Overcoming the Digital Divide

Overcoming the Digital Divide

Al P. Mizell (Nova Southeastern University, USA) and Cecil Sugarman (Nova Southeastern University, USA)
Copyright: © 2009 |Pages: 7
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-198-8.ch232
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Abstract

We all know that technology has become a dominant force in today’s society for people of all ages. However, certain elements of society have less access to technology than others. In the literature, discussions and research on these discrepancies tend to focus on factors such as gender, sex, socioeconomic status, race, education, and employment. Occasionally, age is taken into consideration. In reviewing online articles related to the digital divide, it appears that there are many more articles, reports, and projects that focus on factors other than age. Few looked at the impact of the digital divide on senior citizens. One article, “The Internet and Older Adults” (U.S. Administration on Aging, 2004), reports that: Senior citizens comprise 13% of the U.S. population, but just 4% of the U.S. Internet population. Since their numbers are so small, there has not been much research about what these ‘wired seniors’ are doing online and how they feel about the Internet. It turns out that seniors who have Internet access benefit greatly from the resources available online—communicating with family, researching health information, tracking their investments—all from the comfort of their home or senior center. (paragraph 2) The term “digital divide” is often heard and freely used, but what is it? It has been defined by Carvin (2000) as: “…the gap between those people and communities with access to information technology and those without it. Yet, the fact is there are many divides, characterized by community, ethnic, economic, and age groups.” He goes on to add that “households earning incomes over $75,000 are over 20 times more likely to have home Internet access than those at the lowest income levels” (Carvin, 2000, paragraph 1).
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The Digital Divide

We all know that technology has become a dominant force in today’s society for people of all ages. However, certain elements of society have less access to technology than others. In the literature, discussions and research on these discrepancies tend to focus on factors such as gender, sex, socioeconomic status, race, education, and employment. Occasionally, age is taken into consideration. In reviewing online articles related to the digital divide, it appears that there are many more articles, reports, and projects that focus on factors other than age. Few looked at the impact of the digital divide on senior citizens. One article, “The Internet and Older Adults” (U.S. Administration on Aging, 2004), reports that:

Senior citizens comprise 13% of the U.S. population, but just 4% of the U.S. Internet population. Since their numbers are so small, there has not been much research about what these ‘wired seniors’ are doing online and how they feel about the Internet. It turns out that seniors who have Internet access benefit greatly from the resources available online—communicating with family, researching health information, tracking their investments—all from the comfort of their home or senior center. (paragraph 2)

The term “digital divide” is often heard and freely used, but what is it? It has been defined by Carvin (2000) as: “…the gap between those people and communities with access to information technology and those without it. Yet, the fact is there are many divides, characterized by community, ethnic, economic, and age groups.” He goes on to add that “households earning incomes over $75,000 are over 20 times more likely to have home Internet access than those at the lowest income levels” (Carvin, 2000, paragraph 1).

This gives us a double, negative impact on financially disadvantaged seniors; they are in the low income group so they are in the bottom of the digital divide, and they are also elder citizens who did not grow up with or use computers. This is a group that needs special attention if the gap is not to widen beyond repair.

Key Terms in this Chapter

E-Business: Electronic business or business activities integrated with business processes and usually carried out online—for example, over the Internet.

SeniorComp: The name given to the project designed to provide computers and training in their use for seniors with limited incomes (below $18.000 annually).

TeamChildren: A project in Pennsylvania to collect damaged or obsolete computers that have been donated by companies, schools, and individuals which are then repaired or refurbished to be redistributed to those who cannot afford to purchase a computer. Information may be found at http://www.volunteersolutions.org/volunteerway/org/299568.html.

Digital Divide: “…simply put…the gap between those people and communities with access to information technology and those without it.” (http://www.edu-cyberpg.com/Teachers/andycarvin1.html)

Software: “A portable medium that you can install on your machine. Software is transported by floppy disc, compact disc, and is downloadable from the Internet. Once installed, the program will run independently of the disc or CD.” (Computer term glossary; retrieved May 28, 2004, from http://allsands. com/Computers/computertermsg_shs_gn.htm)

Hardware: “A concrete piece of your computer that you can actually see. Hardware comes in many forms.” Common pieces of hardware are: CD and DVD drives, hard drives, keyboards, modems, monitors, and a mouse. (Computer term glossary; retrieved May 28, 2004, from http://allsands.com/Computers/computertermsg_shs_gn.htm)

SeniorNet: An international non-profit organization headquartered in California that has established senior learning centers for technology throughout the U.S. and in some foreign countries. A Web site is maintained with technology news for seniors, chat rooms, resources for the volunteer instructors, and so forth. Information may be found at http://www.seniornet.org

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