Week 4: Leapfrogging the Digital Divide

The digital divide highlights both the dichotomy between those who have and those who do not in the Western world and also what separates emerging countries from the US as far as access, not just to technology but all sorts of things we take for granted.  Until about a week ago, I did not realize people had more cell phones than toilets.Matt Damon Is On Strike Against The Toilet.  Although that information was very surprising and disheartening, I chose to focus this week’s research on “Leapfrogging” the digital divide using mobile technology.

“Leapfrogging” is the idea that the gap between the haves and have nots can be leaped over by using the latest technology, and one of the fastest growing technologies is mobile.  There are so many articles out there on the digital divide and mobile technology.  One of the best videos I thought was Jan Chipchase: The anthropology of mobile phones– although the talk is a few years old, Chipchase shows not only how mobile phones can be used for talking but that mobile technology can provide banking and atms which I thought was pretty awesome.  Also, more phones in emerging markets mean that people rely on them more, so the phones need to work, so when they break, people need them fixed, and repairing mobile phones had turned into a business.

The digital divide in the United States mobile technologies are helping those who may not have had previous access to the internet In U.S., Smartphones Are Helping Minorities Leapfrog Over the Digital Divide

The people in rural areas of the U.S. like my grandfather may not be able access broadband internet, but using their mobile phones, they can access the internet.  Although providing access to the internet can help bridge the digital divide, people also need to know how to use what they can access, so while that divide is being leapfrogged over, information literacy needs to be taught as well, so once people have the technology, they know how to use it smartly (I would not want my grandfather to do his mobile banking using the Krystal in town’s wifi).

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3 Responses to Week 4: Leapfrogging the Digital Divide

  1. Okay Taylor – I was ready to pounce until I saw the last sentence of your blog. I am so glad that you pointed out that the cell phone, in and of itself, only allows access to content without what you described as “information literacy”. I am so tired of my own rather affluent AP students who think they are masters of the internet world but cannot differentiate between Google and Google Scholar AND are utterly unwilling to use public or academic databases for research purposes.

  2. APA says:

    “Although providing access to the internet can help bridge the digital divide, people also need to know how to use what they can access, so while that divide is being leapfrogged over, information literacy needs to be taught as well, so once people have the technology, they know how to use it smartly.”
    Taylor, this is the key I think to bridging the digital divide. Not only do we need to provide access to broadband and technology we need to provide the digital literacy so that obtain access can utilize the technology in a smart secure way.
    Education needs to extend to the software available with technology and the security features that are available. Often times people set themselves with online interactions not knowing what risk they are taking.

  3. Taylor, I am also in agreement about your statement about using technology smartly. One of my first thoughts when i started reading your post was about the elderly generation – every time I turn around, my grandmother (who is in her mid-60s and lives with me) has managed to download another malicious tool bar inadvertently. I’m not sure that she is equipped at all with the knowledge to manipulate a smart phone in the way it’s meant to be used, even with her rudimentary computer abilities. For me, I am continually thinking about the fact that access is not equal to ability. While providing access may solve digital divide problems on the surface, it does not apply to nitty-gritty details, like understanding what to use the access for.

    I am really interested in the concept of leap-frogging, which is not something I was familiar with before reading your post. I think that the idea definitely has merit, especially with the younger generation. I am continually baffled by how quickly children adapt to new technologies and learn to use the proficiently just by intuition.

    Thanks!

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