The ‘digital divide’ has a profound impact on the lives of all Australians and can determine the state of internet use across the nation. As such, the ‘digital divide’ can be described as the disparity between those who have access to devices (e.g computers) and the internet, and those who do not. Over the years, the internet has become an essential component of everyday life, even so far as to claim it as a basic human right (Council of France). However, it is evident that not all demographics within Australia can take advantage of this right. This is due to the fact that certain Indigenous communities are not even able to communicate with others, depending on where they live.
Mark Warschauer’s, ‘Technology and Social Inclusion: Rethinking the Digital Divide’ (2003) succinctly encapsulates this notion as he emphasises the need for social inclusion through an understanding of digital literacy. For instance, an “Information Age Town” was developed in Ireland in 1997 as a way of addressing the issue of the ‘digital divide’ (Warschauer 2003, p. 3). Attempts were made to bridge the gap between Ireland’s emerging business center of ICT production, and those communities that had limited use and knowledge of ICT. Subsequently, the unemployed were given computers and internet connections at home, and were instructed to sign in and receive electronic payments, rather than coming into the social welfare office each week. The problem with this meant that most, if not all of the unemployed could not work out how to use the equipment. They would avoid this method of online transaction if it meant they were missing out on something more ‘worthwhile’, such as a social event or personal leisure time (Warschauer 2003, p. 3). Consequently, many of the computers were sold on the black market and a large number of people returned to their old methods of signing into the social welfare office to collect their payment.
Through a deeper understanding of the ‘digital divide’, it is evident that greater effort needs to be made in order for an “Information Age Town” to be successful. To elaborate, the planning process is quintessential in this sense as “developing awareness, planning and implementing effective training, and setting up processes for sustainable change” (Warschauer 2003, p. 4) will create a more holistic shift forward. There needs to be a focus on becoming a more digitally literate society, as opposed to just purchasing equipment and devices. Therefore, this lack of knowledge is what fosters the ‘digital divide’ and explains why 1 in 5 Australians don’t have access to the internet. As such, more action needs to be taken to improve the state of digital inclusion in Australia and thus, overcome barriers in everyday living, education, employment and health (2016, tutorial, 18th August).
In essence, digital literacy articulates the “ability to use technology to navigate, evaluate and create information” (IT Futures 2014, 1:04). As a result, societies have been able to evolve and successfully operate under these circumstances, making it a requirement in virtually all walks of life. However, the ‘digital divide’ is an impediment on this ideal world, and elucidates the need for social and digital inclusion in order to work towards a more digitally literate society.
IT Futures 2009, What Is Digital Literacy?, video recording, YouTube, viewed 22nd August 2016, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ESSIcLO3Z_Q>
Warschauer, M. 2003, Technology and Social Inclusion: Rethinking the Digital Divide, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Massachusetts.