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The digital divide refers to the gap between those who have access to technology and those who do not. As stated by Morley in 2013, the "haves" and the "have nots." It also refers to the differences between individuals within a particular country, as well as to the differences between countries. When looking at differences within a country the use of computers and/or technology based on age, race, education, and income are addressed. The term digital divide was first coined in the mid-1990's by then President Bill Clinton. In the five years between 1991 and 1996, the U.S. went from 300,000 personal computers to over 10 million (Cohen, 2013).

Since that time, the nature and scope of the digital divide has changed. When first defined, the digital divide primarily focused on access to technology. Access is no longer enough. Just as technology and the demands for it and the vast changes in the use have broadened, so has the digital divide. Implementing technology in schools is a good starting point, but the digital divide will not actually close until citizens have access to technology at home and understand how to use it appropriately. Therefore, our priorities must also adjust and shift from simple access to include comprehensive training on the use of technology, the pitfalls and dangers, and the ramifications of such use. Otherwise, we are doing our students and citizens a disservice and leaving them vulnerable to predators and their own ignorance.

Benefits of Technology

Why is it so important to modify our definition of the digital divide as well as shift our priorities in relation to the goals established by the definition? Because technology offers access not only to educational tools, but also information resources. In the Field of Education, access to technology can help in the basic skills of writing papers, completing homework, doing research, providing assistance to those who need accommodations, helping English as a Second Language students increase language proficiency, and providing students the necessary training for a global job market (Piccianio, 2012). Currently, more than 20 million students are taking online classes in the U.S. alone.

On a societal level access to technology improves global commerce. The global economy is and has transformed into an e-commerce economy. The internet is responsible for 21% of economic growth in developed nations. In addition, access to technology provides citizens with information necessary to make informed decisions, online job and career development training, and access to social services and health information (Day, 2015).

Factors Contributing to the Digital Divide

Predominantly there are five elements that contribute to the digital divide: I) income level, 2) age, 3) race, 4) education, and 5) physical abilities. Forty six percent of the poorest household do not own a computer, but only four percent of wealthiest homes go without one (Alexandar, 2013). Only 2% of those with a household income of $75,000 plus do not have access to the Internet versus 21% of those earning less than $30,000 (Pew, 2017). Multiple studies have been conducted all indicating that lower income students and families and minority students and families were even less likely to have access to technology (Picciano, 2012). Only 2% of college graduates do not use the Internet compared with 32% of those without a high school degree (Pew, 2017). The older the individual the least likely they are to use the Internet. In 2016, only 64% of adults over the age of 65 were using the Internet (Pew, 2017). A snap shot of the global digital divide indicates that 50% of Internet users are from Asia. Only 8.6% are from North America (Internet World Stats, 2017). This data indicates that North American is fifth based on overall population.

Global Digital Divide

Pew Research Center began tracking social media adoption in 2005. In 2005, only about 5% of American adults used at least one social media platform. By 2011, that rose to over half of all Americans. Today 69% of the public uses some type of social media. Social media use has implications in both personal and professional life. These tools are used by businesses to advertise and sale products and individuals use these sites to share their life with the world. Many times these two worlds clash. For example, a college student post pictures of a night of partying. Five years later, a business they have applied to for employment does a search and finds these questionable photos.

How Are We Doing at Bridging the Gap?

Issues dividing the "haves" and the have-nots" are still reflective in the data collected. However, most American schools now have computers and Internet access and access to both (in general) are increasing on an annual basis. A PBS Survey showed that 91% of teachers have access to computers, but only 1 in 5 teachers feel they have the right level of technology training (Edelman, 2015). Also contributing to the dilemma is the lack of high speed connections, a lack of internal support structures to handle student devices, a lack of infrastructures to handle remoteness of rural communities, and the heavy usage demands of urban communities.

The digital divide reaches outside of school and into the home in multiple ways. First, a recent Pew survey showed that 54% of advanced placement teachers believe students have sufficient access to technology at school, but only 18% say students have adequate access at home (2017). E-Rate faced criticism and controversy initially, but has been credited with increasing the overall number of public classrooms with Internet access. In 2010 President Obama's ConnectED initiative aim was to have 99% of students connected through next-general broadband and high speed wireless networks by 2017. Although this goal has not been met, progress is being made. The ConnectED initiative also aims to ensure that schools, libraries, and communities have the bandwidth needed to use the available technology.

Mobile technology is also doing so much now to lift the poor, noting that in many impoverished countries, smartphones are by far the cheapest alternative for gaining access to the Internet and all that now comes with it--banking services, communications, social media, etc. (Zickuhr & Smith 2012). If one does not know the answer or has a question, the smart phone is at your fingertips. It is pulled out and the question is Googled.

In addition, K-12 schools and universities are establishing policies to allow students to "Bring Your Own Device" (BYOD), checking out technology for classroom and home use to those that cannot afford it, and seeking out and hiring technology professionals to help maintain and train faculty and students on the use of new technologies. Local communities are providing limited services through public libraries and community centers to reach out and assist with those struggling to keep up in our global society.

The New Digital Divide: Where Do We Go From Here?

The issues that face us now include having an adequate number of technology personnel to update, maintain, and train students, staff, and faculty on not only the use of technology but the appropriate use; and access to technology personnel to repair and train communities. The new digital divide is no longer about the "haves" and the "have nots" but about "who can use it" and "who cannot." As noted based on the above outlined data, both national and global access to technology are rising steadily each year. However, this does not mean that the fight to equalize access is over. As the process continues in this area, knowledge and use should be targeted as well.

Previously, those being held back were in developing countries, organizations and individuals in rural/remote areas, smaller organization, and individuals with less (disposable) income and education. Currently, those being held back are in established organizations focused more on the past than the future, organizational leaders with limited technological awareness, individuals with little technological interest, parents and grandparents who are still focused solely on their local environment instead of the global community, and individuals with limited access to training and strategies on the appropriate use of new technologies.

The new digital world has solidified much of what adults experience as children detached and irrelevant to the world of modern kids. The breach in understanding is an enormous problem. It is very important to comprehend the influence these experiences have on our ideas for how families function, how businesses operate, how society works, what kids do with their leisure time, what form teaching and learning takes, what skills and knowledge should be valued, where to acquire new information when needed, what form that information comes in, how to relate to other people, who has authority in life, and what is needed to be successful. What many have failed to realize is that there has been a profound shift in the kind of skills used and needed to operate in the digital world (Jukes, McCain, & Crockett, 2014). In order to see the gap decline in the new digital divide, a targeted effort must be implemented.

A support structure to provide targeted training in the use of technology and on how to gain access to information on a global scale must become the new emphasis to offset the new digital divide. Training must not only focus on the use, but APPROPRIATE use. Access is available 24-7. However, both children and adults are finding themselves the target of scam artists, predators, and bullying. In addition, adults and children are themselves unknowingly violating privacy, copyright and intellectual property laws. Due to the nature of social media, individuals are taking part in bullying and unethical behavior. Things that would go unsaid in a face-to-face conversation are now being shared with millions of people across the world (Jukes, McCain, & Crockett, 2014). Teens and young adults are damaging their future by posting questionable pictures and information on social media websites. Once again, education is the key to an individual's success and to societal evolution.

The New Digital Divide Support Structure Model (NDDSS) was developed based on a review of literature and research spanning the last ten years covering the digital divide, global development, and educational technology initiatives. NDDSS is a three step process beginning with establishing partnership (formal and/or informal) between educational institutions, government, and business/industry. Within each organization training of not only employees, and clients are established but outreach to the community to educate parents, grandparents, local residents are also essential. Reaching the largest percentage of the population is essential and requires all sectors (public and private) to provide a thorough saturation.

The second step is to hire professionals to provide training and support. In recent years, there has been an increase in the employment of technology personnel (Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016). However, the demands for such personnel in the job market is growing at a phenomenal rate. This is due to the simple fact that the job market is directly linked to technological growth and development of new technologies. Most sectors whether private or public are challenged to keep up with the demand. By tapping into multiple fields (e.g., library and information science, computer science, web development, instructional technology, etc.) and organizations (e.g. small and large businesses, k-12 schools, community colleges, universities, governmental institutions, non-profit organizations, libraries, etc.) access to training can be made available.

Third, establish comprehensive training to educate the population on the appropriate use of technology. The training topics will change based on the targeted population's age and technological skill level. In addition, training topics will change based on the changing technological environment. As new technologies are developed and introduced, education/training will need to be designed in order to meet this demand.


The aim of technological innovation is not only to enrich prevailing practices, but also to transform them. Humans create new technology to multiply human capacities. Moreover, information and communication technologies have generated substantial changes and challenges to the core of our society. As a result of technological advancement, most industries in our society have undertaken dramatic transformations and pursue more complex human skills, knowledge, and abilities, which requires us to develop different skills than our predecessors-skills that distinguish us from machines (Sheninger, 2014).

Societal shifts linking technology are beginning to have a profound impact on teaching, infrastructure, resources, stakeholder relations, learners, and community members. The opportunities include superior access to rich, multimedia content; the widespread availability of mobile computing devices that can access the Internet; and the expanding role of social networking (Morley, 2013). Accepting these shifts is key to tackling the digital divide. Understanding that the digital divide has moved beyond the "haves" and the "have nots" to the "who can use it" and "who cannot." This is the world into which our children are being born and within which all members of society are immersed.

Access to information in real time has become the standard, led by the unremitting rise and evolution of social media sites. With the explosion of mobile technology (smartphones, tablets, e-reader) and improvements in wireless connectivity, it can be assumed that many of the statistics cited above are actually much greater. Thus, the need to refine our definition of the digital divide and refocus our goals to include training on use and access to information. The longer this disconnect continues, the greater the divide becomes and the more likely sections of the population never catch up and continue to fall behind.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Funding: Grant funding was not used.

Ethical approval: This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by the author.


University of Central Arkansas


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Cohen, P. (2013). More than half of U.S. public schools don't have adequate wireless access. Retrieved from l/more-than-half-of-us-public-schoolsdont-have-adequate-wireless-access/281410/

Day, L. (2015). Bridging the new digital divide. Retrieved from bridging-the-new-digital-divide-lori-day

Edelman, D. (2015, June 29). Delivering on a Dream: The ConnectED Story. Retrieved October 1,2015.

Huffman, S. (2017). New digital divide support structure model. Conway, AR: University of Central Arkansas.

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Caption: Image 2

Caption: Image 3
Table 1: Who Uses the Internet--Education Level

       Less than   High School   Some      College
       High        Gradu-        College   Graduate

2000   19%         40%           67%       78%
2001   21%         43%           68%       81%
2002   24%         48%           73%       83%
2003   25%         51%           75%       85%
2004   27%         53%           76%       86%
2005   32%         58%           80%       89%
2006   37%         61%           83%       91%
2007   40%         65%           85%       92%
2008   38%         65%           86%       93%
2009   40%         68%           87%       94%
2010   41%         68%           87%       93%
2011   43%         72%           89%       94%
2012   52%         75%           91%       96%
2013   54%         75%           92%       96%
2014   55%         46%           91%       96%
2015   62%         78%           92%       96%

Source: Pew Internet & American Life Project Surveys,
March 2000-2016. More:

Table 2: Who Lises the Internet--Race

Year    White   Black   Hispanic

2000    53%     38%
2001    57%     40%
2002    60%     47%
2003    63%     50%
7004    65%     49%
7005    70%     55%
2006    72%     59%
2007    25%     64%
2008    75%     63%
2009    79%     69%
2010    78%     68%     71%
2011    81%     72%     72%
2012    84%     77%     79%
2013    85%     79%     80%
2014    85%     79%     81%
2015    87%     81%     82%

Source: Pew Internet & American Life
Project Surveys, March 2000-2016.

Table 3: Who Uses the Internet:--Age

Year    18-29    30-49    50-64    65+

2000      70%      61%      46%    14%
2001      72%      65%      50%    14%
2002      76%      70%      54%    18%
2003      78%      72%      56%    22%
2004      77%      75%      61%    24%
2005      83%      79%      66%    28%
2006      86%      82%      70%    32%
2007      89%      85%      71%    35%
2008      89%      84%      72%    38%
2009      92%      84%      75%    40%
2010      92%      85%      74%    43%
2011      94%      87%      77%    46%
2012      96%      91%      79%    54%
2013      97%      92%      81%    56%
2014      97%      92%      81%    57%
2015      97%      95%      82%    63%
2016      99%      96%      87%    64%

Source: few Internet & American life Project Surveys,
March 2000 2016, More: hitp://

Table 4: Who Uses Social Media--Age

Year    18-29    30-49    50-64    65+

2005       16%       9%       5%     2%
2006       41%       6%       3%     0%
2008       59%      28%       8%     3%
2009       78%      47%      25%     8%
2010       76%      55%      36%    12%
2011       82%      59%      36%    12%
2012       88%      68%      48%    22%
2013       89%      74%      54%    27%
2014       84%      77%      52%    27%
2015       90%      77%      51%    35%
2016       86%      80%      64%    34%

Source: few Internet & American life Project Surveys,
March 2000 2016, More: hitp;//pewinternet-org

Table 5: Who Uses Social Media--Race

Year   White    Black    Hispanic

2005       8%       7%
2006       9%      11%
200S      24%      27%
2000      42%      42%
2010      48%      41%         44%
2011      51%      49%         45%
2012      54%      50%         53%
2013      62%      58%         66%
7014      59%      61%         66%
2015      65%      56%         65%
2016      69%      63%         74%

Source: Pew Internet & American Life Project Surveys,
March 2000-2016. More:

Table 6: Who Uses Social Media--Education

Year   High School    Some     College
         or Less     College   Graduate

2005       5%          10%       13%
2006       9%          17%        9%
2007       18%         29%       21%
2008       19%         35%       32%
2009       29%         53%       55%
2010       35%         56%       60%
2011       39%         64%       59%
2012       44%         62%       62%
2013       51%         70%       73%
2014       50%         71%       69%
2015       54%         70%       76%
2010       59%         73%       78%

Source: Pew Internet & American Life Project Surveys,
March 2000-2016. More:

Image I

Internet Users in the World
by Regions - 2017 Q1

Asia 50.1%
Europe 17.0%
Lat Am/Carib.        10.3%
Africa                9.4%
North America         8.6%
Middle East           3.8%
Oceania /Australia    0.7%

Source: Internet World
Basis: 3,739,698,500 Internet users on March 31,2017
Copyright[C] 2117, Miniwatts Marketing Group

Note: Table made from pie chart.
COPYRIGHT 2018 Project Innovation (Alabama)
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
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Author:Huffman, Stephanie
Article Type:Essay
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 22, 2018

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