Thursday, July 14, 2011

Who use ICT in Sri Lanka and why? - part 2

You can read the part one of this post here

Social Status and the Digital Divide

By the word social status, I mean the social class and the income level of the people.

Considering the Urban middle class, Computers are becoming a household item for them. The luxury of emailing messages is definitely preferred over telephone which is far more expensive. Checking news, weather, and sports via the Internet is a convenience that many are taking advantage of. Computer skills are essential for efficiency in all aspects of our fast changing world. The home is where family members can spend unlimited hours on the computer, something not possible at libraries or community centers. (Satharasinghe, Computer Literacy of Sri Lanka - 2004)

Having a computer at home is a reason for an increased literacy in computer. However, only few can afford the luxury of a computer at home. Most of the people in Sri Lanka are currently struggling for survival due to the increased commodity and food prices and are not in a position to spend for a computer. Even though they understand the need of a computer, there are other priorities like medical needs, educational needs, food, housing etc for nearly 95 % of the interviewed lower middle class people. Unless they are well – off with a good salary, people said that they will not invest their money on computers these days. On the other hand, many in the rural areas seem to think that their children are better without computers and mobile phones. The difference between the rural crowd and the urban crowd is lies here. The urban dwellers understand the importance of IT and they try their level best to get themselves closer to the computer while the rural crowd is still not ready to accept computers as close as TVs.

Education level

It was interesting to note that the highest number of respondents in the internet questionnaire were under graduates/graduates or people who have some level of exposure to a higher education institution. The result is presented the graph below.

The result implies that university work require their students to use internet for their academic work or either students make good use of the free internet facilities provided by the universities.

The Department of Census and Statistics provide following details regarding the level of education of the people and their IT literacy rates. (Department of Census and Statistics, 2009)

· No schooling - 1.2 %

· Below grade 6 - 7.1%

· Grade 6-10 - 13.7%

· G.C.E (O/L) - 33.4%

· G.C.E. (A/L) or above - 59.7%

It seems that there is a clear relationship between the level of education and the computer literacy of the population. Indirectly, it implies that one reason for the digital divide is the unequal access to education. For the sociologist, this information is useful because it visualizes how one social issue relates with the other. Theoretically, this situation can be explained by the Organic solidarity concept by Durkheim.

Organic solidarity comes from the interdependence that arises from specialization of work and the complementarities between people—a development which occurs in "modern" and "industrial" societies. As the society runs on the complementary skills of the population, all the people have to contribute alike for the development of the society. If one party fails to do his/ her duty, it affects the whole society.

When the education fails to do its job properly, other social issue arises later in life. However, for some members of our own society, this situation is a money maker. They start private institutions from where anyone can learn the subject of computer. Usually the prices of these private institutions are higher than that of the government institutions. But sadly, only few get the fortune of learning computer at a low cost. The rest , if they have economical means go to a private institution to get themselves acquainted with ICT and if not live the rest of their lives in darkness.

Sri Lanka is a country with specialties of her own. Therefore, addressing hr issues should be done with great care.

Digital Divide is one such a sensitive issue. Solving the issue therefore requires us to pay attention to many fields as the psychology of the elderly, traditional cultural belifs in the country and its socio- economic situation.

Certain groups are far less likely than others to have computers or online access. Lack of such access affects the ability of children to improve their learning with educational software, adults to acquire valuable technology skills, and families to benefit from them. There is growing concern about the implications of ‘digital divide’, whereby some social groups lack the means to access new Information and Communication Technologies, while others reap labour market rewards for being on the cutting edge of these technologies.

To plan and implement strategies to minimize this gap, a comprehensive examination of computer use in work places, homes and community settings is required. The extent to which students have access to computers at school and at home influences how well prepared students will be to enter into technological workplaces which demands computer literacy. As the society is being digitalized day by day, Sri Lanka has to catch up with the trend soon. If not, we will have difficult time in competing in the global market place. Therefore, researching for the best methods available for the Sri Lankan society to bridge the digital divide and implementing them as soon as possible is need of the hour.

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