Sunday, 29 November 2015

Digital Divide

Researchers and advocacy groups look optimistically at the (economic and social) potential of the active and technology–skilled elderly; other approaches dealing with the social appropriation of technology see obstacles and stress the dangers of an increasing digital divide between generations. Factors like gender, education and socio–economic status still play an important role for acceptance and diffusion of a technology. The diffusion rate among the elderly is increasing, but will continue to lag behind the figures of the young users. While more and more seniors become technologically literate, the digital divide grows even wider?  The answer lies in how we define "technological literacy". We often define the digital divide between age groups by measuring "computer literacy."  Measuring "computer literacy/illiteracy" to define the digital dividing line is a short-sighted view of how we should define the digital divide, or at least how we measure it.  People can also be trained.  Like young students with special learning needs, be it physical, behavioural, emotional, verbal, etc. we must gear our education to this group by customizing the learning environment to suit their special needs.  This involves not just accessibility alternatives to the standard mouse, keyboard, display, etc. The "technologically handicapped" cannot take part in many of these technology based services. These include services like: online shopping, home access to medical information and medical assistance, security and health monitoring, access to public libraries and databases, communications with family and friends, on line banking, online learning, remote technical assistance, access to daily news and events, entertainment, maps/directions, etc. Computer and internet literacy will become increasingly important as more services are offered through this medium. Older people often have accessibility problems dealing with today's "normal" computers. Because of special health needs such as mobility, eyesight, hearing, dexterity, etc. some seniors with special needs simply cannot take advantage of many technology-based services that have become part of our lives, like the ATM machine. Often, the factor preventing seniors from being more technologically literate, is less mental as many would believe and more physical.  In addition, psychological factors, such as lack of self confidence or fear of humiliation, etc. contribute to seniors staying on the "wrong" side of the digital divide. Technology is drastically altering the way we go about our lives. The digital division regarding age is not reserved to senior citizens.  Many pre-seniors, who have not grown up with computers in their workplace or in their homes, are intimidated and lack self-confidence to learn basic technology skills. They, like their older counterparts are missing many of the same benefits. They, like their older counterparts, have their own "killer application" that will grab their interest and motivation long enough to help them cross the digital divide. Social media outlets are creating a digital divide based on age that may continue for decades to come.

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