I’ve been reading articles by John C. Dvorak since I started reading PC Magazine over two decades ago. He recently wrote an article for PCMag.com called The Absurdity of the Digital Divide, which I found to be really interesting and timely in my series on the digital divide.
His main idea is that this concept of the digital divide is something that is pretty much made up to sell more computers. He points out an apparent contradiction in where the World Economic Forum states “that the Bric nations … lag far behind the more advanced economies of northern Europe and North America due to the digital divide.” Then he points out that “these exact same countries are supposedly growing like wildfire.”
According to his article, more people just use their computer in the US for “time-wasting social [things]” like Twitter, e-mail, Facebook and Web surfing. So why do we want to bring that to these places that don’t have it. This is where I think that, while I agree that there is a lot of time-wasters in the digital realm, he misses the point.
Our goal in closing the digital divide is not to enable more people to share kitten pictures on the internet. Our goal is to bridge the divide so that students can gain access to a world of knowledge and information that was previously unavailable to them. They can use technology to learn more about the world around them through digital tools, they can communicate their ideas and be exposed to new ones. They can have the baseline skills, like communicating via e-mail, utilizing spreadsheet or presentation software that may open up new job opportunities that will provide an income for their family.
More and more I’m seeing that there is a tendency to focus on the tool, rather than focusing on achieving the outcome where the tool is used successfully. Arguments like this one, that the concept of the digital divide is absurd, arise when the tool (the computer) becomes the focus. The computer itself won’t guarantee success just like the lack of the computer does not mean you are doomed to failure. Strategic and smart utilization of the computer as a tool, with a focus on the outcome is what matters.