I grew up believing that geographical isolation was the major contributing factor to the digital divide in Australia. However I now appreciate that other factors equally influence how readily people access and use digital technology, and the consequences of that digital inequity. Locality, socioeconomic status and educational level influence each other and combine to impact an individual’s ability to access and effectively use digital technology (Willis & Tranter, 2006).
A recent television broadcast highlighted the difficulties for families in remote communities, and in particular for School of the Air students in receiving basic education, due to slow and unreliable internet connections. A parent commented “Not every day is brilliant, whether we’ve got the internet or not, but just that slight bit of disruption can actually throw us off schedule for days and weeks” (McClymont, J, 2015). As remote students are completely reliant on online delivery of lessons, coupled with the unreliability of digital services, families are left to seek alternative solutions to educate their children (Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 2015).
The socioeconomic status of a household can seriously impact on the availability of digital technology for children. A recent report revealed that 98% of households with an income of at least $120,000 had internet access, compared to only 57% of households with income below $40,000 (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2014).
For lower income earners, this unfortunately becomes a pattern where successive generations cannot access opportunities to fulfil their educational potential and raise their socioeconomic status (Willis & Tranter, 2006). This prompted me to consider my role as a future educator in assisting children break out of this mould. It is evident that today’s students are both required to and expect to obtain a level of digital fluency enabling them to learn both now and in the future.
The digital divide is narrowing as people rely less on desktop computers due to more affordable online options using handheld devices, which enables more people to access digital technology on demand (Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 2015).
Australian Broadcasting Corporation. (2015, August 12). Slow internet in regional Australia creating a ‘digital divide’ and harming education and business [Video File]. Retrieved from http://www.abc.net.au/lateline/content/2015/s4292363.htm
Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2014). 8146.0 – Household Use of Information Technology, Australia, 2012-13. Retrieved from http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/DE28AB7779067AACCA257C89000E3F98?opendocument
Prezi (n.d.). digital divide 2 [image]. Retrieved from https://prezi.com/t_phlmfk_-j0/doges/
usaus-h20.org (n.d.). alice springs school of the air [image]. Retrieved from http://www.usaus-h2o.org/schools/alice-springs-school-of-the-air/
Willis, S., & Tranter, B. (2006). Beyond the ‘digital divide’ Internet diffusion and inequality in Australia. Journal of sociology, 42(1), 43-59. Retrieved from http://jos.sagepub.com/content/42/1/43.abstract
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