Bridging the Age-based Digital Divide

Bridging the Age-based Digital Divide

Amy Antonio, David Tuffley
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 15
DOI: 10.4018/IJDLDC.2015070101
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An increasing reliance on digital technology in one's everyday life necessitates the development of digital literacy skills to enable one's continued participation in the Internet information-age. As existing services, such as banking and shopping, move increasingly online, the likelihood of excluding certain demographic groups, such as the elderly and those living in rural areas, increases exponentially. The following article outlines the results of a pilot study that explored the perceived digital literacy skills of a group of adults in a rural community. It will be shown that despite relatively low confidence levels reported by the participants, they were nevertheless keen to learn how to use digital technologies. Based on participant feedback, the study concludes that there is a need to develop pedagogical strategies to teach digital literacy skills to older adults, particularly those living in rural and remote areas.
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There has been much said in the press and academia about the so-called ‘digital divide’; the divide between those who have access to technology, computers and the Internet and those who do not. A digital divide exists between industrialised and developing nations but there is also a dichotomy within individual societies, with older demographics invariably being disadvantaged by the digital divide (Jimmoyiannis & Gravani, 2010). The situation is likely to worsen as the proportion of elderly in a society becomes larger. It is estimated that by 2020, 20% of the population in the US will be 65 years and over while 24% of people in Hong Kong will be over 65 by 2025 (Bartlett & Phillips, 1995). Social commentators have been quick to point out that the information society is also an ageing society (Bernard & Phillips, 2000). According to Selwyn, Gonrad, Furlong and Madden (2003, p. 562), the ageing of technology users has led to the “discursive portrayal of ‘silver surfers’, a popular but nebulous description of the burgeoning group of confident and competent older ICT users.” Given that computer and Internet usage are negatively correlated with age, the utopian vision of ‘silver surfers’ may be an over-statement.

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