Digital divide: facts and figuresThe International Telecommunication Union is funded by the UN, and is considered one of the best sources for Internet and communication technology adoption statistics. I mined their 2017 report for some details to guide our thinking on the digital divide with regard to education.
- It should not come as a surprise that the proportion of young people (ages 15-24) using the Internet (71%) is significantly higher than the proportion of the total population using the Internet (48%).
- Zeroing in on the developed world this ratio jumps to a whopping 94.3% of young people using the Internet compared to 81% of the general population.
- The US is one of the very few countries where females have a higher Internet penetration than males. The Americas in total show a 2.6% gender gap in favor of females with regard to Internet usage, compared with a global average of a 12% gap in favor of males.
- Interestingly the study also found that similar gender bias ratios can be found in the uptake of tertiary education across the countries studied.
- Unless you’ve been living on the moon for the last decade you will also know that mobile is booming: the statistics bare this out with a 20% year-on-year increase in the uptake of mobile broadband (data) subscriptions. While developed countries are stagnating as the market gets saturated, developing countries continue to leapfrog the use of fixed line broadband in favor of mobile broadband with 23 in 100 people in LDCs (Least Developed Countries) having mobile broadband compared to 1 in 100 who access the Internet through fixed line broadband.
Income vs. Access: The Digital Divide in the US
- Between 2010 and 2015, across every segment of American society, fixed broadband at home has decreased, with the most dramatic decrease among African Americans.
- As a corollary, African Americans have had the highest increase in the use of mobile technology as their only source of Internet access.
- The Pew Center's research went on to reveal that the sector with the highest dependence on mobile technology for Internet access is among poor households (less than $20 000 h/hold income p/year) at 21%.
Digital Divide 2.0As of 2008, 100% of U.S. public schools had one or more instructional computers with an Internet connection, and 58% had carts with laptops. This means that in theory all students have access to the Internet via their school. The discussions of the digital divide are therefore becoming nuanced in the following ways:
- Disparities between how students use technology at school, and how they use technology outside of school i.e. social and mobile usage.
- The quality and speed of broadband access, in addition to the provision of WiFi at schools is further delineating what is meant by “access”.
- Schools with a higher socioeconomic status can afford to appoint full-time IT support and training for teachers that schools with low socioeconomic status cannot, creating granular differences in the quality of tech-enabled learning opportunities.
- BYOD programs tend to favor students that can afford better devices, and in turn can take better images, process projects faster, have more memory and in general perform tasks better.
- Find out more about the particular nuances of your state’s digital divide with the Children’s Partnership very useful Fact Sheets.