Thursday, July 7, 2011

Who use ICT in Sri Lanka and why?

Being a university student, I have had the opportunity to conduct researches on various topics. One of the most interesting researches I have done is a sociological analysis of the digital divide within Sri Lanka. This post is based on the research findings

I used an internet survey to collect information from the group of people who use internet in day today basis. The information collected from them helped me understand some of the sociological reasons for the issue. For example, the IT savvy sometimes do not like all the people to have a good knowledge in the subject; children sometimes, do not help their parents to use internet and computers.

Information published by the Department of Census and Statics are used in analyzing the issue. Documents published by researchers on the same subject too were referred as background reading. 

As the research is about the gap between those who have easy access to Information Technology and those who have not, it is important to gather the view points of both groups of people. However, with the limited course of time, it was difficult to interview subjects who have a little access to ICT. Instead of a face to face interview, I had to use a phone interview to get information from few of the people who do not have access to internet. I do not view it as a good practice because having a mobile phone means that they are not totally out of the reach of ICT. As the need arises, I interviewed school children and other relevant people. For example, when I came to the conclusion that school computer labs can be used to eliminate the misconceptions about the subject, I interviewed few school children from different schools to verify the possibility of doing so. 


Age and Digital Divide

According to the questionnaire responses, most of the respondents are between ages 18-23. And gradually the number of responses diminishes with the rise of the age factor. I could not find at least one respondent above age 37.

This result can mean two things. Either 

1. Most of The people over the age 37 do not have access to internet 


2. They are not within the reach of public social media which I used to promote the survey. 

However, It implies that most of the people who have access to internet are in the young years of their life. This results leads us to the conclusion that digital divide sure has a connection with Aging. The reason for such big number of respondents from the age group 18 – 23 may be their familiarity of the technology that we use today. They were born into a IT society where the people above 40s are introduced to the IT field later in their lives by the youngsters. Only the few who had the courage to mingle with the new technology started to work with computers and the rest continued using their old methods to get the work done. For example, in the early days, easy way to get things done is always scorned at. Therefore, an adult who is not familiar with today’s technology may still prefer to use their brains to do sums although the easy option of calculator is right at their hand. 

The inability to break away from the traditional ways and means of doing things is another reason for the inability of the adult population to be familiar with the technology. For most of them, amazing feats of ITC are like magic. Sometimes the younger generation makes use of this situation for their advance. 

To check how youngsters make use of the poor knowledge of ICT of the parents I included a question in the questionnaire; Have you ever felt that it is better if the parents have a little knowledge about computers /mobile phones and other new technologies so that you can do whatever you want behind their back? The possible answers were yes and no. The results received are illustrated in the following chart.

It seems that most of the youngsters are happy if their parents have a little knowledge on ICT so that they can do anything they want. These ideologies result negatively in widening the digital gap between the elders and the youngsters. Due to this kind of ideas, the youngsters may not even try to help their parents with technology. For some, elderly people who are confused at the new technologies is a source of fun and such incidents often make themselves to the international news sites where the younger generation make use of the commenting ability in such news stories to mock at the elderly. Recently, there was an article on Gwaker about a senior citizen who has driven his car into a church due to a navigation problem in GPS device. 

The article ends with 

“He kept saying, It's the machine — it told me to turn this way, but I suddenly ran out of road. 

Aww... confused old people are cute!” 

This is no more than the general way of thinking of the young generation. Whenever the elder generation makes a mistake doe to their unfamiliarity with the technology, they become the laughing stock of the others, ultimately, the elder generation stop using technology for the fear of being the laughing stock. Sometimes, although internet and computers are available at houses, adults are reported not to use them.

According to the above pie chart, what the majority had to say was that the parents do not know how to use internet although they had it right under their nose. According to the respondents of the internet survey and the interviews, major reasons for the parents not to use internet are the following.

1. Lack of English knowledge

2. Thinking that they will never be able to handle a computer alone

3. Thinking that computers and other technologies do not fit into the profile of the parents

4. Fear of humiliation

5. Children do all the work that a parent has to do.

By analyzing these reasons, I think what most of the respondents need is not infra structure facilities but an ideological refreshment.

An interviewee of 70 years of age revealed another reason for not using computers and phones. It seems that the older generation has little knowledge about English and that prevents them from using ICT for their day today work. As most of the equipment related with ICT can only be operated by a person who has a good English knowledge, the elderly are prone to leave the room for the young generation.

On the other hand, as the elder generation is not used to ICT much, they do not miss it. For them, whether ICT is there or not matter only a very little. Therefore, when asked about the digital divide, the most common answer I got was “It is for the kids and we are too old for computers”

To be continued....

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for the long comment and sorry for the late reply. 

    Yes, I looked at the 2007 survey and took some information from there.

    And for the methodology, I agree that there are loopholes as you mention. This project was given to us just before the exam and we were to submit the report one week after the exams. So I did not have necessary time to carry such a comprehensive research. As you mention, if I did this again, the results would be totally different. May be I should try it out again I'm free for such a work.

    PS. seems you are seriously into academic writing these days. Wish you all the best with the project reports :)