJgC&printsec=frontcover&dq=Virtual+Inequality:+Beyond+the+Digital+Divide&hl=en&src=bmrr&ei=eaN9TcKgCYS6sAPAs8yHAw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=book-thumbnail&resnum=1&ved=0CCoQ6wEwAA#v=onepage&q&f=false

http://evolutionarymedia.com/papers/digitalDivide.htm

http://arno.uvt.nl/show.cgi?fid=69729

The Solution

•February 8, 2011 • 1 Comment

Within the last decade, the digital divide has been overcome in almost all industrialized nations. According to a report issued by International Telecommunication Union, a telecommunications division of the U.N., 71 percent of people in industrialized nations had access to the Internet in 2010. This number is compared to the only 21 percent of people in developing countries that still do not have Internet access, most of which is located in libraries and upper class homes.

Only 9.6 percent of Africans have access to the Internet. In Asia and the Middle East, 22 and 25 percent of the respective populations are connected to the Internet. This trend in who has open access to the Internet has greatly inhibited the economic, social, and political development of poorer countries in these regions.

The method of how to solve the global digital divide is still under debate. Some argue that the money and resources spent implementing the Internet into countries that cannot educate, feed, or even protect their own citizens would be wasted. Before the true benefits of the Internet can be reaped, users in these very poor countries must not only be adequately clothed, housed and fed; they must also be technologically literate enough to effectively use that technology.

The digital divide facing us in 2011 is only a symptom of the perpetual poverty that faces some of the poorer countries in the world such as Nigeria, Liberia, Somalia, etc. This poverty cycle is continued because the majority of the children in these countries not only lack proper nutrition in most cases, but most importantly, lack a classroom to learn in.

These difficulties facing the implementation of the Internet in disconnected countries are further compounded when you realize that the majority of those without the web that’s needed to facilitate economic endeavors among other uses, are almost all completely illiterate due to the lack of education in these impoverished countries. This is the dilemma facing those who wish to eliminate the gap in the digital divide.

Monetary aid has been given to poor countries for the last 65 years, but  has only resulted in very slow, staggered economic growth. The governments in these countries are empowered through monetary aid and are not motivated to seek and create economic growth within their citizens because they’re profiting through the direct aid given. In almost all countries that become economically prosperous, it was achieved by empowering the citizens to a more level degree than that of the government.

The most efficient way to achieve that empowerment is through increasingly affordable and efficient information found in communication technologies such as cell phones and laptops with Internet access.

Through each of their respective efforts, Iqbal Quadir and Nicholas Negroponte have taken tremendous strides in introducing these technologies to the poorer undeveloped countries throughout the world.

Iqbal Quadir, founder of the Bangladesh phone company Grameenphone, started his company in 1993 to help create universal telephone access to the rural poor in Bangladesh. The company operated as such: a phone would be purchased with a loan from Grameen Bank and then rented out for communal use throughout the retailer’s village. By giving telephone access to the rural poor, they were able to expedite many tasks that would usually take hours to complete.

Today that company has now become the leading phone service provider to over 100 million Bangladesh citizens. The mass increase in connectivity within the region caused a massive accumulation of man hours redirected to economically prosperous tasks and the Bangladesh economy has experienced positive growth ever since.

Instead of someone walking hours to speak with someone, transactions and payments can be made over the phone. Important business orders and sales could also be made over a phone conversation. Quadir still continues this business in even the poorest communities, connecting rural populations in the most poverty stricken areas to stimulate and facilitate  growth within the local market.

According to Quadir, there are 115,000 retailers in over 52,000 villages bringing telephone access to over 80 million people that would previously not have had telephone access.

With this company, Quadir has effectively alleviated poverty in many areas — but to sustain that, the children of that region must be adequately educated to further the countries development. By using affordable, but highly effective technology such as a laptop, Nicholas Negroponte, creator of the One Laptop per Child project, has made that his mission.

With the help of developers, Negroponte has created the XO-1, an inexpensive, multi-versatile laptop that virtually anyone can use, anywhere. Its user friendly interface is very important considering that many of these laptops are being deployed to 5 year olds that cannot read or write. In an interview Negroponte said that by replicating the natural way we learn how to speak, the XO-1 “becomes a way for (children) to learn how to read and write.”

Since Jan. 2005, the non-profit One Laptop per Child Association, Inc. has deployed over 1.8 million laptops to children worldwide to countries such as Rwanda, Peru, Argentina and Uruguay. These laptops exponentially expand the education opportunities available to these otherwise second class educated people. The children not only profit from the laptop received but their parents as well, as the children teach them how to use and implement technology into their everyday lives.

With the power of increasingly cheaper and efficient technology and two incredible men, serious steps towards solving the digital divide have been taken. They do this by side stepping the problems outlined previously, while still making dramatic effects in the communities they coordinate as the narrow the gap in the global digital divide.