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BRIDGING THE GAP BETWEEN THE DIGITAL HAVES AND THE HAVE NOTS

Abstract

The objective of this write up is to revisit the exciting information revolution in the world that the digital divide is still, as real today, as it has been between the haves and the have nots, especially the developing economies, and there is a need to bridge the gap through improved ICT. Strategies are recommended for the developing countries to adapt to narrow the divide directing the younger generation to pick up the necessary computer skills as a computer savvy cohort. The digital divide is real and expanding in nanoseconds, thus, making it more difficult to catch up with the advanced countries, whereas, as members of the global village, developing countries have no alternative than to brace up in this digital race. While there are noticeable positive changes in the digital levels of the developing countries, it is noted that there is still much to do, and is advocated that the government needs to adopt a deliberate strategic digital policy on private-public partnership basis to train the younger generations to bridge the digital divide. Practically, everyone who is online should teach anyone who is offline to afford them the necessary access to Information because “digital divide” is not just Internet access, it is a divide that affects and reinforces fundamental economic and social divides between and within countries and naturally, further exacerbate these inequalities globally.
Bridging the Digital Divide Between the Digital Haves and the Have Nots
By Dr. James O. Daniel, FNLA, Ph.D, MALS, BLS
University Librarian, Baze University Abuja, Nigeria
Abstract:
The objective of this write up is to revisit the exciting information revolution in the world that
the digital divide is still, as real today, as it has been between the haves and the have nots,
especially the developing economies, and there is a need to bridge the gap through improved
ICT. Strategies are recommended for the developing countries to adapt to narrow the divide
directing the younger generation to pick up the necessary computer skills as computer savvy
cohort. The digital divide is real and expanding in nano seconds, thus, making it more
difficult to catch up with the advanced countries, whereas, as members of the global village,
developing countries have no alternative than to brace up in this digital race. While there are
noticeable positive changes in the digital levels of the developing countries, it is noted that
there is still much to do, and is advocated that the government needs to adopt a deliberate
strategic digital policy on private public partnership basis to train the younger generations
to bridge the digital divide. Practically, everyone who is online should teach anyone who is
offline to afford them the necessary access to Information because “digital divide” is not just
Internet access, it is a divide that affects and reinforces fundamental economic and social
divides between and within countries and naturally, further exacerbate these inequalities
globally.
Keywords: access, bridge, digital, divide, cloud, computer, communication,
global, industrial, information, Internet, library, literacy, offline, online, revolution,
technology.
Preamble
The Digital Revolution Historical Perspectives
Today, we stand at the threshold of civilisation which is technology driven with
new information technologies emerging at nano speed with a predictable
promise to transform further, the way we live, work, and communicate. It is an
amazing time when technology is changing every aspect of our lives at
breathtaking speed. In this new information technology revolution, we are
expected to learn at a pace unprecedented in human history. Such enormous
technology change calls for sweeping changes in infrastructure, and living
standards across all facets of our lives. In a Microsoft publication (2016), the
new technology was already being described as the fourth industrial revolution.
In the human history, this is not the first time breakthrough technologies have
been the catalyst of profound changes in how people live and work. Historically,
the world has seen three Industrial Revolutions so far.
The Industrial Revolutions
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The first Industrial Revolution was the invention of the steam power which
brought about industrial manufacturing and spanned a period of over 60 years
from the latter part of the 1700 through the early 1800s. The second, was the
advent of internal combustion engines, telegraphs and telephones in the 1800s
and early 1900s. The third Industrial Revolution was the advent of Digital
Information Processing and Communications Technologies in the latter half of
the 20th century. Again, just at the corner appears to be the dawn of the fourth
Industrial Revolution in terms of the advanced technologies of “Cloud
Computing.” According to Microsoft (2016), cloud computing technology now
enables an unprecedented collection, storage and analysis of data at a scale,
speed and depth hitherto unimaginable. The new technology has made it
possible to find correlations that were previously impossible to discern. With
Cloud Computing technologies, it is certain that the dawn of the fourth
Industrial Revolution is here.
Varying Effects of the Global Revolutions
Coincidentally, each of these revolutions incorporated dramatic technology
innovations, which created great disruptions as traditional industries were
superseded and old jobs gave way, creating new occupations and development
opportunities. These sweeping changes raised the living standards of millions of
people worldwide. Naturally, as it were, these global changes affected each
country differently, according to each country’s ICT level, hence the digital
divide.
Digital Divide: Global Distinctions
While the digital divide is universal, it has different coloration and
characteristics nationally and globally, according to the unique history, location,
population language and the GDP of a country. Out of the estimated world
population of 7.6 billion (2019), there are 4.4 billion Internet users. While
Africa has 39% of these users Nigeria ranks among the top 20 nations with
access to the Internet. This is still fairly low and needs a digital beeping up
because information is core to all developmental activities.
What is Internet Access
Internet access is the ability of individuals and organizations to connect to the
Internet using computer terminals, laptops, and other devices to access services
like email and the World Wide Web(www). Internet access is sold by Internet
service providers (ISP) delivering connectivity at a wide range of data transfer
rates via various networking technologies. Baze University provides a cost-free
wireless access to the students, staff and the University community. There is still
a wide gap between those with access and those, who have not globally in
varying levels by country and hemisphere. There are now more than 4 billion
people around the world accessing the Internet. Well over half of the world’s
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population is now online compared to the .04 percent of the world population in
1995 with access.
The Internet
The Internet referred to as ‘the portmanteau of interconnected network’ by
definition is the global system of interconnected computer networks that use the
Internet protocol suite (TCP/IP) to link numerous devices worldwide (Wiki
2019). It is the network of networks comprised of local, private, public,
academic, business, and government networks worldwide. The Internet has had
a transformative effect on modern business, and that effect continues to evolve
with the changes in the Information Technologies. (Daniel 2019)
Global Internet and Nigeria Access
The latest data (2019) showed that there are nearly additional one quarter of a
billion new users. While ICT has undergone tremendous expansions in Africa in
the last decade, because of the mobile phone revolution, and the exponential
growth of the Internet, the digital divide still persists across the continent and
needs to be addressed. To some large extend, Nigeria’s Internet access has been
stalled by incessant power outages, underdeveloped and unreliable fixed-line
infrastructure. However, this is changing as competition intensifies and new
technologies are delivering wireless broadband. To some extent, one can say
that Nigeria is literarily being wired with fibre optics Internet backbone cables
being buried along major highways by private investors to network the cities
across the country for better Internet access.
The Role of the Library in the Digital Divide
Historically, libraries have been known to be repositories of the cumulative
knowledge of the world and librarians as gatekeepers of the frontiers of
knowledge. The Library is a place of “Access” to Information to better
individual’s panorama. The oldest library in the world today, Al-Qarawiyyin, in
Morocco has been known to live to this dictum of opening its doors for ‘Access
to All’ since 859 AD. Following the invention of the printing press by Johanne
Guttenberg in the 15th century, when recorded information was scarce and
sacred, libraries have always been the rendezvous, and the level playing ground
for scholarship and intellectualism. In today’s, global village setting, the role of
libraries in the knowledge age has expanded beyond the manuscript collections
they preserved and disseminated. Libraries now provide the necessary access
and the digital skills needed to navigate the digital world, thus, bridging the gap
between Information haves and the have nots. It is recognised that information
is the core to all developmental activities and libraries have the key role in the
collection, storage, organisation and the dissemination of the universal
commonwealth of Information. Libraries need to get the adequate attention and
care, while doodling the strategies to bridge the digital divide.
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Who is Offline and Why?
Digital Divide applies to the gap that exists, in most Countries, between those with ready
access to the tools of ICT, and the knowledge that they provide access to, and
those without such access and skills. It is an illustration of how deeply ICT
affects individuals, communities and countries today, which is so apparent
between the Northern and Southern hemispheres globally. According to a report
on computer use by the U.S. Census Bureau (2019), access is still a problem,
even in the USA, where 23% of the population do not have access to the
Internet at home. Similarly, according to the World Literacy Foundation report
(2019) income was the largest determinant of whether or not someone has
access, while age was rated second as a source of digital divide. The same
factors are true of Africa, even though, literacy level of people may be equally a
major factor of being offline in the developing countries of the world.
Digital Divide Is More Than Access
However, the digital divide is more than an access problem. While income
determines more than any other factor whether someone has or lacks access, age
is the second largest factor. There is a noticeable skills gap that spans
generational, socio cultural economic, and demographic factors, especially, in
respect of the millennial tech savvy and the analogue older compatriots. As
technology gets more sophisticated, learning how to use it becomes more
challenging. We know that the gap exists among our students at all levels in
varying degrees even on the physical level of how to use a mouse and keyboard.
How do you interact with voice recognition or a touch screen? How do you turn
a computer on or off? How to open multiple windows and lots and lots of how
to perform xyz on your laptop, smart phone, car, etc., The more interesting gap
is “how does one figure out what I’m looking for?” The skills acquisition gap is
generational, and the worse hit are the older folks who have spent the greater
part of their lives without the the Computer; and did not grow up with the skills
needed to access and use the Internet. People who grew up with typewriters can
easily adjust to computer keyboards, but would find the mouse, the touch screen
and voice recognition totally unfamiliar.
Digital Divide and Information Literacy
Digital illiteracy in the developing countries is a major constrain preventing
them to optimize the potentialities of the human resources in Nigeria. Digital
literacy of a necessity, must be the focus of all institutions of learning, and
libraries across the board must be brought in to impart information literacy as a
means of empowering the user communities for information for life.
Incidentally, the Internet is growing at nano seconds, thereby, increasing the gap
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and widening the digital divide further, as the Information Technologies evolve
rapidly on daily basis. There is a dire need to deliberately identify and grow
groups of computer savvy generation to bridge the digital divide. We need to
build a country wide infrastructure for wider Internet connectivity for the
teaming youths to build-up digital capacities. Of course, the key to building
effective library collections in the digital era is the training of library
professionals, who after mastering the use of Information, can imbibe the
technology culture, and pass it to others, thereby bridging the digital divide.
The Baze University Library Complex
Most students and others will find the library the best alternative to using the
Internet at home, especially, if they do not possess smart phones or laptops to
use for, entertainment, or social media. The Baze University Library is equipped
with dedicated computers for public use at the e-Library corners of the library.
We also provide Internet cables to connect personal laptops to the campus wide
Wi-Fi. There are professional Librarians, who can help you, not only to
navigate your way through the computers to the flood gate of our resources, but
to find the best and most reliable information you may require for your research
or leisure. Users can log onto the Baze Library database from anywhere to
access our rich Library collections. It’s not necessary to be in the library to
access the Library resources. Baze University e-library setting is vital to this,
because in principle and practice, it is a public setting, with computers and
Internet access 24/7. It is available to every registered reader, and you are
invited to maximise the advantage for your study, research and leisure.
The Library at Large
The library is strategic to bridging the digital divide. The divide is real, and the
need to engage it is pressing. The Library is one of the few institutions with
national presence and digital infrastructure to take-on this large project because
its mission is to provide access to Information The idea of human rights,
particularly, as expressed in the (United Nations Universal Declaration of
Human Rights, (1948), requires all to recognise and acknowledge the humanity
of others and to respect their rights. To this end, Article 19 sets out rights of
freedom of opinion, expression and access to information for all human beings.
Today, the information in question, has virtually moved from print to
electronics, and the library must have clear ideas on how providing access to the
Internet compliments its mission of access to Information. While many people
may have access to, and use computers regularly at work, school, and home, the
greater majority of people in our society lack this access and are ‘offline’ for a
variety of reasons. Whenever this group of offline individuals need to apply
technology to manage their lives, they should approach the Library and the
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library is obligated to respond to them appropriately and effectively too, as an
integral bridge across the digital divide.
Conclusion
Being online in our society is becoming fashionable these days, and
compulsorily, so, for all students. It has also become part of our daily lives as a
country to toy with smart phones of all sorts for one thing or the other. Finding
the right combination of personal motivators is key to helping people learn,
more so, than individual intelligence or technical prowess. In order to bridge the
digital divide, therefore, everyone who is online should, teach someone who is
offline some computer basics. Incidentally, there are so many people who need
to learn some computer basics around you and in your neighbourhood. This is
what the digital divide is all about—some people lack the skills that other
people consider basic, starter, or remedial, and not having a peer group or an
educational system that can teach them. It’s also about people assumingoh,
everyone knows that.” and moving right on by. The digital divide isn’t only
about not having a computer, though that is part of it. The digital divide is not
really about not knowing how to use a computer, though many people in Nigeria
can’t. The digital divide is about not knowing anyone, who knows how to use a
computer well enough to teach you. It’s about not being part of a tech-literate
culture and not knowing a way out of that setting. All you need to do is to work
at it as a bonafide citizen of the global village, and it appears everyone needs to
work at it both young and old must keep their fingers moving on the key
board to bridge the digital gap.
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ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any references for this publication.