With the outburst of Internet technology in the mid-nineties, the notion of digital divide came into existence. It can be classified into two categories: external divide and internal divide. External divide (inter-country) can be defined as a digital gap between developed and developing countries and internal divide (intra-country) can be defined as a digital gap between urban and rural areas. However, the initial concept of digital divide was narrowly focused on the gap between have and have-nots, for instance, those who have access to computers and internet services and those who do not have. In the beginning, mass diffusion of Internet in the developing countries has been promoted to reduce the internal and external digital gap. Unfortunately, accessibility to internet was rather misunderstood as economic and social change. Mark Warschauer (2004) in his book Technology and Social Inclusion illustrated that many information and communication technology (ICT) development projects failed due to narrow conceptualization of digital divide in developing countries vis-à-vis developed countries. Mark presented one example of an Indian project launched in
Therefore, the researchers have re-conceptualized the concept of digital divide in a broader term. Re-conceptualization of digital divide, besides technological gap, contains the intersection of socio-economic status, gender, age, language and geographic location. In addition, it refers to the cultural dimension, inadequate infrastructure, and shortage of manpower. Broader interpretation of digital divide also include cognitive issues such an attitude of community people towards technology and their daily usage patterns.There is a need to offer community oriented meaningful computer courses instead of delivering particular software programs. We need to involve the community organizations in designing the context based curriculum. Mere rendering the software training is not sustainable in the long run. Instead of making donor oriented or politics oriented IT policies, it should be more people oriented. There is a dearth of people oriented IT policies which really make a difference in people’s lives. Fast spreading policies such as providing computer training to mass population can be attractive for pulling funds; however, sustainable development comes from the slow and effective penetration of the technology. Indeed, we need to consider both the factors and find the middle way to use the technology for mass dissemination and penetration. For instance, rural teachers might learn how to create their own technology-based materials based on local conditions rather than only using commercial software developed for other contexts. A crafts cooperative might learn how to develop and manage its own web site rather than posting its announcements on somebody else’s. Nongovernmental organizations might learn to establish and run their own networks of telecenters rather than just attending cyber cafes. Therefore, to bridge the broader digital gap and to provide meaningful ICT access, consideration of social context, social purpose, and social organization are significant irrespective of developed or developing countries. Otherwise, how could be know the impact of ICT on society without any consideration of the social context in which computers are used. Although the cheap cost of computer devices can make it affordable to the poor people, social structures are crucial in determining who is able to access any technology and use it beneficially. In the context of
In conclusion, pessimist society has blamed ICT for bringing the digital gap; on the other hand, the same ICT can be an efficient and effective tool to bridging the broader external and internal digital gap. Indeed, providing laptop to each child is not the only solution, the participation requires more than just physical access to computers and connectivity. They should be able to access the requisite skills and knowledge, and contents should be based on local context and language, furthermore, requires community and social support to be able to use ICT for meaningful ends. As Mark Warschauer stated that the tasks are large, but so is the challenge: reducing marginalization, poverty, and inequality and enhancing economic and social inclusion for all.
This article has been published in the Nepalnews.com (29-01-10)