Technology is a vital part of our modern life but it has also created a gap called the digital divide. It has opened the gate for several new opportunities ahead for humankind.
Technology has been an excellent assist for students and teachers during the lockdown. It has helped students continue their studies without going to school. But this technological advancement has also created a massive gap in society. The gap is where some students have access to the latest laptops, smartphones, and stable internet connections, and some students don’t even have an internet connection at home to study online.
This technology gap is referred to as the digital divide. A digital divide restricts students from receiving the same level of educational training worldwide. For example, UNICEF has stated that 1.3 billion school students don’t have a stable internet connection at home or online learning resources.
How is the digital divide impacting the education system? How can it be eradicated? Read on to find out.
- What is the digital divide
- Why does the digital divide exist
- Problems that the digital divide cause
- How to bridge the digital divide
What is Digital Divide?
A digital divide is a gap where access to technology is very different worldwide. However, access to digital technologies like the internet, smartphones, or computers is vivid among people due to several social and economic reasons.
The digital divide means people don’t have equal access to technology worldwide due to different economic, political, and social aspects.
Why Does the Digital Divide Exist?
The digital divide is like any other division in society. For example, the division between the educated and illiterate, rich and poor, healthy and sick, etc. There are a few fundamental reasons behind every division in the world. Common reasons behind the digital divide are:
Education is the main factor creating the technology gap. Educated people are more adaptive to technologies. Households with graduates have more technical resources than households where people aren’t educated. A study conducted by the NTIA states that the gap in computer usage and Internet access has widened between those with the most and the least education over the years.
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Income influences the digital divide. It requires significant investment to install an internet connection and purchase smart gadgets. People with limited income or living in poor neighborhoods can’t afford the latest technology.
The differences in skin color also impact the digital divide. Black households still have limited access to technology compared to white families. This gap results from discrimination and poverty experienced by a particular race for years. The race factor has diminished in several advanced nations, but it is still prevalent in many backward countries.
4. Nation Development
Technology advancement in countries like the US and UK is way ahead of developing nations like India, Nepal, Korea, etc. Many developing countries lack basic infrastructure to support technologies like power supply, telephone towers, WiFi cables, etc. This can limit the residents’ means to adopt new technologies.
Despite technology being present and future, many people still resist using technical resources. They consider it a harmful threat to the human race. In fact, in many cultures, children are not allowed to use the internet or computer, especially girl children.
What Problems Does the Digital Divide Cause?
Technology discrimination is like poverty and social exclusion, where some people are deprived of essential development resources. During the pandemic, the divide became prevalent when many students and teachers had to discontinue learning/teaching due to a lack of technical resources. This digital divide has injected numerous new problems into modern society, like:
Technology has been the sole means to stay connected with our loved ones during lockdowns. Therefore, people with limited technology access have suffered from isolation and depression as they don’t have sufficient means to communicate with other people.
2. Education Gap
The technology gap can lead to an education gap. Students with limited technical access can’t catch up with students who use different visual and audio resources to sharpen their knowledge. This will create a significant gap in the education sector.
3. Limited Career Opportunities
A McKinsey report has stated that 60% of the jobs are 30% automated or internet-based, and the percentage will only increase in the future. Thus, the digital divide can limit the career opportunities for modern students.
That means career opportunities will fall into the lap of technically trained people. This will make it challenging for technologically discriminated people to build prosperous careers in the coming years.
4. Social Dilemma
The unavailability of the latest technical resources has triggered social problems among youngsters. Children often envy their friends who have high-tech gadgets, which further influences their emotional and social development.
The digital divide can also contribute to criminal activities. Many people find it easy to steal other people’s gadgets when they can’t afford one on their own.
5. Segregation Between People
The digital divide broadens the gap between rich and poor. The rich will advance further as they can access high-quality education and information. On the contrary, the poor will drift even behind due to a lack of technology.
As a result, the ideology of the rich and poor will differ. In addition, it will be a huge mountain to climb for people coming from two different places, thus leading to conflicts and misunderstandings.
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How to Mend the Digital Divide Problem?
The digital divide is not just a social or political problem. It is a deep-rooted problem that can be eliminated when social, economic, and political forces work together. Let’s look at some immediate actions that can assist in removing technological discrimination from the world:
1. Government Needs to Step Up
According to a statement by the United Nations, governments can significantly reduce the digital divide gap if they reduce the prices of technological devices, internet services, electricity tariffs, and taxes.
In the future, policymakers and educational leaders should connect with governments and big corporations to help schools, learners, and teachers access digital technologies. This collaboration will reduce the cost of the internet and strengthen the technological infrastructure.
Many private businesses and organizations are already trying to boost technological efficiency in education. For example, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is developing high-tech classrooms around the globe to help students and teachers access informational resources.
2. More Digital Learning
Schools need to also step up with the governments and introduce technical learning curriculums in the classrooms. In addition, teachers and students need to be fully trained in using digital resources to uplift the education standards.
Schools need to host seminars and workshops to provide technical training to teachers. They should show teachers how to use advanced e-learning tools and digital learning techniques in the classroom. Then, as teachers become familiar with the technical skills, they can better help students adapt to technology.
3. Digital Awareness
Some solid efforts should make people aware of digital literacy and its benefits. As discussed above, social insecurities and cultural issues are significant hindrances to digital advancement.
Therefore, public and private groups need to collaborate and create digital literacy awareness programs in rural and backward areas. They should use interactive methods to show people how digital advancement can benefit them and their children. Some exciting ways to educate people about digital literacy are street plays, visual presentations, one-on-one interactions, etc.
4. Use Local Languages in Online Learning Materials
Online learning resource creators should focus on including local languages in their programs. According to World Bank research, people feel more connected to content when they read it in their local language. Moreover, many people worldwide are not fluent in the English language.
Thus, educators should create more and more online learning resources in native languages to reach out to a more significant number of students and teachers.
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5. Special Resources for Physically Incapable Students
Educators should also pay attention to specific technologies to make digital learning accessible for physically challenged students. Today, many technologies are available that can help these students, such as—
- Screen readers
- Magnifying devices
- Augmentative reality
- Virtual reality, etc.
6. Address Social Issues
Besides political and economic reasons, social inequalities are a huge part of the digital divide. Today, in many parts of the world, gender discrimination can be a major roadblock to technological advancement.
Statistics show that only 24% of women in Africa have access to the internet compared to 35% of men. This shows that gender discrimination is a massive hurdle in eliminating the digital divide in the world.
Therefore, government organizations and social groups should create awareness programs for women to use more technology. They should provide financial aid and social support to women who want to use digital tools today.
Digital Divide Is A Curse!
Yes, the digital divide is a tremendous curse for modern society. Technology discrimination makes it harder for the poor and less resourceful people to get an adequate education to build a prosperous career.
Today, it is essential for governments and social organizations to come forward and take lucrative steps to bridge the gap between digitalization. Likewise, educators and tech inventors need to collaborate and create learning resources to reach every student.
It will take some time to bridge the digital divide gap. But, if every individual takes a step toward digitalization, we will have equal digital access worldwide in no time.
Why is the digital divide a problem today?
The digital divide is a huge problem today because many students and teachers are getting high-tech resources and innovative solutions to learn new things.
On the contrary, some students don’t even have access to a stable internet connection for academic research. This gap is not much visible right now. Still, as the digital workforce grows, you can notice that students with technical skills will get better job opportunities than students who don’t have basic technical knowledge.
Who can solve the digital divide problem?
The digital divide is an economic, social, and political issue. Therefore, government organizations and public welfare associations need to collaborate with the common public to spread awareness about digital skills and provide resources to support digital education worldwide.
Who suffers from the digital divide?
People with limited technological access suffer the most from the digital divide. These people usually reside in rural and backward areas where technological advancement has not reached yet.