Scientific and technological advancements have brought about revolutionary changes in access to information and information sharing. The modern scientific and technological advancements have made access to information and information sharing quite easy and the very concept of classroom instruction has undergone drastic changes. The cultural and national barriers regarding information are reduced to the bare minimum as information systems have reduced the gap between civilizations, cultures and nations, and the students have been given the privilege to have a global view of the social; and cultural issues that surround them.
There is no doubt that students who make use of the immense possibilities of information systems would excel than those who don’t and it is sad to find many “left behind” in the teaching/learning process because of their limited access to computer technology at home. Therefore it is necessary that everyone is provided equal access to information. All disparities in the access to and use of information systems based on ethnicity, economic or social status need to be addressed properly. The essay attempts to find out the factors that affect the effectiveness of information systems with a special reference to the concept of “The Digital Divide”
The modern era is an age of information, and technology-enabled education has turned out to be its key feature. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration has undertaken some remarkable studies on the increasing use of broadband technologies in America and the studies pinpoint that there is a large amount of digital divide that prevails in the nation. The study found that “the Internet increasingly affects the daily lives of Americans and the U.S. economy” and that “one of the greatest changes in recent years has been the rapid uptake of broadband technologies” (A Nation Online: Entering the Broadband Age (2004).
The access to broadband Internet connections among U.S households has been “doubled from 9.1 percent in September 2001 to 19.9 percent in October 2003” (A Nation Online: Entering the Broadband Age (2004). The studies also pointed out the fact that people who had broadband connections at home are more likely to engage in extensive online activities and it also revealed that most people make use of the internet facilities for various types of information.
The internet has facilitated “an ever-growing range of activities and applications such as educating children; accessing information from across the globe; connecting with people, governments, and organizations; obtaining information about health care; conducting price comparisons; bidding on contracts; and widening entertainment choices” ( A Nation Online: Entering the Broadband Age (2004).
Due to this growing importance to information systems in the nation, it is necessary that all Americans are provided with equal access to broadband connections. Unfortunately, “not all geographic locations in the United States are using high-speed services to the same degree” ( A Nation Online: Entering the Broadband Age) due to factors like ethnicity, economic and geographic differences and this has become an area of concern as far as the teaching-learning process is concerned.
Glori Chaika (2005) observes that there is a large amount of “Digital Divide” between the haves and the have-nots in the state. She identifies that the “Black and Hispanic Americans lag even further behind white Americans in computer ownership and online access despite significant growth in computer ownership and overall computer usage in America” (Chaika).The Scarborough Report Corporation survey found that “majority of U.S. students do not have Internet access in their homes”
and that “the disparity between technological have and have-nots are especially evident between poor city and rural students and those in more affluent areas” (Chaika). This disparity in the access to information had quite adversely affected classroom instruction and many teachers observed that “students who do not have access not only excluded from much of the newest information but also falling behind in skills needed to be competitive in the job market of the future” ( Chaika)
Thomas B. Riley believes that the division between “information-haves” and “information-have-nots” stems from “demographic characteristics as age, gender, income, education, ethnicity, region, and locality” (Riley). Riley considers ethnic differences regarding Internet access and uses as a key factor. However, he believes that “digital divide is an economically created barrier” as he understands that “connecting to and using the Internet is expensive, especially for those with only a small proportion of discretionary income” (Riley).
A similar conclusion is drawn by Steele-Carlin when he says; “Whether the immediate factors are ethnic, geographic, or societal, however, the digital divide does appear to spring from a larger economic gap” (Steele-Carlin).
For his part, Riley believes that it is the ultimate duty of the national, provincial, state and local governments to understand “the breadth and depth of any cultural, racial, education, knowledge or literary divide that exists in any given jurisdiction” (Riley) and to ensure that all American citizens are given the opportunity to make use of the internet facilities irrespective of one’s ethnicity, geographic location or economic stability. For this, there should be comprehensive measures to provide “successful eGovernment and the delivery of e-services’ (Riley) to all students.
Steele-Carlin (2000) in his article “Caught in the Digital Divide. Education World” identifies that there is a lot of racial issues connected with the digital divide and remarks that the rural areas in the country are much more subjected to the digital divide. Taking the case of California, the author argues that racism affects the use of information systems as “only 39 percent of the state’s Hispanic people accessed the Internet compared to 65 percent of white people” (Steele-Carlin).
The Urban-rural developmental differences have also contributed to digital divide: the NTIA report observes that “people living in urban areas are 50 percent more likely to have Internet access than people who live in rural areas are” (Steele-Carlin). “Reconceptualizing the Digital Divide” is yet another remarkable article where Mark Warschauer postulates that the digital divide is not all about the physical access to computers.
For him, “digital divide is marked not only by physical access to computers and connectivity, but also by access to the additional resources that allow people to use technology well”. (Warschauer). Therefore, it is important that students as well as teachers are provided sufficient training to make use of information systems in their daily life. Teachers should be trained well to transact the lessons by effectively employing all the modern technological devices.
Thus, it can be rightly concluded that the greatest factor that affects the effectiveness of Information Systems is the digital divide because of which information is negated to many ethnic and economically backward learners.
For information systems to be effectively employed in the teaching-learning process, internet and computer facilities are to be made accessible for everyone. For this, the government needs to take adequate measures to make technologies affordable to every citizen. No sort of inequalities and discrimination is to be encouraged in the access to information as all the citizens in the nation have got equal rights to education and access to information systems.
A Nation Online: Entering the Broadband Age (2004). Web.
Chaika, Glori (2005). Debate Rages Over ‘Digital Divide’. Education World. Web.
Riley, Thomas B. (2004). The Digital Divide in the Developed World. eGov Monitor Weekly. Web.
Steele-Carlin, Sherril (2000). Caught in the Digital Divide. Education World. Web.
Warschauer, Mark (2002). Reconceptualizing the Digital Divide. Web.