Effects of the new technology also follow social class lines. The higher one goes up the social ladder, the more this technology is benefit. The new technology assists the upper middle class, for their education prepares them to take a leading role in managing the global system for using the new technology to progress in their chosen occupations. This new technology opens and closes opportunities for people largely by virtue of where they are located on the social class ladder. For people 500 years ago, the new technology was the printing press. For people today, the new technology consists of computers and various forms of the electronic media. In Bill Gates’ 1995 book, The Road Ahead, he, a Microsoft cofounder and Chairman, states:
Technological progress will force all of society to confront tough new problems, only some of which we can foresee…. Societies are going to be asked to make hard choices in such area as universal availability, investment in education, regulation, and balance between individual privacy and community security (Gates 1995, 252).
Digital divide refers to the technology gap between the poor and the middle and upper classes. The so-called “haves” and “have-nots” also have a race-ethnic constituent. Because a larger proportion of minorities are poor, compared with whites, a smaller percentage of African-Americans, Latinos, and Native-Americans have access to computers and the Internet. If the people who live in poverty have less access to computers and the Internet, their disadvantage in the new technology will grow. If computers were only for playing cyber games, this would not be an issue. But the Internet has become a major source of information.
Almost every grade school in the United States introduces its student to the computer. Children learn how to type on it, as well as how to use mathematics and science software. Successful educational programs use a game like format that makes students forget they are studying. Classrooms are wired to the Internet. Schools that can afford the latest in computer technology are able to better prepare their students for the future. That advantage, of course goes to students of private schools and to the richest public school districts, thus helping to perpetuate the social inequalities that arise from the chance of birth.
Computer will also transform the college atmosphere. Each office and dormitory room and off-campus residence will be connected by fiber-optic cable. Professor will be able to transmit entire books directly from their office to a student’s room or back the other way. A lack of home access to computers clearly impacts educational outcomes despite the aforementioned reparative efforts. Students who lack home access to computers cannot reasonably be expected to respond to assignments requiring technological applications in a manner equal to that of their peers who do enjoy this access. Teachers who fail to recognize this widen the digital divide in their individual classrooms everyday.
Further, people are now using the Internet to work from home or start their own business, find lower prices for goods and services, make better-informed decisions about their health cares, or acquire new skills using distance learning. The Internet is like a gigantic library that spans the globe. As a practical example, researchers can now do most of their research on the Internet instead of making frequent trips to libraries. They have not only instant access to the latest government reports, but also instant e-mail connections with people around the world who can help them track down bits of data (Elman 2001, 596). As society today is now depending on computer more, it becomes a concern that many people do not have access computers.
The Internet puts the world at everyone’s fingertips. Most of the resources available in libraries are also available on line. The advantages of searching the World Wide Web for supporting materials are apparent to anyone who has tried. One will find thousands of databases, personal Web pages, publications, research and visuals online. Fortunately, there are a number of online search services that provide indexes and access to all this specialized information. General directories such as the Library of Congress (www.lcweb.loc.gov) and popular search engine directories such as Yahoo! (www.yahoo.com) often provide directories of selected sites related to specific topics.
Most people are familiar with one or more search engines such as Alta Vista, Excite, Lycos, HotBot, InfoSeek, WebCrawler, and Yahoo! These Web catalogs help people find what they need by matching key words to Web sites that include those terms. For example, Yahoo!, one of the most popular search engines, can be used in two ways: type in a term or click on one of many indexed topics that have proved popular. Of course, unless people carefully select their key terms, they can end up with thousand of sites that have little to do with their topic.
Despite the enormous benefits of electronic research, there are significant disadvantages. The first problem is that the sources on the Internet do not cover all possible kinds of information. If people want the latest news or very current information, using the Internet may be their best bet. But if they are looking for commentary on a classic novel, specialized research reports on an academic topic, or a reliable explanation of a political issue or historical movement, Internet sources may not be comprehensive or objective enough to meet their research needs.
A second disadvantage to using the Internet for research is that it can be difficult to test the validity of the information one finds. Some trustworthy Web sites include those of major newspapers and magazines, professional associations, government agencies, libraries, legitimate media outlets, and well-known experts. Unfortunately, there are also highly biased source. Because no one can possibly screen everything on the Internet for accuracy, it can be difficult to separate reliable from unreliable sources.
The digital divide is a multi-faceted problem. Access to computers and the Internet alone will not narrow the economic, education, and social divide between those who will benefit from new technologies and those who will not. People need adequate training to effectively use the latest information and communication tolls. Basic literacy, language differences, and lack to technical skill all contribute to the inability of some to participate in the Information Age. People must be able to research and analyze information, evaluate sources and apply information on the job and in their everyday lives. Internet and software content must be socially and culturally diverse, and relevant to specific needs.
While digital technologies bring new opportunities for many, they can bring further isolation for those without access. Technology literary will be the chief factor in the success of people and communities in the global information economy. New technology allows people separated by geographic distances to link and share their experience, ideas, and resources to solve community problems. To remain strong, communities need high-speed Internet connections and workers with technology skills. Further, workers, communities, and the state as a whole could miss out on economic opportunities if online access is not widely available.
Using the Internet to access information is a skill, much of it learned by trial and error. If people in poverty have less access to computers and the Internet, their skills in this vital area will be weak-and this will affect their future economic well-being. That disadvantage will be one more obstacle to keep them from progressing economically. No one wants middle- and upper-class people to renounce this skill-the issue is how to level the laying field by enabling the poor people to increase their skills. The report that is prepared by the United States Department of Commerce in 2000, confirmed that the gap between technology “haves” and “have-nots” increased drastically between 1994 and 1997. The likelihood is that African-Americans and Native-Americans had less home computer access than whites did. This gap was even larger for people who live below poverty (U.S. Department of Commerce 2000).
In a study done by Thomas Novak and Donna Hoffman, between 1994 and 1998, the number of black households that owns a personal computer was 41 percent less than that of white households. There are only 36 percent of African-Americans and 44 percent of Latinos have access to the Internet compared to 50 percent of Whites. Further, statistic also shows that the majority of information on the Internet is written for an audience that reads at an average or advanced literacy level.
Yet 22 percent out of 44 million American adults who do not have reading and writing skills necessary for their functioning of everyday life. As a result, the higher a person is educated, the more likely he or she is connected to the Internet. Between 1997 and 1998, this new technology divide into those at the highest and lowest education levels increased to 25 percent. In 1998, people with a college degree are more than eight times likely to have a computer at home and approximately 16 times as likely to have home Internet access as those with an elementary school education. Hence, people with a college degree are more likely to have a computer and Internet at home (Novak and Hoffman 1998).
Researches have also proven that technology is related to social class. Income is one of the most important factors in home computer ownership and Internet access. In order to have access to the Internet one must have the resource to own a computer and pay for the Internet connection. Although the cost is comparatively inexpensive in the United States, it is still a burden that is not necessarily a necessity for those who do not make much money. Below is the chart and graph that is taken from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, Falling Through the Net website:
Americans at every income level are connecting to the Internet at home at a higher rates, but particularly in the middle-income levels. There are about eight percent of families earning $10,000 annually have a computer, and within this group only three percent have Internet access. Households with incomes under $15,000 increased their ownership of computer by 79 percent, from 7.1 percent in December 1998 to 12.7 percent in August 2000.
In the $15,000 to $24,999 income bracket, Internet access increased by 93 percent between 1999 and 2000. Internet access among households earning $35,000 to $49,000 rose from 29.0 percent in December 1998 to 46.1 percent in August 2000. Americans with incomes of $75,000 and higher are 20 times more likely to have access to the Internet than households at the lowest levels and nine times more likely to have a computer at home. As the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, Falling Through the Net: Toward Digital Inclusion, asserts:
Because income and education are so highly correlated with whether households have Internet access, the question arise as to whether those factors might fully explain the observed gaps between the national average and the rates for Blacks and Hispanics. Those two groups as a whole have lower incomes and lover education levels than the national average.
The multi-faceted digital divide has a ripple effect on the disadvantage who are already struggling the economic, ethnic, and language barriers. They encounter further inequity because they lack technology access and skill. According o the U.S. Department of Commerce, “Minorities, low-income persons, the less educated, and children of single-parent households, particularly when they reside in rural areas or central cities, are among the groups that lack access to information resource.” There are telecommunication infrastructure disparities between urban and rural areas. In addition, there are inequities between inner city and suburban residents and buildings. Older inner city and rural school buildings are more difficult and costly to wire than newer suburban schools, which were wired for the 21st century when they were built. Having technology readily available at home, in schools and in the community is taken for granted in many areas. Teachers often assign homework with the expectation that students have equal access to computers and the Internet outside the classroom.
Almost every grade school in the United States introduces its student to the computer. Children learn how to type on it, as well as how to use mathematics and science software. Successful educational programs use a game like format that makes students forget they are studying. Classrooms are wired to the Internet. Schools that can afford the latest in computer technology are able to better prepare their students for the future. That advantage, of course goes to students of private schools and to the richest public school districts, thus helping to perpetuate the social inequalities that arise from the chance of birth. Computer will also transform the college of the future.
Each office and dormitory room and off-campus residence will be connected by fiber-optic cable. Professor will be able to transmit entire books directly from their office to a student’s room or back the other way. A lack of home access to computers clearly impacts educational outcomes despite the aforementioned reparative efforts. Students who lack home access to computers cannot reasonably be expected to respond to assignments requiring technological applications in a manner equal to that of their peers who do enjoy this access. Teachers who fail to recognize this widen the digital divide in their individual classrooms everyday.
Employers are struggling to find enough high-skilled workers. Employers have redefined entry-level skills to include the ability to use a wide variety of technology tools and applications efficiency. Large companies have the resources to buy skilled workers from the outside by paying top wages, or to build-provide current employees with training-from within to meet their needs. However, most information technology jobs exist in small to mid-sized businesses that do not have the resources or the time to develop their workers. They must depend on community-wide workforce development programs and educational initiatives to meet their needs.
Like digital divide, access to computers and the Internet has multiple meanings. It can mean computers, at home, in schools or at community center. It can also mean the ability to connect to the Internet, which is available in a variety of methods at various costs. With Internet connections, money buys speed. A secondary divide has formed. It separates those with access to basic dial up service and those with access to a new generation of high-speed Internet options. Basic telephone dial up modem service provides relatively inexpensive access, but at a slow speed, which limits use of many applications. Internet access with broadband, which includes digital subscriber lines, modems used on high-capacity coaxial TV cables and Integrated Services Digital Network, provides high-speeds at higher costs. Satellite and wireless technologies also provide Internet access. Some people are going online using their wireless mini laptops, portable digital assistants and other special high-tech devices.
In addition, educational attainment remains an important influence on computer ownership and Internet access. Access is expanding across every education level, mainly for those with some college education. Households headed by someone with some college experience showed the greatest increase in Internet diffusion of all education levels, rising from 30.2 percent in December 1998 to 49.0 percent in August 2000. Better-educated people are also more likely to use a computer and the Internet through work and educational experiences. In August 2000, the relationship between education and Internet access for households headed by someone with some post-college education is 69.9 percent, a college degree alone is 64 percent, some college experience is 49.0 percent, a high school diploma is 29.9 percent, and education less than a high school diploma is 11.7 percent.
In addition to education factor, another factor that correlates with computer and Internet access is household structure. Households with traditional family settings have much higher rates of Internet access than any other family type. The least likely to be connected to the web are households with single or unmarried people, 28.1 percent. Male-headed households with children under age 18 are more likely to be connected, 35.5 percent, than female-headed households, 30.0 percent. Internet access is the highest for two-parent households, 60.6 percent, nearly twice that of single-parent households. Hence, it is clear that two parent families are more likely to have the resource to purchase Internet access than a single parent family. Below is the graph and the chart that reinforces of the discussion above and is taken from taken from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, Falling Through the Net, website:
Disability is also a factor that takes into consideration. People with a disability are more likely to be left behind. People with a disability are only half as likely to have access to the Internet at homes as those without a disability. 21.6 percent compared to 42.1 percent. Just fewer than 25 percent of people without a disability have never used a personal computer; close to 60 percent of people with a disability have never used a personal computer. People with impaired vision and problems with manual dexterity use the computer less than those with hearing difficulties. Technology offers enormous potential for this group of individuals, but they have the lowest use rates.
Geographic also plays an important part in this account. As stated in the study of Stephen G. Kastsinas and Patricia Moeck, The Digital Divide and Rural Community Colleges: Problems and Prospects:
Those living in rural areas at the lowest income levels are among the least connect. Rural households earning less than $5,000 per year have the lowest telephone penetration rates (74.4%), followed by central cities (75.2%) and urban areas (76.8%). In 1994, by contrast central city poor were the least connected. Rural households earning between $5,000-$10,000 have the lowest PC-ownership rates (7.9%) and on-line access rates (2.3%), followed by urban area (10.5%, 4.4%) and central cities (11%, 4.6%) (Kastsinas and Moeck 2002, 214).
Rural areas are less likely to be connected than urban area. People who live in rural area are lagging behind in Internet access. At some income level, those in urban areas are more likely to have Internet access than those earning the same income in rural areas. Low-income households in rural areas are the least connected to the Internet.
Although the Internet has proven to be an excellence source of information for it is both easily accessible and immediate, however, this advancement in technology has increased the gap between the “haves” and the “have-nots.” Gaps remaining between different racial ethnic groups, marital status, the old and he young, the educated and less-educated, and people with different levels of income.
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