Whilst taking part in the ‘Learning in the Network Age’ MOOC as part of the UOSM2008 module, I discovered the concept of ‘digital differences’. Whilst most may assume that everyone uses the web for similar practices, research into this has revealed instead that factors such as age, gender, ethnicity, disability and class all impact if and how people use the internet (Zickuhr and Smith, 2012).
Digital Differences Nationally
Whilst participating in the MOOC mentioned above, I got into a discussion about how I was very digitally different to my housemate. I was brought up with a reliable internet access from a young age whilst she was not. You can read more about the consequences of our two different digital upbringings below!
Comparing the Impact of Digital Differences
To find out just how much these digital differences have affected our everyday lives, I asked her to monitor her internet usage over the past 3 days and below I have compared our results!
Digital Differences Internationally
If social factors are having an impact on our online presence, does this mean that those without proper access to the internet are becoming disadvantaged? A recent study conducted in America found that employment status and earned income both predicted internet use intensity. So, this raises the question, should good access to the internet be a human right if those without are living a lesser quality of life? Below I compare the differences between the U.K.’s internet usage and India’s internet usage: a country that earns on average 89.8% less than the U.K.
Video Created by Joanna Fairey using PowToon
To conclude, whilst many people in the U.K. are fortunate enough to have good access to the internet, those in developing countries do not have the same luxury. As a consequence of this, they are getting increasingly behind in technological advances and the gap between developing countries and the west is widening. If a lack of access to the internet is leading to a decrease in overall life quality, perhaps it should be considered as a new ‘digital age’ human right.
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- Halford, Davies and Dixon (2017) Digital differences – inequalities and online practices. (Online – Future Learn) Available at: https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/learning-network-age/4/steps/303344 (Accessed 23rd February 2018)
- Zickuhr & Smith (2012) Digital Differences. (Online) Available at: http://www.english.illinois.edu/-people-/faculty/debaron/482/482readings/PEW_Class.pdf (Accessed 20th February 2018)
- Robinson, Cotten, Ono, Quan-Haase, Mesch, Chen, Schulz, Hale and Stern (2015) Digital inequalities and why they matter. Available at: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/1369118X.2015.1012532?journalCode=rics20#aHR0cDovL3d3dy50YW5kZm9ubGluZS5jb20vZG9pL3BkZi8xMC4xMDgwLzEzNjkxMThYLjIwMTUuMTAxMjUzMj9uZWVkQWNjZXNzPXRydWVAQEAw (Accessed 21st February 2018)
- Office for National Statistics (2017) Internet users in the U.K. (Online) Available at: https://www.ons.gov.uk/businessindustryandtrade/itandinternetindustry/bulletins/internetusers/2017 (Accessed 22nd February)
- If It Were My Home (2018) Compare United Kingdom to India. (Online) Available at: http://www.ifitweremyhome.com/compare/GB/IN (Accessed 24th February)