Digital Divide

E. Mastromatteo
 Incorporated contributions
Mastromatteo (11/2009)
 Usage domain
Information society, globalisation, economy
Concept, problem
Fracture numérique
 German digitalen Kluft 

[Understandable but with some grammatical missteps]

The development of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and the exponential growth of information, two features of the knowledge-based society, are the pillars where the digital divide is based upon. ICT requires infrastructure and economic means to sustain itself as well as knowing how it works, the possibilities it offers and its appropriate use. This may bring about a two-sided digital divide: on the one hand, those who have the technological means and infrastructure and those who do not. On the other hand, we find those who know how to use them and those who do not. This gap is an aspect that emphasizes the social and economic contrast that encompasses countries, communities, social groups and individuals. One way to deal with this gap is through teaching and training people by means of lifelong learning. In this regard, the new literacies are: digital literacy, technology literacy, multi-literacies, and information literacy (INFOLIT). INFOLIT aims at training autonomous learners who will become capable of analyzing, selecting, assessing and using information to create new content or develop their work or leisure time. 

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) defines the concept of digital divide as having access to computers (ICT) and Internet and knowing how to use these technologies. However, OECD understands technology as a social process which calls for exploring a wider meaning of this concept. Within this framework, libraries are supposed to assume the responsibility of reducing the digital divide through ALFIN proposals. This is understood as considering technology means, information and information management experts. Nonetheless, development politics has given priority to digital or technology literacy without people having the required information literacy. Information literacy is a must since understanding and assessing information is a requirement to use technology tools appropriately and widespread to mediate information access and use. Knowledge is a powerful tool to fight against poverty. However, not all societies are ready to assume these changes and commitments. So it is necessary to make sure that knowledge economy does not aggravate inequalities between a productive sector and goods and services, where growth is based upon, and a periphery unable to produce them. 

It is possible to wonder whether the increase of information technologies generates new gaps locally or internationally, or whether they can improve the wellbeing of our societies. In this regard, UNESCO (2005) points out that the existence of the digital divide is undeniable. However, it says that there is a more troublesome problem: the digital divide separates developed countries from developing ones, especially those less privileged. This digital divide runs the risk of deepening while other gaps emerge or widen in different societies. It accumulates the effects of different gaps found in the main fields of knowledge, information access, education, scientific research and cultural and linguistic diversity. This represents the real challenge raised to build a knowledge society. This gap is based on the own inequality dynamics related to knowledge. These are worldwide inequalities which stem from the distribution of the potential cognition (among other knowledges), or the unequal appraisal of certain types of knowledges with regards to knowledge economy. This gap is apparent among countries form the North and South, but it is also evident within each society. Having access to pertinent and useful knowledge does not depend on infrastructure, but training people in developing cognitive competencies and proper regulations on access to content. Keeping people in touch by means of wire and optic fiber is not enough, unless this connection goes along with the creation of competencies and work addressed to produce appropriate content.

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Incorporated entries
Estela Mastromatteo (11/2009)
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