This weeks question: Image your role not only as a professional, but as a citizen. How can YOU help to bridge the digital divide for people in need?
Less than 50 years ago we were learning the skills and knowledge we learn today, without a computer, internet, phones, or really any technology that was this advanced (Larpsiri & Speece 2004). I couldn’t really imagine a time where I wouldn’t use a computer or some sort of digital device to learn, or where I didn’t know how to use one. I grew up in an era where things were constantly changing around me and I was made and taught to change with it.
I am part of this divide that has millions of people with or without access to these different technologies.
This concept is called The Digital Divide.
Rice (2002) defines the digital divide theory as “The differential access to and use of the Internet according to gender, income, race, and location.”
The digital divide (also known as: gap theory) can be categorised into two sections; a global divide between western and third world countries and a social divide of western countries having too tools and skills. The divide within these groups are then categorised into:
- Information Rich: A group that is more educated and up-to-date with the technology and has access to resources easily
- Information Poor: A group considered less educated and economically disadvantaged
Each group benefits from information differently to each other.
The growth of the internet and new media technology has enabled critical information to reach the wider communities at a rate and scale like never before (The Guardian, 2014). In the divide I am a part of, information rich, you could say it would almost be impossible to live completely without it digital media and is in one way or another essential for everyone.
Most activities require you to have some sort of online connectivity:
- job seekers
- tax payers
- welfare receivers
- university students
- school students
- bill payers
However, these factors influence access to the internet and makes it harder for information poor countries to conform with the society they live in:
- The country of residence
- Rural or regional location
- Socio-economic status
- Cultural restrictions
- Parental objection
- Marginalised individuals
Some organisations are addressing these barriers through innovative and creative ways. They are combining low and high tech approaches to create a balance and ensure individuals are able to access critical information and improve lives (James, 2015). Not-for-profit closethegap.org, the Indigenous Hip Hop Project and Adult Learning Behaviour are organisations contributing to bridging the digital divide, creating campaigns to raise awareness, providing free online education, and offering high quality tools to use and learn on.
It is clear that giving out computers will not assist in bridging the digital divide alone (Infochange, 2015). However, information needs to be provided, in order for people to learn the knowledge and skills needed to benefit from the device. Disadvantaged groups need to be able to have access to this technology and be able to afford it too. Bridging the digital divide will not only improve their digital literacy and help them in understanding the value of online engagement (Robertson, 2012).
Through this research I have discovered that as a young communications professional dealing with digital media on a day-to-day basis, and as a citizen, it is important I remember those who are less fortunate. I hope that one day, the world will exist of equality and those disadvantaged communities will have access easily to technology and at affordable price. When I am out in the real workforce, I hope that I too can be a part of bridging the digital divide.
Flew, T. (2014). New Media. Melbourne, Victoria, Australia: Oxford University Press.
The Guardian. (2014). Access to information: bridging the digital divide in Africa. Retrieved 6 April 2015, from http://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2014/jan/24/digital-divide-access-to-information-africa
Infoxchange.net.au,. (2015). Addressing the digital divide | Infoxchange. Retrieved 6 April 2015, from https://www.infoxchange.net.au/news/addressing-digital-divide
Larpsiri, R., & Speece, M. (2004). Technology integration. Marketing Intelligence & Planning, 22(4), 392-406. doi:10.1108/02634500410542752
Rice, D. (2002). Bridging the digital divide. IT Support News, 20(10), 21.
Robertson, A. (2015). Bridging the digital divide. Training.com.au. Retrieved 6 April 2015, from http://www.training.com.au/ed/bridging-digital-divide/
James, E. (2015). Learning to bridge the digital divide – OECD Observer. Oecdobserver.org. Retrieved 6 April 2015, from http://www.oecdobserver.org/news/archivestory.php/aid/408/Learning_to_bridge_the_digital_divide.html#sthash.cT0QuXiq.dpuf