“Technology is only as powerful as it is accessible.
Broader access brings education, information, and
a sense of community that can help combat AIDS,
malnutrition, ignorance and neglect. The power of
a connected and enlightened world community
is just beginning.”
(Hector Ruiz, ex-Chairman of the Board
and ex-President of AMD)
‘Digital divide’, also known as ‘digital split’, is an extremely debated social phenomenon affecting the 21st century.
The Organisation for economic co-operation and development (OECD, 2001, p.4) defines it as “the gap between individuals, households, businesses and geographic areas at different socio-economic levels with regard both to their opportunities to access information and communication technologies (ICTs) and to their use of the Internet for a wide variety of activities”. A key concept related to this phenomenon is the participation in the ‘information age’ (Snyder, 2010). “Social participation refers to the extent to which individuals, families and communities are able to take part in the society” (Warschauer, 2003, p.8). Reflecting on the deep change that digital technologies have determined in the way people work, study and communicate, having or not having access to the Internet, participate or not in the digital life, is essential in determining individual and collective destinies.
There are many are factors contributing to the increase of the digital gap, such as democracy, economy, interests and education. However, according to the Organisation for economic co-operation and development (OECD, 2001), education is considered one of the major contributors. Following a research carried out by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics of 2013, 774 million adults (15 years and older) have resulted unable to write and read and most of them were women (two-thirds, which corresponds to nearly 493 women). In addition, the same research has revealed that 123 million children under the age of 15 were illiterate, with 76 million being female (http://www.uis.unesco.org/literacy/pages/data-release-map-2013.aspx ). Broadly speaking, the higher the level of education is, the more access and use of ICTs working, studying and at home. In addition, according to a survey conducted by the Organisation for economic co-operation and development (2001), only in the year 2000, “more than 94 percent of links to pages on secure servers were in English”. As a natural consequence, those who are illiterate or who cannot speak English will be directly excluded from the participation on the Net.
Reflecting on what has been previously mentioned, a reasonable way to decrease the digital divide, promoting a wider access to digital technologies regardless of the families’ income or social conditions, might be investing on the development of digital pedagogies within the education system. Sarah Phinney (cited in Steele-Carlin, 2000) points out that by simply providing a computer in people’s homes at someone else’s expenses, does not guarantee that those people might be able to use it efficiently and enjoy from the benefit that the digital technology can bring. The same author continues by saying that “the most highly educated have the greatest access to technology, and those with the greatest access to technology have the greatest access”. It is keeping this “declaration” in mind that teachers, educators and the education system in general should acknowledge the importance of digital pedagogies and make sure that digital technology is included in the school curriculum so that students might be digitally literate and efficiently equipped to be active participants of this new digital era.
Australian Curriculum and Assessment Reporting Authority. (2016). Digital Technologies. Accessed from: http://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/technologies/digital-technologies/curriculum/f-10?layout=1#level9-10.
OECD. (2001). Understanding the Digital Divide. Organisation for EconomicOrganisation and Development. Accessed from: https://www.oecd.org/sti/1888451.pdf.
Snyder, I. & Nieuwenhuysen, J. (2010). Closing the Gap in Education? Improving Outcomes in Southern World Societies. Monash University Publishing.
Steele-Carlin, S. (2000). Education World. Copyright Education World.
UNESCO Institute for Statistics (2014). Retrieved from http://www.uis.unesco.org/literacy/pages/data-release-map-2013.aspx