Digital Divide in an iPad World
I am back in school after working for seven years. I feel a bit out-of-sync, to say the least. There are all of these people around me with Macbooks, iPads, and Kindles. It’s a world of paperless humanoids. Meanwhile, my back is killing me from carrying so many books, I have torn a hole in my backpack, and I can barely get my cell phone to work because it is roaming indoors. It’s just my little netbook and me in this brave new world.
What happened in the past seven years? Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, smartphones - to name a few. And then there is the internet. The INTERNET. Like Mordor in Lord of the Rings – this incomprehensible, terrifying vastness that was once the simple shire. Bit by bit, I find myself scouring it – piecing it together – finding all of those phenomenal sites with more information than I could ever imagine. It’s inspiring and mindboggling all at once. Fortunately, I am taking an amazing class on digital media to guide the way.
As I sit in class debating between iPads and Kindles, I can’t help but wonder – what about people who are not here right now. What about people who can hardly get an education, let alone one involving a laptop? Or, all of the people who cannot afford $60/month for internet, or subscription fees for smart phones and iPads.
Today, someone in class mentioned a recent Wall Street Journal article that talks about the new Digital Promise initiative launched by the U.S. Department of Education. Through this initiative, the U.S. hopes to digitize and transform classrooms into true techno-labs. Many countries have already begun to make this move. South Korea actually plans to phase out textbooks and replace them with digital products by 2015.
While this initiative has its heart in the right place, it is critical to ensure that it helps all people – not just the middle and upper class. We cannot leave the poorest communities even farther behind. At a certain point, the information highway has no more on-ramps.