Skills to Crest the Digital Divide

What Are These Digital Skills?

As society grows older and more generations are born to call this planet home, life becomes more complicated. Educational common knowledge that the average person needs to know is forever to become more complicated as time continues. That common knowledge began with the ability to read and write. Then math became a necessary tool. “There was a time you could argue that computer skills were a luxury. It used to be only engineers needed to have computer skills. But today, computer skills are important for everybody.”( Harrow, Shopsin, Taylor 1). As computers and technology slowly intertwined itself with life and education, word processing and web page creation also became vital tools. This “common knowledge” or each unique person’s tool belt of abilities technologically that used to only hold mathematical calculations, reading and writing now consists of that and an entire set of digital skills. Getting everyone up to speed all with a basic set of digital skills is what digital divide awareness is striving for.


Why It’s Important

Entering a new era of time always presents itself with a new set of problems for the world’s population to decipher. These issues often come from progression and innovation of our people. Learning and applying new ideas to advance our gadgets to be as sophisticated as possible is the way of the world. But with our decision to complicate the world around us, other complications arise, unwanted. With the digital divide, those complications are related to the general skill set of the world population with computer knowledge and Information and Communication Technologies (ICT).

A huge problem that resides on our planet is helping everyone to comprehend the skills needed to crest the digital divide, and executing a proper plan to do enlighten everyone and move past this problem that has stemmed into a complex equation. Competition between countries is not apparent until careers come into play after education. In the article “The Digital Divide: What Schools in Low Socioeconomic Areas Must Teach”, Diane Thomas describes potential danger for our country in relations with the digital divide: “Of key importance is the fact that technology allows anyone with the proper training and education to complete a huge amount of corporate work. If workers in America cannot do the work, the work will go to other places” (Thomas, 13).

Who is this Divide Victimizing?

In India, the most populous country in Asia, the digital divide seems to keep growing. In the article “India's Digital Divide: an ever-widening chasm” by Ranjit Devraj, he focuses India’s digital divide on mostly one area, wireless Internet connection and telephones. The majority of people living in India must walk literally days to get to the nearest telephone. Wireless Internet connections correlate “While Bangalore, one of India’s most populous cities secured the number four spot in forty-six cities across the world in relation to technological innovation. 1.3 million wireless Internet connection out of 1.4 million are located close to the Bangalore capital”(Devraj 2). That is ninety-three percent of all wireless access in India located all in one city. This still victimizes 99.5% of the population, with 0.5% of India’s population living in Bangalore (World Bank World Development Indicators).

The solution for Bangalore brought up in this article was called “Jhunjhunwala's WiLL technology” which make up new WiLL Kiosks
to be set up across India, containing, a simputer (simple computer with access to sound files and email), a printer, a telephone, and a power source (Devraj 2-3). There is this great idea with a low product cost that has potential to help bridge the digital divide gap, but no one there to help teach the skills necessary to use these WiLL Kiosks, and no one to help teach the reason for learning this new technology that has never been introduced into the lives of these people.
Who Are The Instructors For This New Age?

Okay, so cresting the digital divide has ended up turning into multiple different problems on it’s own. One of which: who will be the teachers and leaders to implement technology into education effectively? In the article “Bridging The Learning Divide”, the author Anita Brooks Kirkland maps out the causes for the drag of the digital divide and solutions to fix the problem. “The digital divide of 2009 is no longer about access to computers and networks. It’s about the disconnect between the way students interact with technology in their own lives, and the far more restricted use that they experience at school”(Kirkland 236). Children are still experiencing the same technology in schools as what was going on years ago. “Teachers are twice as likely to implement word processing over any other computer related tool that could be used in later life”(Kirkland 236). Anita Brooks Kirkland feels that it is the job of teachers and librarians to adapt the school system to bridge the learning divide, but who teaches them?

In the article “Q & A, The new Digital Divide” by David T. Gordon, he believes they teach themselves: “In the next five years, there’s got to be a concentrated effort, as there was in creating the E-rate program, to help teachers get the training and support they need day to day. Teachers need access to regular workshops, online workshops, and discussion groups about technology”(Gordon 1). No time is available to learn new methods while there is a fulltime workload lined up for those careers already.

Kirkland’s solution to do this is to implement ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) access into projects for children so they can start to understand online database technologies. She also brings up a solid argument that “education is slow to change because it has been the same way for such a long time, administrators and employees are unsure how to digitalize their career techniques ad strategies”(Kirkland 236). Articles presented to students in schools always refract technology in a bad light when clashing with education. When graduating from high school and moving on to a university, technology becomes a key part in a students’ success. If technology curriculum stays outdated while the rest advance, an even greater divide will be evident and slow down the advancement of this cause.

What Schools Could be Teaching to Bridge the Divide

A university in South Africa has taken the first step in making everyone aware of the digital divide. The University of Pretoria has a class centralized around bridging the digital divide and moving from ICT (information and communication infrastructures) access to knowledge sharing. An article titled: “Addressing the digital divide in teaching information retrieval. A theoretical view on taking students from ICT access to knowledge sharing” by Ina Fouria and Theo Bothma, both professors of the university. Their initial view on the digital divide: “According to our interpretation the digital divide concerns much more than access to technology infrastructures and information seeking skills. To truly bridge the digital divide, we need to increase the spectrum of skills we address”(Fouria, Bothma 2).
Perhaps classes in educational curriculum can begin to instill information about the digital divide at an earlier time in a student’s educational history. The idea that “Apart from the workplace or daily life the effective use of information resources and information are therefore also growing in importance in academic life. All of these can be influenced by the digital divide”(Fouria, Bothma 3). Academic life is the central place where the poverty cycle sequences. With poor education leading to a lower class job in a less wealthy area, starting the cycle over with the next generation born into poor education, yet again.

Stressing importance in technology and that when it is used as a tool to help further education is not a lesson heard all the time being stressed in schools close to home. “For this reason, the University of Pretoria has introduced a compulsory first year course in computer and information literacy to be taken by all first year students.”(Fouria, Bothma 4). But depending on the location a student lived in for their entire life, they might not have had the ability to access technology to learn, which creates a digital divide in it’s own. “At university level it has been found that even if students are offered access to ICT and the opportunity to build computer and information literacy skills, there stills seems to be a divide when putting these skills to use.”(Fouria, Bothma 4). Universities are central locations that are guaranteed access to technology, whereas lower education such as high schools and middle schools do not always have access.

So how could implementing college courses on the digital divide bridge the digital divide gap just a bit closer? This article refers to a 2nd dimension. “The emphasis in the second dimension is on advanced skills, and supporting individuals to not only generate and communicate new knowledge as individuals, but to also be able to make it possible for others to bridge the digital divide in such a way that the larger society will ultimately benefit”(Fouria, Bothma 14). Getting majority of people up to par on their technological skills and implementing required technology into everyday life will result in community wide teachings from person to person on how to do simple tasks that will enhance their skills that will help to end the digital divide.

Closer to home in the Mississippi Delta, Dianne Thomas has constructed an article entitled “The Digital Divide: What Schools in Low Socioeconomic Areas Must Teach” that relates economic class with skill knowledge of computers of children in elementary school. The two different classes were determined by whether the school was given cheaper or free lunches. The students who did receive lunch deals were considered “Tier-I”. Various surveys and tests were conducted to determine unsurprising results: “Of the 11 categories (see Table 8), non- Title 1 students believed they could do the activity without help at a higher rate than their Title I peers.”(Thomas, 13). Table 8 is above. There are sizeable differences between the Tier I and non-Tier students in the abilities survey. Implementing technology into the curriculum to teach students hands on has been proven to be success.


In an article written by Kay Gregory and Joyce Steelman titled “Cresting The Digital Divide” a study was executed in elementary schools comparing Technologically based curriculum versus non technologically based curriculum and the results: “included improved communication skills…students who completed digital stories had significantly higher final course grades in Literature-Based Research than those who did not”(Gregory, Steelman 881-882). Helping children to become more interested in school will begin to connect the bridge of the digital divide.

Rural areas are especially prone to being left behind in the Digital Divide. In an article written by Alvaro Salinas and Jaime Sanchez titled “Digital inclusion in Chile: Internet in rural schools” mainly focuses on rural schools in Chile and the most effective way for teachers and school faculty to help overcome the digital divide. In Chile, Salinas and Sanchez found that: “76% of the students were accustomed to using the Internet and 71% were accustomed to using a computer at school”(Salinas, Sanchez 577). This relays facts that to conquer the digital divide in Chile, teaching children lessons to add to their tool belt of digital skills.

Skills of Access to Digital Literacies

Digital literacies are a new group of technology that is becoming a necessity in educational studies. The standard definition is “State and national education standards in the United States define digital literacies with phrases such as using computers, critically reading webpages, and understanding how to view digital images”(O’Brien, Scharber 66). A much more simplistic definition of these new technologies would be: electronic educational databases of information for the use of learning/research. Examples consist of wiki pages, blogs, and library databases, almost anything that contains educational information that has been released on the Internet. But access to literacies via Internet is only possible with a computer, and the knowledge of using one.

In the article “Addressing the Global Digital Divide and its Impact on Educational Opportunity” written by Drew Tiene, he provides information about programs establishing tele-centres: “Hundreds of community ‘tele-centres’ have been established around the world by a variety of different organizations… Programs include development of literacy, training in numeracy skills, disease prevention practices, agricultural improvement, and other types of non-formal educational experiences”(Tiene 1). Classes and tutorials on how to become computer savvy set up in tele-centres for less complicated access.

When children go to school, they are engaged in the classroom by a rather old school style of teaching and informational learning. Books, multiple choice assessment, and essays are all older tools that are still being used to teach the younger generation. It is like teaching a newer class with an outdated book. When children are not in school, they are engaging in more advanced technology than textbooks and word processing software applications. Mobile devices, computers, and video game consoles all play a big part in the growing up of a child. It is imperative to get the technology in education and the technology outside of education synced up and on the same page. If not, then students will continue to lose interest in the curriculum and eventually in education all together.


Back hundreds of years ago when humanity marveled at what the future would bring: those visions of cities towering through the clouds with flying cars, jetpacks, and robots. That immense technological landscape the mind envisions when the word “future” is brought up. Classrooms with floating desks and teachers depicted as holograms. These fantasies could become reality eventually, but the world must take its time to get there. Our society has grown so fast with technology in the past twenty years that we have left others behind. Moving together as a world without leaving anything behind in the jump towards the fantasies. This may not seem related with the progression to futurism, but it’s just the first bridge to span over the vast digital divide, just the beginning.


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Gregory, Kay, and Joyce Steelman. "Cresting the Digital Divide." Community College Journal of Research & Practice 32.11 (2008): 880-882. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 3 Dec. 2010.

"World Development Indicators | Data." Data | The World Bank. The World Bank, Sept. 2010. Web. 03 Dec. 2010. <>.

*Please note that table 8 is also cited from this article.

-Taylor Lynch