Digital Divide: Access vs. Appropriation
While some studies suggest that access to information technology facilitates the achievement of literacy skills and provides a networking to create a social space of community across cyberspace, other studies have cautioned that an addictive allure of computers and the Internet, tends to create anti-social behaviour leading to social isolation and overall disruption of family relationships. Studies in the U.S. have attempted to explore the sociological implications of using computers and the Internet by female adult learners from a low socio-economic status. This paper will analyze the outcome of an inner city information technology project that entailed providing access to a group of selected participants living in an inner city housing complex in Winnipeg, Canada. In facilitating access to new networking technologies, it was found that the efficacy of introducing new technologies was impacted by issues that were beyond access. Essentially, this crucial factor determined how the group of marginally illiterate, single mothers adopted computers and Internet technology towards improving the quality of their lives. Using informal interviews or Conversations, (based on phenomenological Situational Interpretation Approach) and administration of pre and post-attitudinal surveys to measure changes in attitudes over the duration of this study, along with regular log entries were maintained. A monitoring software package tracked use of various software applications by participants. Observations included duration and intent of Web browsing, email communication, and chat activities (interactions with cyberspace communities). The interviews provided feedback on the evolving nature of day-to-day vis-à-vis cyberspace social interactions experienced by the participants. The discussion will keep the initial finding of the study as a backdrop to further examine the role of information technology and the nature of digital divide. To examine the impact of information technology on low SES population, one must also consider issues of acquisition of appropriate knowledge. In essence, it will be argued that while the presence or absence of computers and/or the Internet may play a significant role in marginalized people’s lives, social and economic issues have much more impact on such individuals than those that are imposed upon by information technology.
Keywords: Digital Divide, Internet, Computer, Social Issues
Prof. John P. Anchan
Associate Professor, Department of Education, University of Winnipeg