Assessing The Impact Of The Digital Divide On Student Achievement

What is the Digital Divide?

The “Digital Divide” describes the gap between those with access to digital technology, like the internet, and those without.

A digital divide exists as evidence to uneven access and use of digital technology among different groups of people. While some individuals and communities have easy access to the latest Apple Mac gadgets, there are people who do not own any computing device at all — there are people who have high-speed internet on their home computer, some who use the free community Wi-Fi and many who are somewhere in between.

Meanwhile, others are left behind completely for various reasons. This includes factors such as financial resources, literacy levels, location, age, race, or gender.

How does the Digital Divide affect schools and libraries?

The digital divide in education impacts most schools since students and educators alike can’t access digital technologies. For example, students may not have access to e-libraries, and teachers may not be able to use online resources to enhance their lessons.

Libraries may also struggle to provide required digital resources, making information less accessible for those who need it. Ultimately, this contributes to unequal development levels amongst peers.

What continent struggles the most with Digital Divide?

In every continent of the world, people are still ‘offline.’ The digital divide is one of the most pressing issues we face as a global village’ because it affects up to 70% of the world’s population.

It is a global issue, but some countries have virtually digitized their systems, while others are struggling to bridge the gap.

One of the countries with the most difficulty bridging the digital divide is India. India is home to over 1.4 billion people, with roughly 6% of the population living in poverty. Poverty has led to a high population of people being unable to access digital resources. This further increases the global divide as a digital.

Another country that struggles with digital divide is Nigeria. Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa, with a population of 208.8 million recorded in January 2021. With 52.3% of Nigeria’s population being urban dwellers, internet penetration in Nigeria was 50.0% in January 2021. This partial distribution of access to the internet has a negative impact on education, healthcare, and economic development.

The uneven socio-economic standing in the population creates a digital gap, where those who have access to resources can use the internet to their advantage, while those who do not have access are at a disadvantage. It is important to consider that during the pandemic, online learning was adopted by more than 55 million American students. Additionally, one in five teens (ages 13-17) reported not completing school work due to unreliable internet access.

Ways to help close the Digital Divide

The digital divide is an issue that needs to be addressed to make sure that everyone has the same access to the same resources and opportunities. There are many ways to help close the it, including:

1. Big Tech Partnerships

Governments can leverage partnerships with big tech firms and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in the fight to close the digital divide. Governments should encourage tech companies and ISPs to subsidize broadband connections or offer locals favorable deals on the internet access infrastructure they own.

2. Government Regulations

Government legislators can advocate making the economic investment for general-access internet in under served communities. For example, in the US, the Federal Communications Commission E-Rate program provides funds to schools with the goal of meeting these three connectivity standards:

  • Fiber connections to every school.
  • Wi-Fi in every classroom.
  • 1 Mbps download speed per student.

3. Non-profit Organizations

Many people believe that internet access should be a basic human right; passionate advocates for this cause work through non-profit organizations to provide digital literacy and internet access to students who cannot afford it. Supporting these organizations is a sure way to bridge the digital divide.

Being unable to access the internet pushes access to many essential services out of reach, including education. In real world terms, the digital divide looks like a brilliant 18 year old from a less developed neighborhood whose high school never taught any form of computer literacy and who now lacks the confidence in moving on to higher education.

This is why it is important to recognize countries experiencing the worst of the digital ‘disconnect’, and provide support and resources to those countries to help them bridge the divide. By doing this, we can ensure that everyone is given the same chances to succeed in the digital age.

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