Exploring the Notion of ‘Technology as a Public Good’: Emerging Characteristics and Trends of the Digital Divide in East Asian Education

Exploring the Notion of ‘Technology as a Public Good’: Emerging Characteristics and Trends of the Digital Divide in East Asian Education

Sunnie Lee Watson (Ball State University, USA) and Thalia Mulvihill (Ball State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-793-0.ch003
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Abstract

This chapter aims to explore the historical, sociological, and economic factors that engender inequities related to digital technologies in the East Asian educational context. By employing critical social theory perspectives, the chapter discusses and argues for the notion of “Technology as a Public Good” by examining the Chinese, Japanese and Korean societies’ digital divide. This chapter examines how East Asian societies are exhibiting similar yet different problems in providing equitable access to information communication technologies to the less advantaged due to previously existing social structures, and discusses the urgency of addressing these issues. Based on the analysis of the digital divide in the East Asian context, this chapter also proposes and argues for the notion of “technology as a public good” in public and educational policies for information communication technologies. Finally, the chapter invites policymakers, researchers and educators to explore a more active policy approach regarding the digital divide solution, and provides specific future research recommendations for ICT policies and policy implementation in digital divide solutions.
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Worldwide Digital Divide

Digital Divide

The rapid distribution of the ICT (Information Communications Technology) across the population has led many to hypothesize about the potential effects of the new media on society at large. While many optimistic educators and information technologists have advocated for the potential promises of information technology to reduce inequalities in society, emphasizing the “leapfrogging” characteristic that will enable the disadvantaged to catch up (Negroponte, 1998), many others warn that the rapid and uneven spread of technology across the population will lead to increasing inequalities, advancing the situations of those who are already in privileged positions while disallowing opportunities for development to the underprivileged (Hargittai, 2003).

Over the past decade, researchers and policy makers have paid considerable attention to what parts of the population have access to ICT and what sort of effects these trends have on the society. Findings clearly state that ICT is not fulfilling its promise for positive impact; rather, it is leading to new divides and increasing inequalities in countries and communities (DiMaggio, Hargittai, Celeste & Shafer, 2004; Warschauer, 2002; 2004). Inequalities related to access and use of technology are now clearly a significant global public policy issue. In this chapter, we will explore the trends and characteristics of the digital divide in the East Asian context, which centers on the historical, sociological, and economic factors that engender inequities. South Korea, Japan and China are exhibiting similar yet different problems in providing equitable access to information communication technologies to the less advantaged due to previously existing social structures. Based on an analysis of the digital divide in the East Asian context, this chapter discusses the notion of “technology as a public good” in public policies for information communication technologies.

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