NOT FOR DISTRIBUTION The Digital Divide: Developed and Non Developing Countries. E Worrall “The digital divide refers to inequalities in access to information technology” (Fallis, 2004, p1).The digital divide between developed and developing countries is often becoming an increasing issue as the world moves faster with the array of technology that is available. There are a range of complex problems that can be unique or wide spread across many countries that do not have the infrastructure or money to keep up with the advancements of others. In many of these countries clean water and food is the main priority on a long list of issues that still needs to be solved. This raises many questions to the importance of trying to immerse developing countries in technology when the basic needs of humanity are not even met. In a recent address in 2010 by Ban Ki-‐moon, the secretary general of the United Nations (UN), to the International Telecommunication Union, highlighted the importance of moving forward with broadband. “Experience has shown that greater access to broadband technologies has meant faster progress towards all the Millennium Development Goals. The Internet drives trade, commerce and even education” (UN Department of Public Information, 2010, para5). It must be noted that developed countries to, have their own digital divide issues that exists between parts of their own country as well. In 2006, Australia only had 54% of its households with access to the internet (Arnold, B. 2010, para 3). The same could be said about the United States which went from number three on the broadband ladder to number 35 according to speedtest.net. One of ways of solving these complex issues is through education and developing students to be 21st Century citizens. For many countries the introduction of technology in schools is not about providing the latest technology to bring countries up to speed, it is about providing students with the education that they need. A large aspect of this movement, to see developing schools with technology is based on the constructivist theory made popular by Piaget and other theorists. The main highlight of this theory is that children learn by interacting together and constructing their own knowledge, but also create their own meaning to their work through this process (Hein, 1991, para2). A large portion of this learning can take place through collaborative projects and social experiments. One of the biggest issues though in making this happen is the supply and demand of these educational tools. The cost of production and then implementation of technology can be staggering to economies that have trouble on the global scale. A large amount of developing countries don’t even have proper access to the internet, they don’t have the infrastructure of LAN lines or even power lines that developed countries have. Yet there are solutions that are coming present today to help combat the divide between technology rich and poor nations. One such program is the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) organisation. Their aim is to develop and then distribute technology to developing countries that is cost effective and durable. The XO, produced by OLCP, is one of their first products which enables students to work collaboratively in the classroom without needing all the wires to connect each other or power. The laptops run
NOT FOR DISTRIBUTION on a very simple version of the Linux operating system called Sugar. The laptop itself can connect through wireless connections imbedded in the device, meaning that students can work on projects together in the classroom. They can be charged through solar devices that cost around thirteen dollars. The laptop itself costs around 150 dollars, which makes it an effective cost solution to providing children with education. One of the biggest benefits of the introduction of technology in these classrooms is that it encourages students to come to school more often and to be inspired and engaged when they are there. Through this, students have a greater understanding of the world around them and how they can help solve some of the issues that are present in their countries. It provides students with a greater access to education where in many cases it can be hard to even find a paper and pencil to write with. The introduction of these laptops means that text books and reading books can be downloaded and viewed on the device. It removes the need to print a vast range of books and reduces the cost of education overall. A question that is raised out of these issues is the importance to children already in developed countries and why teachers should be concerned about these problems. One aspect is that it highlights the importance of technology in today’s educational system and the benefits that it can provide the students. It also highlights why the technology is there in the classroom. That it is not just there as gimmick and to provide some sort of entertainment, but the technology is there to help facilitate the learning in the environment. My imovie that I created hopefully will inspire people to look a lot deeper to the problem of the digital divide and how they can get involved. There are a vast array of issues and it’s not a simple solution of just providing infrastructure to developing nations. There are political, social and economic aspects that all play a part in the gap of technology between rich and poor nations. Perhaps the solution could be as simple as developed countries recycling some of technology that gets thrown out every 2 years when the next new and exciting update comes along, however developed nations have their own set of problems that occur in their own areas. Although this rational only provides two solutions to an ever increasing problem, there are many organizations along with the help of the UN that are making progress to combat the digital divide.
NOT FOR DISTRIBUTION References: Arnold, B. 2010. Digital Divides in Australia, Caslon Analytics, accessed online 24th Feb 2011, http://www.caslon.com.au/dividesprofile6.htm Department of Public Information News and Media Division, United Nations. 2011 ‘Digital Divide ‘Far from Disappeared’, accessed online 24th Feb. 2011, http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2010/sgsm13158.doc.htm Fallis, d. 2004. Social Epistemology and the Digital Divide, School of Information Resources University of Arizona, accessed online 24th of Feb. 2011, http://www.acs.org.au/documents/public/crpit/CRPITV37Fallis.pdf Hein, G. 1991. Constructivist Learning Theory, Institute for Inquiry, accessed online 24th Feb 2011, http://www.exploratorium.edu/IFI/resources/constructivistlearning.html One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) , accessed online 24th Feb 2011, www.laptop.org