Digital Divide

Emerge of new information technologies provide new ways of living for young population. Most of all, new developments in information technology are directed to the high-income rather than low-income population (James, 2003). Hence, new issues about digital inequality of racial, ethnic and socioeconomic conditions arise and, accordingly, solutions to smooth the divide, or bridge it, cause both ramifications and benefits.

A purchase of the personal computer or a laptop can solve a problem of racial, ethnic and socioeconomic problems. In fact, this conclusion is a result of inappropriate definition of digital divide, according to which is concerned with the perceived breach between those who are able to access to the latest information technologies and communications and those who are not (Compaine, 2001). The urgent problem is more complex, since having a mean of access is not a guarantee of obtaining success. Taking it into account, nowadays digital divide is focused on separation of the society into social groups, which are able and skilled to use and access the Information Technology (IT) effectively (haves) and benefit from using it, and the individuals unable to access due to the lack of access and/or critical skills (non-haves). (Jackson, 2012).

In providing solution to digital inequality, that is known as bridging digital divide, different groups of society bring their contribution. Firstly, teachers provide non-haves with specific knowledge and skills, and, since the problem of intellectual access is resolved, the aspect of physical access to information technologies can be settled through the use of public libraries and computer classes in schools or colleges.

Secondly, the role of students in eliminating digital inequality refers to their responsibility for using means of information technologies. Their goal is to teach themselves to search for quality information and sift out useless data, which provide the main drawback of bridging the digital divide – excess of information that is inaccurate and unreliable. The latter type of information exposes students and young people to injurious content (e.g., pornography) and experiences (e.g., bullying) (Jackson, 2012).

Besides direct influence of digital inequality, there are also indirect effects on specific issues, regarding attempts to resolve the problem. As a rule, digital divide problem solution is evaluated by a student-to-computer ratio as well as time spent for academic purposes using information technology devices. According to the second index, new drawback of bridging the digital inequality arises, because time which is spent online is taken away from the relatives, friends, and other healthy aspects, namely reading books, doing school assignments, sports exercises and recreational activities. Moreover, uncomfortable workplace along with long time spent in front of laptop or desktop leads to diseases, including visual impairment and obesity.

Although implementing of new technologies in bridging digital divide provides a range of negative aspects, there are benefits of using new information technologies. Telecommuting is an alternative solution for the business, since it provides both employer and employee with time, cost and comfort benefits. Moreover, electronic commerce (e-commerce) is an advantage of bringing new information technology into action. Since retailers include substantial share to price due to the rent payments, the use of electronic commerce, which does not require the availability of physical trade place (e.g., shop, department store), allows individuals to get access to the cheaper goods, and, consequently, provides an opportunity for “non-haves” to become “haves”.

To conclude, changes in technologies provide complex issues as digital divide does. “This inequality still exists” (Huang & Russel, 2006), affects specific spheres of life and education, and its essence changes (from the ability to have access to the internet to the ability to search for reliable data). The real solution to digital divide depends on common students and teachers, their ability to provide effective use of technologies. The key aspect in reaching digital equality lies not in the number of computers or cables connected, but rather in how to prepare and support students and teachers, design proper curriculum, and respond to the rapid changes of the world.