Academic journal article Asian Social Science

Digital Divide Amongst Urban Youths in Malaysia - Myth or Reality?

Academic journal article Asian Social Science

Digital Divide Amongst Urban Youths in Malaysia - Myth or Reality?

Article excerpt

Abstract

The Digital Divide is an important issue with serious consequences, both for the individuals affected and society. With 90% of youths in urban areas using the Internet, there is a myth that the Digital Divide no longer exists amongst urban youths. Based on a random survey of 1639 youths, this study analyses the possibility of a digital divide along ethnic lines in Malaysia.. Findings indicate there are significant ethnic-based differences in home PC ownership and Internet connection. There are further concerns that the digital divide is further widening because of the quantity and quality of access. Multivariate analysis reveals that Chinese youths are online for twice the duration of Malays and Indians. However, higher Internet usage may be a two-edged sword as higher Internet use are intertwined with higher risks and negative activities such as violent games, pornography, and gambling. The article also discusses various means to mitigate the risks of Internet usage.

Keywords: digital divide, Malaysia, urban youths, myth, reality

1. Introduction

Tremendous rapid changes in technology are taking place and these changes typically occur in an uneven fashion. Given the pervasive impact of the Interneton society, there is grave concern about whether the rapid and uneven spread of Internet will further widens the "digital divide" that has already emerged between haves and the have-nots. Empiricalstudies reveal that the digital divide - the disparities in access to personal computers (PCs), and the Internet across demographic groups -not only exists, butis widening significantly. The gap between the haves and have-nots in terms of owning computers and enjoying access to the Internet had grown wider by differences in education, income, and ethnicity (Livingstone & Helsper, 2007).Inequalities in society had been traced to the different level of access to information.It has been discovered that theroot cause of the inequality to not just access to information, but knowledge, which is the comprehension and application of information. In fact, knowledgeis nowregarded as the main driving force of innovation and development (Evers & Gerke, 2004). Often cited in support of this premise is the countries of Ghana and the Republic of Korea(World Development Report of 1998/98). Both countries started independence with almost the sameGNP/cap in 1960. Thirty years later,while the Korean GNP/cap had risen morethan six times, the Ghanaian was still remaining at the same level (in 1985 prices). Half the difference could be explained in terms of the 'traditional' factorinputs, the other half, according to World Bank experts, was attributed to'knowledge' as a factor of production (World Bank 1999). Hence, it is claimed, perhaps with some exaggeration that only the people who benefited from the "Gutemberg Revolution" can now benefit from the Information and Communication Technology revolution. With 90% of people in the urban areas in Malaysia having computers and Internet access at home, this paper examines firstly whether there is a digital divide amongst the ethnicities of youths. The paper also attempts to provide a deeper understanding of the nature of Internet use by these youths of different ethnicities, as it may have important ramifications not just for themselves, but for the country of Malaysia.

In this paper, Digital divide refers to the inequalities of access and usage to Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), particularly with the access to the Internet amongst individuals, households, businesses, and geographical areas (OECD, 2001). Digital Divide is an important issue with grave consequences for individual, communities and countries because those without access to ICT are likely to be deprived of knowledge and could face severe economic and social deprivation with little prospects of catching up. In this current digital age, online users gain considerable academic, economic, financial, and social benefits from the Internet(Anderson, Bikson, Law, & Mitchell, 1995; L. …

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