Tuesday, May 11th, 2010 | ICT in Africa
A huge gap exists between those sections of the population that have access to digital resources, such as computers, the internet, and other technologies, and those that do not. This gap is called the digital divide.
The digital divide includes the imbalance in physical access to ICTs, as well as the imbalance in connectivity, and the skills needed to participate effectively as a digital citizen.
The digital divide is often linked to other divides, such as the gender gap, racial inequalities, urban-rural divide, the gulf between rich and the poor, and developed versus developing world.
In Africa the digital divide is quite severe, and it often goes hand in hand with the other divides along gender, racial, location and poverty lines.
The opposite of the digital divide is digital inclusion. A person who is digitally included has crossed the divide and is now benefiting from digital resources.
Teachers can play a critical role in moving towards digital inclusion. Once teachers have crossed the digital divide, they will be able to lead learners over the bridge. But teachers must hurry up – learners are overtaking them. Many learners have cell phones in their pockets. They mainly use these devices to share information – text messages and images – with their friends.
A cell phone used to send and retrieve digital information is a digital device. Learners using such devices are digitally connected – they have achieved inclusion and are no longer on the wrong side of the digital divide.
Sadly, some teachers have not yet made the jump – they are still left behind, while the learners are included in the digital world. This means that learners are let loose on their own in a bewildering world of information. At times the information sources are incorrect and misleading; some websites contain objectionable material. Learners need guidance, but how can they be guided if their guides have been left behind?
So there is your first reason for concerning yourself with ICTs and e-learning: you have to cross the digital divide in order for you to provide guidance to your learners.