Digital Divide and Access to Technology for Underserved Communities

Education News | Apr-28-2024

Digital Divide and Access to Technology for Underserved Communities

Today's world is, undoubtedly, growing digital day by day. Possessing a gadget should no longer be considered a luxury, it's a necessity now. Technology makes a huge difference in education employment healthcare and social networks- we are talking about the fields in which it is difficult to imagine life without it almost everywhere. Nevertheless, while the evolving technological world with its numerous novel technological concepts is developing swiftly, the digital divide that deteriorates disadvantaged global communities exists.

The digital divide is the difference between what people who have ICTs, the information and communication technologies, and what people who do not have them, those who do not have them, have. The lack of tablets and smartphones is only the tip of the iceberg. The problem is far wider, as it includes low digital literacy, poor connectivity, and unaffordability. On the unfavorable side of this dilemma, rural areas, lower-income neighborhoods, and marginalized populations often find themselves in inequality to do with access to and the use of technology.

Barriers to Access

Affordability has been recognized as one of the key blockades to technology access, as it creates economic disparities. Being in a lower-income community is oftentimes a combination of not having money to buy devices like computers or smartphones and the internet connection that comes along with those devices isn’t stable enough. Furthermore, even if those machines were affordable, the cost of keeping them and a subscription to an internet connection could be a major financial factor that many families cannot afford.

Another factor that further aggravates the digital gap is the place of location of the particular person or organization. These are especially lacking in incidence in the countryside where the necessary internet connectivity may not be there, even at a very high speed. Lack of connectivity affects not only grantee an individual comfortable utilizing internet assets but also businesses, educational institutions, and healthcare facilities located in the same area.

Also, digital literacy skills play an important role in bringing inequality to a great level. Although tech has made the user interface very simple, in an outdated community, a huge percentage could not perform the tasks as they lack the needed skills in navigating internet platforms, utilizing productivity tools, and distinguishing genuine information. Innovations in the educational sector, on the other hand, are promising in terms of insight into the learning process and all its possibilities. However, without the right training and support, it may be challenging for educators to fully exploit the capabilities of technology that would otherwise provide many personal and professional development opportunities.

Impact on Education

Of all the impacts that the digital gap can cause, perhaps the most severe is on education. In addition to the growing role of e-learning platforms, online textbooks, and online sources of educational information, digital literacy has become a valuable tool to prepare kids for getting trained in the knowledge economy. Nevertheless, the students in marginalized communities who do not have the required materials neither devices nor internet connectivity, may not carry out the suggested remote learning activities. This disparity in access does call into question the fairness of the educational system. It means that the economically disadvantaged younger population will be in a very tough position compared to richer peers, which only widens the existing achievement gaps and then these will turn into a cycle of poverty and inequality.

Healthcare Disparities

Access to technology and healthcare too is an equally vital element that has influenced quality healthcare services and the availability of vital health data. Telemedicine, for instance, is an innovative approach in the field of healthcare, which has proved not only convenient but also very effective in managing the treatment processes remotely. Nevertheless, there is the question of people who do not have wifi or a smartphone, this group cannot take advantage of the «online services» and prevent them from receiving on-time medical assistance, especially in remote areas where medical centers are distant or they are not available at all.

Addressing the Divide

One of the most important steps towards eliminating digital disparity and creating a platform where all can access technology is through an effort of different actors like governments, businesses, NGOs, and communities.

Infrastructure Investment:
Oversight is of necessity of national budgets to allocate money for the creation of a wide spectrum of internet facilities via a distributed local network in remote and urban areas having no access to high-speed internet services.

Subsidized Programs:
Programs that seek to offer grants for low-cost or free internet and electronic devices for financially disadvantaged families can diminish costs that hinder access.

Digital Literacy Programs:
Schools and relevant organizations should make formal training programs as well as provide the required basic tools to teach navigating the internet, safety online, and computer basics among the young ones.

Public-Private Partnerships:
Government-business-non-profit organization's cooperation can become a force that will give birth to technologies to fight against the digital divide for instance mobile WiFi hotspots, community-based technology centers, and device recycling programs.

Policy Reform:
Policymakers need to pass laws that accelerate digital inclusion for all and they must take on the digital divide as one of the issues of social and economic justice.

To sum up, technology is accessible is not just a matter of convenience, but as well as a fundamental right, and thereby, people and communities can thrive in today’s digital world. With a focus on the barriers mitigation and funding to those initiatives promoting digital inclusiveness, we can make the gap disappear and therefore everyone without exception has an opportunity to use technology transformative abilities.

By : Gulshan
Sanskar science academy

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