Sunday, April 5, 2009

Reflections on the Digital Divide

I like Wikipedia 's definition

"The term digital divide refers to the gap between people with effective access to digital and information technology and those with very limited or no access at all."

Because of that key word "effective" access. I am glad to see that we are not simply looking at whether or not all have access.

I also agree Jacob Nielsen's Digital Divide: Three Stages framework.

Stage 1: Economic

However with the One Laptop Per Child $100 Laptop and Walmart & Google partnering to make a $200 desktop , I don't foresee this to be as big of a problem as time brings the price of hardware down and software becomes free with the rise of free and open source software and cloud computings free Web 2.0 Apps.

Stage 2: Usability

Design principles like Ben Shneiderman's Universal Usability have helped made it easier for averages to access and use the web but there is still more work to be don. Nielsen also argues literacy skill also should be considered. I would add digital literacy skills are another area that prevents users to maximize effective use of the web.

Stage 3: Empowerment Divide

I think this is the most critical area. It is not just an access and usability gap but I think the greatest digital divide is in the participatory gap. It is sad when we have all this power at our fingertips and most don't use the web in ways that can really empower and enhance their lives. Web 2.0 has begun to transform the web from a read only to a more read write web .

Final Thought:
I see education as our only hope to break this digital divide. Schools need to start looking at digital literacy as just as important as reading, writing, and arithmetic.

More about on Digital Divide

Click here for a great collection of Digital Divide writings
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