The notion that there is a digital divide within communities has been of interest to educators, business, policy makers and governments since the term was first coined in the U.S. NITA report in 1995 (Partridge, 2007). Although much has been written and resources expended, the continuing reference to its existence indicates that the issue has not been fully addressed. This presentation will examine the notion of the digital divide and seek to identify its nature, its causes, the reason it is of such interest, and what is being done to ‘solve’ it. For the purposes of this presentation the focus will be on the “technological disparities that can occur within a single developed country, rather than between developed and developing countries” (Fong, 2009).
The easiest way to consider the digital divide is as “the disparity between the "haves" and the "have-nots" in the technology revolution”(National Telecommunications and Information Administration, 2000). Another, more complete explanation is offered up by Deutsche Telekom: “situation in which people do not have the same degree of access to modern digital information and communication technologies (ICT) and, for this reason, do not have the same opportunities for social and economic development”. (http://www.e-paper.telekom.com/reports/2010/epaper-CR_Bericht_2010_en/page63.html). The digital divide is often presented as an economic question of haves and those who have not. Looking at the digital divide as a yes/no dichotomy is a flawed approach. “The digital divide is not a clear single gap which divides a society into two groups” (http://www.internetworldstats.com/links10.htm). Hawkins and Oblinger (2006) suggest it is better to view the digital divide as a continuum with several factors that contribute to an individuals or communities position in relation to it.
It is also tempting to view the digital divide as a gap between those who do and those who do not have access to ICT hardware such as a computer. “Because access to the new technologies is unequally distributed, there is said to be a growing divide, the ‘digital divide’, between individuals and families who have access to ICT’s and particularly the internet” (Sutherland-Smith, Snyder and Angus, 2003 p5)This overtly simplifies the issue and, while access to the Internet is a component we must take into account when considering the digital divide, it is not the sole determining factor we must bear in mind when looking at where an individual or community lies in relation to the divide. Fong writes that “this disparity is not necessarily confined to computer or Internet use, but may involve accessibility to other forms of ICT such as fixed line telephone, mobile phone and pager” (2009). When considering access to hardware, this more inclusive definition is preferred, as it also incorporates devices such as smart phone and iPads which include many features and abilities of traditional computers.
According to Partridge (2007) the digital divide is the accepted way to refer to “the social implications of unequal access of some sectors of community to ICT and the acquisition of necessary skills” (from Foster, 2000, p445). This inclusion of skills is an important distinction as it highlights that it is not simply a matter of access to the physical, but rather that the divide also includes an intellectual element.
There is no single cause that is responsible for the digital divide. A number of factors combine and interact to contribute to this modern form of inequity within society. Partridge (2007) considers that the primary factors that contribute to the digital divide are income, employment and education. She then goes on to note that there are other, often over looked factors that include the social, psychological and the cultural. Other factors that can have an impact on one’s position in relation to the digital divide include region, age and if one is an indigenous Australian (Willis and Tranter, 2006, p.45). Of all these variables; income, education, employment, age, location, psychological make-up and social-cultural values, the one with the greatest impact is income; the “digital divide has become entrenched in Australia in the past 15 years. It has split the nation into internet ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’, with the fault lines defined largely by family income” (Burrell, 2007)
Regardless of the cause of the divide, there is a concern related to individuals and communities ability to access digital information and relate to that information. “The digital divide is real, and the financial have-nots are also the information have-nots” (Bolt and Crawford (2000, p14) in Sutherland-Smith, Snyder and Angus, 2003 p5)
Partridge notes that the digital divide is worthy of our consideration because of “the commonly held belief that access to ICT, such as the internet, and the ability to use this technology is necessary for members of the community if they are to fully participate in economic, political and social life” (Partridge, 2007, p1.). To prepare students for the future and enable them we must acknowledge the existence of the digital divide and ‘mind the gap’ by developing strategies and policies to address the issue. It is essential that educators do this in order to enable of students to fully participate in an emerging digital world.
Future citizens will be required to navigate the digital online world. Increasingly economic services are offered online, from online banking to government provided social welfare. Access to networked ICT’s allows individual to access both public and private sector services that empower users to enhance or maintain their economic standing. Networked ICT’s are increasingly used as a means to delivering educational programs. Lee (2010) states that “schooling is moving from its traditional paper operational mode to one that is digital, and in turn networked”. Demonstrated ICT skills are essential in many careers. Reduced access or familiarity with the digital world and its required skills excludes some from these educational opportunities and limits career options. (http://www.internetworldstats.com/links10.htm)
To add to this Fong (2009) points out that increased access to networked ICT’s has the potential to improve social equity. His example, that it can lead to improved gender equality by enabling girls to access education and forge social networks at home “in a society where cultural barriers isolate girls”, while not being overtly relevant to the Australian experience, certainly applies in other nations that educators may find themselves working in.
The Australian federal government has undertaken a range of programs that seek to address the digital divide. Most notably, the current Australian federal government National Broadband Network (NBN) represents a significant attempt to narrow the digital divide within Australian. (http://www.nbn.gov.au/content/why-broadband-essential). Given that Australia falls below the OECD average in terms of fixed broadband uptake and that access to this service ranks as the 5th most expensive in the OECD (http://www.nbn.gov.au/content/how-does-australia-compare) it is not difficult to see how the current state of affairs exacerbates the digital divide in Australia. “Australia has some of the highest broadband prices in the OECD and some of the slowest speeds” (Conroy in Yeats, 2010). The government has also developed the National Secondary School Computer Fund which aims to provide laptop computers to high school aged students across the nation (http://www.deewr.gov.au/SCHOOLING/DIGITALEDUCATIONREVOLUTION/COMPUTERFUND/Pages/NationalSecondarySchoolComputerFundOverview.aspx). The National secondary school Computer fund forms a portion of the governments Digital Education Revolution (http://www.deewr.gov.au/Schooling/DigitalEducationRevolution/Pages/default.aspx) which also includes the provision of high speed broadband to school, teacher training, “digital tools, resources and infrastructure” and technical support. While these programs represent a concerted effort on behalf of the federal government in addressing the digital divide both within the country and in relation to its standing alongside other nations, the governments programs are not without their critics and the impact in reducing the digital divide remains to be seen.
The One Laptop Per Child program seeks to “empower the world's poorest children through education” by providing “each child with a rugged, low-cost, low-power, connected laptop” (http://one.laptop.org/about/mission). This program is active in Australia and Head (2009) outlines how the Australian arm of the charity is working to provide low cost ($255.00AUD) laptops to indigenous children in remote locations.
Schools are essential in closing the divide. While they cannot address directly the provision of ICT’s or improve network access capabilities available to students in the home, they can still provide access to those who would otherwise miss out and slip through the ‘digital crack’. “Low-income children need greater access to technology in school to make up for their limited access at home” (Celano and Neuman, 2010). The school also has a role to play in the development of the skills required to successfully navigate the online, networked world. Schools that integrate digital literacy’s within their curriculum empower students and provide them with the ability to successfully avail themselves of all the things the online world has to offer. While access is important, it alone does not close the digital divide. Individuals need to know both what they can do online and how they can do it. If education or lack thereof, contributes to the digital divide, then schools are a key partner in attempts to close the divide.
Charles Sturt UniversityETL 523: Digital CitizenshipAssignment 1BOral/slideshow Presentation Name: Mark Rennick Student No: 11418484
Date Submitted: 27th April 2011 I understand that this assignment may undergo electronic detection for plagiarism and an anonymous copy of the assignment may be retained on the database and used to make comparisons with other assignments in future.
Discussion Questions Should schools attempt to collect and analyze data related to their student body in order to determine where they fall in regards to the digital divide in order to best meet their needs? Should teachers be expected to meet benchmark standards demonstrating digital proficiencies within the classroom and in their instructional practice? To what extent can schools successfully address the digital divide? What are the most effective ways of doing this?
Recommended readings National Telecommunications and Information Administration. (2000, October). Falling through the net: Toward digital inclusion. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Commerce. Retrieved 25 April, 2011 from http://www.ntia.doc.gov/ntiahome/fttn00/contents00.html Celano, Donna, and Susan B. Neuman. "Roadblocks on the Information Highway." Educational Leadership 68.3 (2010): 50-53. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 25 Apr. 2011. Fong, W. L. Michelle. "Digital Divide: The Case of Developing Countries." Issues in Informing Science & Information Technology 6.(2009): 471-478. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 25 Apr. 2011. Gibbs, Michael G., Anthony J. Dosen, and Rosalie B. Guerrero. "Bridging the Digital Divide: Changing the Technological Landscape of Inner-City Catholic Schools." Urban Education 44.1 (2009): 11-29. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 25 Apr. 2011. Partridge, Helen. "Redefining the digital divide in the 'smart state'." AusWeb08. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Apr. 2011. <http://ausweb.scu.edu.au/aw07/papers/refereed/partridge/paper.html>.
References Clancy Yeates with Jacob, Saulwick. "Labor vows to close the digital divide." Sydney Morning Herald, The 21 Dec. 2010: 1. Newspaper Source Plus. EBSCO. Web. 25 Apr. 2011.
Celano, Donna, and Susan B. Neuman. "Roadblocks on the Information Highway." Educational Leadership 68.3 (2010): 50-53. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 25 Apr. 2011.
"Digital Divide - ICT Information Communications Technology - 50x15 Initiative." Internet World Stats –Usage and Population Statistics. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Apr. 2011. <http://www.internetworldstats.com/links10.htm>.
Digital Education Revolution - Overview." Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Apr. 2011. <http://www.deewr.gov.au/Schooling/DigitalEducationRevolution/Pages/default.aspx>.
"ePaper - The 2010 Corporate Responsibility Report - We take responsibility.." Deutsche Telekom. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Apr. 2011. <http://www.e-paper.telekom.com/reports/2010/epaper-CR_Bericht_2010_en/page63.html>.
"Falling Through the Net: Table of Contents." National Telecommunications and Information Administration. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Apr. 2011. <http://www.ntia.doc.gov/ntiahome/fttn00/contents00.html>.
Hawkins, Brian L., and Diana G. Oblinge. "The Myth about the Digital Divide." EDUCAUSE Review 41.4 (2006): 12-13. ERIC. EBSCO. Web. 25 Apr. 2011.
Head, B. The laptop revolution. [online]. Campus Review; v.19 n.13 p.14; 7 July 2009. Availability: <http://search.informit.com.au.ezproxy.csu.edu.au/fullText;dn=177191;res=AEIPT> ISSN: 1037-034X. [cited 26 Apr 11].
Kharif, Olga. "How Low Can PC Prices Go? - BusinessWeek." Businessweek - Business News, Stock Market & Financial Advice. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Apr. 2011. <http://www.businessweek.com/technology/content/mar2009/tc20090310_258460.htm>.
Lee, Mal. “Schooling goes digital, and networked”. Australian Educational Leader; v.32 n.3 p.31-32; 2010
"Mission | One Laptop per Child." One Laptop per Child. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Apr. 2011. <http://one.laptop.org/about/mission>.
"National Secondary School Computer Fund Overview." Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Apr. 2011. <http://www.deewr.gov.au/SCHOOLING/DIGITALEDUCATIONREVOLUTION/COMPUTERFUND/Pages/NationalSecondarySchoolComputerFundOverview.aspx>.
Partridge, Helen. "Redefining the digital divide in the 'smart state'." AusWeb08. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Apr. 2011. <http://ausweb.scu.edu.au/aw07/papers/refereed/partridge/paper.html>.
Sutherland-Smith, Wendy; Snyder, Ilana and Angus, Lawrence. "The Digital Divide: Differences in Computer Use between Home and School in Low Socio-economic Households." L1-Educational Studies in Language and Literature 3.1 (2003): 5-19. E-Journals. EBSCO. Web. 25 Apr. 2011.
Steve, Burrell. "Policy an attempt to close the digital divide." Sydney Morning Herald, The 20 Oct. 2007: 8. Newspaper Source Plus. EBSCO. Web. 25 Apr. 2011.
Willis, Suzanne, and Bruce Tranter. "Beyond the ‘digital divide’: Internet diffusion and inequality in Australia." Journal of Sociology 42.1 (2006): 43-59. E-Journals. EBSCO. Web. 25 Apr. 2011.
Why is broadband essential? | National Broadband Network." Home | National Broadband Network. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Apr. 2011. <http://www.nbn.gov.au/content/why-broadband-essential>.