Academic journal article Education

The Digital Divide Revisited: What Is Next?

Academic journal article Education

The Digital Divide Revisited: What Is Next?

Article excerpt

The digital divide refers to the gap between those who have access to technology and those who do not. As stated by Morley in 2013, the "haves" and the "have nots." It also refers to the differences between individuals within a particular country, as well as to the differences between countries. When looking at differences within a country the use of computers and/or technology based on age, race, education, and income are addressed. The term digital divide was first coined in the mid-1990's by then President Bill Clinton. In the five years between 1991 and 1996, the U.S. went from 300,000 personal computers to over 10 million (Cohen, 2013).

Since that time, the nature and scope of the digital divide has changed. When first defined, the digital divide primarily focused on access to technology. Access is no longer enough. Just as technology and the demands for it and the vast changes in the use have broadened, so has the digital divide. Implementing technology in schools is a good starting point, but the digital divide will not actually close until citizens have access to technology at home and understand how to use it appropriately. Therefore, our priorities must also adjust and shift from simple access to include comprehensive training on the use of technology, the pitfalls and dangers, and the ramifications of such use. Otherwise, we are doing our students and citizens a disservice and leaving them vulnerable to predators and their own ignorance.

Benefits of Technology

Why is it so important to modify our definition of the digital divide as well as shift our priorities in relation to the goals established by the definition? Because technology offers access not only to educational tools, but also information resources. In the Field of Education, access to technology can help in the basic skills of writing papers, completing homework, doing research, providing assistance to those who need accommodations, helping English as a Second Language students increase language proficiency, and providing students the necessary training for a global job market (Piccianio, 2012). Currently, more than 20 million students are taking online classes in the U.S. alone.

On a societal level access to technology improves global commerce. The global economy is and has transformed into an e-commerce economy. The internet is responsible for 21% of economic growth in developed nations. In addition, access to technology provides citizens with information necessary to make informed decisions, online job and career development training, and access to social services and health information (Day, 2015).

Factors Contributing to the Digital Divide

Predominantly there are five elements that contribute to the digital divide: I) income level, 2) age, 3) race, 4) education, and 5) physical abilities. Forty six percent of the poorest household do not own a computer, but only four percent of wealthiest homes go without one (Alexandar, 2013). Only 2% of those with a household income of $75,000 plus do not have access to the Internet versus 21% of those earning less than $30,000 (Pew, 2017). Multiple studies have been conducted all indicating that lower income students and families and minority students and families were even less likely to have access to technology (Picciano, 2012). Only 2% of college graduates do not use the Internet compared with 32% of those without a high school degree (Pew, 2017). The older the individual the least likely they are to use the Internet. In 2016, only 64% of adults over the age of 65 were using the Internet (Pew, 2017). A snap shot of the global digital divide indicates that 50% of Internet users are from Asia. Only 8.6% are from North America (Internet World Stats, 2017). This data indicates that North American is fifth based on overall population.

Global Digital Divide

Pew Research Center began tracking social media adoption in 2005. In 2005, only about 5% of American adults used at least one social media platform. …

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