Sunday, 24 February 2013

THE DIGITAL DIVIDE AND THE COMPLEXITIES OF THE DIGITAL ERA

   There is a lot of controversy around the Digital Divide today and this is mainly because of its global impact. The Digital Divide is a term which registers the problem created by the unequal distribution of digital technologies and services. It can also be regarded as one of the major issues of the Digital era that we live in. Or perhaps we only think that we are living in a Digital era? Can that possibly be true? Well, given the fact that the majority of the world’s population still has not experienced the sensation of digital enlightenment we can confidently assume that there is something inauthentic about the digital depiction of the world as we know it.

   There is no doubt that our technological advancement has achieved great success when we look at the possibilities offered by the Internet technology today. Instant communication and dissemination of knowledge, online banking, emails, videos, pictures, interactive features – these are all the outcomes of the Internet. However, it is interesting to see how many of us take what the Internet has to offer for granted, thinking and actually believing that this is what the world should look like in the 21st Century. Yes but why would we assume that everyone around the world has got the same availability to use the Internet or any other digital technology as we have? It takes only a couple of minutes of research to find out the difference that separates us all.

   Furthermore, if we take a closer look at one particular remote community in a rural area in Africa, for example, we can clearly see that there is no such thing as a Digital era there. As a result, the consequences of such technological absence can be widely deterministic. Nowadays, if someone has no access to the Internet, it is considered a huge disadvantage due to the unavailability to benefit from all the positive features that the Internet has to offer – both intellectually and culturally. Therefore, if an entire population lacks access to the Internet that means that it is not only isolated from the prolific opportunities of our dynamically developing world but it is also struggling to integrate itself into the broader spectrum of our interconnected global society. Nevertheless, it is important to realise the notion that the factors which influence the dissemination of digital technologies are much more various than we would originally presume. For example, technological literacy is vital for the effective use of Internet technologies and the personal level of motivation and sophistication have a crucial role in determining the successful utilisation of any piece of technology. In the following video, the concept and the complexities of the Digital divide are explained by a number of professionals as well as some aspiring users. They talk about the connection between the vital need of access to the Internet and its huge effect on our personal efficiency as citizens of this ever-changing world.


The Digital Divide - why is it so important?



The Digital Divide is the crucial gap between those who have access to digital technologies and those who do not

      In addition, the Digital Divide can be considered a problem which has a close connection to a plethora of factors. For example, age, demographics, social entities and education – they are all directly linked to how people use technology and whether they use it at all. In her Digital culture blog from the 2011/2012 academic year, Lauraa Rebecca writes: “I cannot imagine how it must feel to be my Nan's age and not have a clue what I'm doing when it comes to sitting in front of a computer.” Such views can be analysed as indicators. Many elderly people do not have the sufficient knowledge required to be able to operate with a computer. This, of course, can only mean that younger people are much more likely to take advantage of good opportunities as today all spheres of our lives are increasingly going online. In this relation, Lisa Servon (2002: 2) writes in her book Bridging the Digital Divide:Technology, Community, and Public Policy:

“The Digital Divide is, therefore, a symptom of a much larger and more complex problem – the problem of persistent poverty and inequality. Widespread access to and use of technology will not solve these larger problems, but it can help to show the way out.”

Therefore, complexities such as unequal social statuses and levels of education precede the contextualisation of the Digital Divide. As a result, we cannot just say that globalisation is what determines and affects the successful dissemination of technology as apparently the process is driven by other forces as well.


Computers per 100 people in the world 

   Nevertheless, what is the major factor which influences our usage of the Internet? Is it poverty? Well, in most cases it looks like it is education. Yes, the more educated people are, the more likely it will be that they could use the Internet. In a chapter by the American National Telecommunications and Information Administration (2001: 18) in the book The Digital Divide: Facing a Crisis or Creating a Myth?, it can be read: “Those with a college degree or higher are more than eight times as likely to have a computer at home (68.7% versus 7.9%) and are nearly sixteen times as likely to have home Internet access (48.9% versus 3.1%) as those with an elementary-school education.” Therefore, it is always the well-educated people who benefit the most from using various digital technologies. Not surprisingly, the Digital Divide is directly connected to education matters and it corresponds to the general need of a better system. 

   Moreover, what are the actual benefits of all these digital technologies and their aspects? How do they really help us in improving our standard of life? Well, this is exactly what the concept of Technicity examines. The term itself refers to all the great opportunities that our modern world can offer. Our growing hi-tech cities are thriving on new and prosperous opportunities which are increasingly affecting our lives. In the following video, Professor Jennifer Evans-Cowley from the Ohio State University provides us with an interesting account of all inspiring aspects of Technicity:


Technicity with Jennifer Evans-Cowley and Tom Sanchez

   Finally, the Digital Divide is directly connected to the way in which we all use the Internet as well as all other digital technologies. It is a complex issue which requires a comprehensive analysis in order to be fully understood. Therefore, it is completely important to realise the connection between literacy and technology in the process of finding a solution to the Digital Divide. Only then we will be able to comprehend the true potential of our digitised world.

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