The ugly truth about technology is the digital divide. The digital divide in the United States can be a debate such as the have & have not’s, lack of access to technology due to geography or lack of access to the Internet to name a few. For the sake of argument in this post my reference of digital divide is the gap between those who have access to technology (e.g., computers, tablets) and those that do not have access to technology. I will discuss my intake on the importance of a needs assessment of the digital divide.
Personal experience with the digital divide
As a child growing up in Chicago, my father scored a used computer from his job that had limited capabilities. The only thing me and my sister could do was play the computer game programmed and watch a 1996 encyclopedia CD that my father had bought.
Our digital divide wasn’t due to access or geography but instead lack of training. It wasn’t until my dad moved us to the Southwest suburbs of Chicago, IL in the fourth grade that I had the proper computer training.
Moving to the suburbs where schools were funded at a higher level than Chicago Public Schools provided access to better quality technology and instruction on the technology. That is why before stating that the digital divide is purely based on economics there needs to be a needs assessment.
The needs assessment of digital divide
A needs assessment to determine what is the digital divide can help determine if the divide is based on skills, geography, economic opportunity or some other reason. Once the divide has been clarified through needs assessment an implementation can be introduced for lessening the digital divide gap.
If there is an economic divide, then the focus could be on obtaining technology grants or increasing the budget for technology in the classroom. With budget cuts and lack of state support grants may be the solution for many. When applying for a technology grant think about sustaining the funding for the long term because technology breaks, gets lost, or needs repair. Grant money does good for access to the technology but remember that technology needs to be maintained.
If the divide is based on lack of home access, find programs that internet providers have for families that qualify for low-cost internet. Cox Communications has a plan for qualified households to get low-cost internet in their home. I would even go as far as providing computer skill classes to parents which is a win for both the parents and schools. The parents learn how to use technology which can help them get better jobs, and the schools get a parent who can help their child with their homework.
If the divide is geography than tools such as KA Lite, which is the offline version of Khan Academy, or apps that don’t need WiFi can be a solution. The amount of tools that can be used offline is limited but they are out in the market.
The digital divide won’t be solved overnight nor will it all be corrected with money. Starting with the need assessment is one way to assess the issue and move on to the next step which is finding an adequate solution to digital divide.
My sister and I didn’t face an economic divide instead we didn’t have proper access to training at our school, and my parents didn’t know any better.
How will you assess the digital divide?
Dr. J Real Talk
Discussing business, ed tech, and life. Follow me on social media @DrJRealTalk