The Digital Divide is a very real thing. I first thought about this idea some time ago when I pondered the different views of technology between an older generation and my own view. But a couple of factors (going to Haiti, and working in a church again) have caused me to revisit the idea. I’ve come to realize that there is a group of people who not only don’t understand digital technology in the sense of how it works, but cannot really use digital devices. Furthermore, they either lack the desire or the competencies to learn the new technologies. What worries me is that children grow up in that sort of environment (as they do in Haiti) and have no chance of catching up to their peers. In that sense, there is a cycle present here.

Digital Divide and Information

One of my students recently asked me how he could “get a blog.” I found this baffling because all one needs to do is run a Google search to find that information. When I have a question, I don’t always ask a person, I do research. Some of that is because of my training, some of that is my personality of wanting to figure things out on my own. But many people, often ones who are on the other side of the digital divide, depend on people in their community answering their questions.

For example, when trying to describe an under-counter trash can to our Facilities Manager at church, we reached a conceptual impasse. So, I showed him some products on Amazon. He was surprised that I knew where to find those things so quickly. This leads me to my next observation.

Digital Divide and Literacy

Although we live in a post-literate culture, literacy (especially digital literacy) is hugely important! Being on the library board at my local library, I know that there are places in the community that attempt to provide ways for people to become digitally literate. School systems now (rightly) prioritize this sort of learning. While we as a society have become post-literate in that millenials consume much of their information through video rather than print mediums, literacy is still an important factor. What I mean is that those who are influencers in culture are high-functioning literate people, whereas those who lack influence are often post-literate in the sense that they do not read much. Influencers tend to know how the technology works and how to shape that technology. Those things require one to be literate in technology as a system, and in the mechanics (and even coding) of that technology.

Conclusions about the Digital Divide

The digital divide is only becoming more apparent. It seems that there are two possible ways forward with this reality, and only one really receives attention. The path that receives attention (in media and advertising) is that companies will utilize technology to lower the bar for digital literacy and thus further democratize knowledge and power. I don’t think this will happen. What I think will happen is that those who have power and understand technology will (whether it is purposeful or not) continue to specialize technology, and withhold access to the developer side of things. It is the developer side of things where the real chance to influence people and culture resides. For those on the other side of the digital divide, they will be left to consume the information they are given, and use the systems that have been made for them. They will lack the necessary skills to shape the technological path of the world. I really hope that this is not the case. I hope to be a part of those who seek to change it, and ask for help in doing this.

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