Participating in the digital world is an important aspect of today’s lifestyle – being connected to information, entertainment, and socializing platforms, allowing people to be connected not only to the internet, but with each other and the global community. The digital divide is what separates those who have access to the internet and those who don’t (Carroll, 2011) often in relation to socioeconomic status or racial divisions. What could be the ramifications of not being included in the digital world? With the gap in access to technology being higher for K-12 students of colour and poverty (Lundy, 2016), students are the most likely to suffer due to a lack of resources for learning. A report form the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) revealed 97 per cent of those earning $120,000 or more are internet users, compared with 77 per cent of those earning less than $40,000 a year (Fox, 2014). Whilst this shows the gap is narrowing, it also shows the divide still exists and appears in conjunction with earnings.
Students who are unable to engage in technology due to finances are being put at a disadvantage not only in their education, but also their inclusion in the community; a quote from the Sydney Morning Herald saying: “We need to understand the impact of internet access and quality disparities on social inclusion, including employment levels and other opportunities to participate in society,” (Fox, 2014). Feeling like you are an active member of the community is just as important as being able to research subjects and expand on learning materials.
In our lecture from Jennifer Howell, ways to solve the problem of the digital divide in less developed countries where incomes are much lower than those in Australia, and therefore have a lower level of internet access, were discussed briefly. The use of mobile technologies which use satellite technology rather than electricity have been found to allow access to communities in low socioeconomic areas of the world – other solutions for access involved global organisations, specifically referencing the One Laptop per Child organization which aims to provide each child with a rugged, low-cost, low-power, connected laptop (Motivation to Explore, n.d.) which acts as a way to breach the divide and give access to learning and the global community for all.
A discussion of the One Laptop per Child organisation’s success and hardships over the years of connecting children around the world
The digital divide then slightly shifts from the access to technology, to the way technology is used. In a study conducted to observe the way socio-demographic variables related to both internet use and the types of internet being used, suggesting persons of higher socio-economic status employ the internet more productively and to a greater economic gain than less privileged, but nonetheless connected, peers. There is evidence to suggest that people with lower levels of socio-economic status tend to use the internet in more general and superficial ways (Deursen & Dijk, 2013) – and so it comes down to what is being searched rather than how that creates the divide.
Despite these factors, the education proceeds with working towards closing the gap, with a focus on tackling the digital divide by ensuring that students most at risk of falling behind in the digital age are given opportunities to participate and engage (Government, 2016); the ‘Australian Curriculum: Digital Technologies’ providing teachers with training and resources to assist in preparing students to reach technology standards as set by the curriculum, requiring students to have knowledge and understanding of digital technologies and the corresponding processing and production skills (Australian Curriculum, Assessment & Reporting Authority, n.d.)
(Australian Curriculum, Assessment & Reporting Authority, n.d.)
Deursen, A. van, & Dijk, J. van. (2013). Curtin university library. Retrieved October 9, 2016, from The digital divide shifts to difference in usage, http://nms.sagepub.com.dbgw.lis.curtin.edu.au/content/16/3/507.full
(Deursen & Dijk, 2013)
Feinberg, J. (2014). Beautiful word clouds. Retrieved October 9, 2016, from http://www.wordle.net/
Fox, M. (2014, February 26). Digital divide still an issue for low income earners. Retrieved October 9, 2016, from Mobiles, http://www.smh.com.au/digital-life/mobiles/digital-divide-still-an-issue-for-low-income-earners-20140226-33i7l.html
Government, A. (2016, September 21). Inspiring all Australians in digital literacy and STEM. Retrieved October 9, 2016, from https://www.education.gov.au/inspiring-all-australians-digital-literacy-and-stem
Lundy, S. E. (2016). Leveraging digital technology in social studies education. Leveraging Digital Technology in Social Studies Education. Retrieved from http://pdxscholar.library.pdx.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2742&context=open_access_etds
Motivation to explore. Retrieved October 9, 2016, from http://one.laptop.org/
(“Motivation to explore,” n.d.)