Bridging the Digital Divide: Academia and Folk High Schools Working Together
2010 (English)Conference paper (Other academic)
Discussions about digital inclusion are often focused on a limited set of aspects of the digital divide. Accessibility for disabled or elderly people or the gap between the young “digital natives” and the older “digital immigrants” are often discussed. When the discussion is extended to developing countries, the gap between rich countries with computers in homes and schools and poor countries, often lacking Internet access and access to electricity is focused.
However, the high number of digital excluded, at least not in industrialized countries, can’t be explained only by factors like age, disabilities, poverty or poor infrastructure. In Sweden about two millions of a population of ten millions seldom or never use computers, in UK about ten millions out of sixty-two. But why bother, isn’t it everybody’s own choice if they want to use computers or not? We think that there are at least two reasons why the digital divide is a problem society has to deal with. The first reason is obvious, service from society is moved from physical offices and paper mail to the net. Also the private sector is digitized. Applying for a job, doing banking business, buying tickets for the train, all require a basic digital competence! The second reason is not as obvious, but maybe even more important, studies indicate that ICT and computers in schools doesn’t have measurable effect on the study results unless the kids (also) have computers in their homes and parents are using them in a productive way. Doing nothing about the digital divide might increase the differences between different socio-economical groups in society.
We think that not enough is done in this field, but one initiative in Sweden that has have received attention is “IT-ikapp” (IT-catch up). Kista folkhögskola, a Swedish folk high school working mainly with underprivileged citizens in Stockholm suburbs, trains tutors, often recruited from local immigrant organisations, who then train fellows in their organizations. IT-ikapp started in 2009 and has collected valuable experiences from practical work with digital inclusion.
Inspired by and based on experiences from cooperation with Kista folkhögskola and experiences from ICT4D projects in developing countries, the Department of Computer and Systems Sciences (DSV) at Stockholm University has, as one of the pioneers among academic institution, taken an initiative to develop an academic digital inclusion course. The target group is “digital includers”, teachers and tutors working with digital inclusion who want to broaden and deepen their knowledge in the field. The target group for the course also includes school leaders and policy makers at different levels.
DSV has taken a broad approach to the subject, including often neglected aspects of the digital divide like cultural and socio-economical differences in society. One question is how to approach groups with very low knowledge about the use of computers and the Internet. This might involve “mobilization“ of the neighbourhood, contacts with local organizations, involving in public debate and other activities. Another often neglected aspect is to analyze what really is essential competence for the digital citizen. Computer “driving licence” courses should be supplemented with information literacy, use of social software, ethical aspects etc.
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
ICWE GmbH, Berlin, Germany , 2010.
Digital Divide, Digital Inclusion
Digitala klyftan, Digital inkludering
Research subject Computer and Systems Sciences
IdentifiersURN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-51864ISBN: 978-3-941055-10-0OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-51864DiVA: diva2:386332