As mentioned in my first post, the levels of digital literacies have an impact on our consumption. So do our access levels. However, just having access, does not make us digitally literate. To the same effect, not having access, doesn’t mean you don’t possess the skills, it just means having no use for them. And this is where the “digital divide” is born. As it sounds, the digital divide is essentially the gap between those with access and those without. So what happens when someone who is not digitally literate and has not had access to the digital or online world before, suddenly becomes introduced to it? They are lost and have no idea what to do. They become susceptible to, and influenced by, everything online. So not only do we need better education about digital literacies, but also to identify and bridge the gap (where it is warranted) of the digital divide.
The baby boomers make a great example of a demographic that struggles with the online world. Friemel refers to this as the “grey divide”, a term coined by Morris and Brading (2016) during his study of internet in the elderly in Switzerland. It is common knowledge that, in general, seniors lack the competency to operate many of the newest forms of technology. While they may possess the other skills required to be digitally literate, if they cannot work a search engine or aren’t aware of viruses, the rest isn’t useful online. I would also just like to state, that I know this is not true of everyone in the baby boomer generation, but it is my experience of working in a printing shop that about 75% of people over sixty-five require constant attention and help with printing photos and documents.
Baby boomers are not the only group that live within the digital divide. Indigenous Australians are also among the higher population of those not online. Rennie et al. (2016) conduct research in their book “Internet on the Outstation: The Digital Divide and Remote Aboriginal Communities” specifically about the use of technology and the internet in rural communities. They were curious to see if particular areas that were subject to the digital divide was due to lack of access, or lack of interest. For the senior demographic, location and access are not primary factors for exclusion, whereas for Indigenous (some at least), it is.
Another key demographic hidden in the digital divide are refugee migrants. Alam (2015) details some of the struggles for refugees regarding access to the internet and a medium through which to use it. And again, it is not just a case of access, but also then training of users.
The digital divide is complex problem for Australian’s that does not receive enough attention, because those who are most affected by it, are the ones who are denied what we use a right – the right to consume and produce. They cannot assert their voice to the audience that we can, or the audience that they need to be heard. So it is our responsibility as digitally literate citizens to help in their stead.
Alam, K. & Imran, S. 2015, ‘The digital divide and social inclusion among refugee migrants: A case in regional Australia’, Information Technology & People, vol. 28, no. 2, pp. 344-65.
Friemel, T.N. 2016, ‘The digital divide has grown old: Determinants of a digital divide among seniors’, new media & society, vol. 18, no. 2, pp. 313-31.
Rennie, E., Hogan, E., Gregory, R., Crouch, A., Wright, A. & Thomas, J. 2016, ‘Introduction’, Internet on the Outstation: The Digital Divide and Remote Aboriginal Communities, Institute of Network Cultures, Amsterdam, pp. 13-27