Reflection on the New Digital Inequities

Unfortunately, in some regards, digital inequities are here to stay.  There will always be those with and those without access to technology and the training to use it to it’s fullest extent.  Thankfully, due to the falling costs associated with technology throughout the digital revolution, students find more access to computers and the Internet in schools.  Adults can also access free computers at local libraries and even some businesses.  Unfortunately, users that are limited to free resources, outside the home, are extremely unlikely to have proficient computer & web skills to navigate the digital landscapes of today.

It’s extremely hard to believe, after having computers and broadband for so long, that there are still areas of the country where it is not possible to plug in to a high speed connection.  There seems to be an almost epidemic issue for some parts of rural America where internet service providers have refused to roll out service to outlying areas.  This is highlighted in Five Days on the Digital Dirt Road (TheInternetforEveryone.com) which identifies 5 areas in rural North Carolina that are in the digital stone age, relegated to dial-up Internet access from home.  Aside from the general inconvenience of dial-up speeds, this immediately puts students at a disadvantage as more and more school work, projects, and interaction with other students outside of class takes place online.  While miles melt away thanks to the Internet super highway, if you’re stuck in the slow lane you can’t take advantage of many of the communication and collaboration tools that most of us take for granted.

The Internet is not a passing phase that people can avoid.  Every day new tools become available that integrate directly into the lives of the public.  To not have access to this information and these tools absolutely puts people at an extreme disadvantage both socially and economically.  How this can not be a high priority to roll out affordable broadband nationwide is beyond me.  Even the public sector acknowledges the need for high speed Internet access. Google, earlier this year, took nominations from city officials and citizens regarding where they should deploy a high speed fiber network operating at 1 gigabit per second (roughly 100 times faster than average high speed service).

At the end of the day, access to information is critical to our success in education and in business.  I see this every day with professionals who can’t find information online or think email is a fad that they can avoid.  This is not the case.  There is no better means to quickly and efficiently collect information from around the world than on the Internet.  To ensure that we remain relevant and competitive in the global economy the public needs to be comfortable and confident in the digital age.  Year after year we rely more and more on cloud based computing to ensure information availability at any time from any place.  As Education Technologists it is our obligation to ensure that those that we come in contact with professionally are able to meet those challenges head on.

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