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Opinions of Sunday, 14 March 2010

Columnist: Acheampong, Stephen

Tips for ICT Students

What is “Digital Divide”? How does “Digital Divide” affect the Development of your Country?

According to United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the term “digital divide” is used to describe the fact that the world can be divided into people who do and people who don’t have access to – and the capability to use – modern information technology, such as the telephone, television, or the internet. There is a digital divide between city dwellers and rural dwellers, between educated and uneducated, between economic classes, and between the developed and less developed countries. The emergence of ICT has created yet another development challenge in the world particularly in the international organizations like the UN and its affiliated bodies.

Determinants of Digital Divide or Factors Used to Measure Digital divide. A number of factors or yardsticks have been used to measure digital divide and these include;

? Telephones and computers per household.

? Internet connections per household.

? Telephones and computers per household.

? Computer per student or existence of computer lab.

? Internet connection per student and etc.

The international ICT Literacy Panel believes that these factors are just a part of the digital divide issue. Literacy and effective performance, that is to say, the ability of the people to successfully integrate technology into work and life situations are equally important. In view of this, governments, policy makers and educationists need to understand the root cause to gap in order to map up strategies to prepare people who can function in the digital society of the 21st Century.

What are the Causes of Digital Divide?

1. Having Limited Access to Information Technology – The introduction of computers, internet and communication technologies have influenced our work, life, government, education and culture. Therefore individuals and societies that are unable to learn the technology due to various reasons like poverty, culture may not function in the digital world.

2. Having Just Technical Proficiency – The International Literacy Panel agreed that, having “technology alone, without corresponding cognitive skills and general literacy will not decrease the gaps defined by a digital divide”. Technical proficiency must be integrated with cognitive proficiency.

3. Not Acquiring ICT literacy - ICT knowledge and applications need to be a life long process. Individuals, companies and societies need to promote learning, skills and technology acquisition without ceasing in order to function in the emerging digital global society. Individual and societies that do not work towards these requirements will be adversely affected by digital divide.

4. Not having the “Know How” – Countries that do not have the capacity to create technology but just being users or consumers will be at the adverse side of digital divide.

5. Not Having E-Government/Leadership – Leaders and governments who do not integrate ICT into development plans or business plans or develop the necessary ICT infrastructure may be going back to the Stone Age.

6. Ignoring E- Development – individuals, companies and countries that are not yet prepared to resort to e-development may not function in the ICT world. E- Development means aligning development plans with ICT which includes; sharing knowledge and resources through networking, integrating knowledge and action, human capital development, empowerment, transparency, timely access to information and decentralization.

7. Failing to do honest business or following good business practices -Individuals, companies and countries in developing societies need to consider doing honest business in order to survive in the emerging digital society or else they will still face the problem of digital divide. Everyone wants to do business with trustworthy and dependable partners but not “419” partners. What are the Possible Effects of digital Divide?

1. Widening the Gap between the Rich and the Poor or widening the Poverty Profile – Various factors including industrialization, urbanization, and education, brought about income inequalities between industrialized and less industrialized, urban and rural and educated and uneducated. ICT seems to be an emerging factor likely to cause income inequalities. ICT literates have more opportunities to create wealth than ICT illiterates.

2. ICT seems to be a threat to the unprepared both the individual and the nation.

3. Digital divide may spark off socio-economic vices including theft, wars, and terrorism particularly on the part of the disadvantaged.

How Can World Leaders Help Solve the Digital divide Problem?

1. Developing countries need to formulate and implement their own ICT- enabled strategies. They need to start developing their own software industries. This will enable the people to integrate their culture, core competencies, and local skills into ICT. Local production systems, methods, languages, entertainment and games all need to be blended in ICT. Societies that fail to integrate their culture into ICT may lose their identity in the digital world.

2. The World Bank is figuring out ways to help make Development work. It has therefore proposed a Comprehensive Development Framework (CDF) as follows; ? The need to promote a holistic long-term vision of development.

? The need for domestic ownership of development programs.

? The need to have stronger partnership between government, private sector, civil society and the donors.

3. The Need to Promote E- Development – Nagy Hanna explained that, E-development is about harnessing the full potential of ICT for all sectors of the economy including education, innovation, and learning; for public sector management; private sector competitiveness and capacity building. Development plans need to be aligned with ICT. E-development need to focus on the following: ? Sharing knowledge and resources through networking.

? Integrating knowledge and action.

? Promoting and integration institutional learning.

? Ensuring timely access to relevant information.

? Human capital development.

? Technological innovations and inventions.

? Combining local resources and knowledge with technology and sustain a change.

? Decentralization.

? Transparency. Questions: What efforts do governments and international organizations make to address the issue of “Digital Divide?”

What is E- Development? State the Steps the Government of your Country Needs to Take in Order to Promote E-Development.

What are the measures Ghana is taking to promote ICT? Reference; ICT for SHS, by S. Acheampong (Achie Series) To be continued.

S. Acheampong (Author; Achie Series); MBA, ICT, Teacher Edu.-USA, AP (CIM)-UK, PGDip(Edu), BA Hons.-Ghana.