Dissecting the Digital Divide
Author of this article : Mark Warschauer - Department of Education, University of California, Irvine, USA
Article published in : The Information Society, 19 - Copyright Taylor and Francis INC
ISSN 0197 - 2243
Date : August 2002
Summary : this article critiques theoretically the digital divide concept and supports this critique by examining a case study of technology and education in Egypt. The digital divide implies a bipolar division between the “haves” and the “have-nots” or the connected and the disconnected. According to the author, the notion of a binary divide is inaccurate. Comparing a professor at UCLA with a high speed Internet II and a rural activist in Indonesia who has no computer or phone line but who downloads information in nongovernmental organisation (NGO) has no sense. The stratification that does exist regarding access to online information has very little to do with the Internet per se, but has everything to do with political, economic, institutional, cultural and linguistic contexts that shape the meaning of the Internet in people’s lives. Thus the author considers that the inequality that does exist is social not digital. The study illustrates the social embedded ness of technology and the intertwining of computer access with broader issues of political power, thus refuting simplistic notions of divides to be overcome through provision of equipment. As the case study presented here suggests, an overemphasis on the mere presence of computers or Internet connections, without a corresponding emphasis on social mobilization and transformation, can squander resources while leaving inequity intact.