Friday, October 17, 2014

The Digital Divide and Knowledge Gap

The Knowledge Gap Theory was first proposed by Tichenor, Donohue and Olien. The theory states that the capacity to acquire knowledge depends on the access they have to it. People from the higher strata of the society have an advantage of having the means of acquiring knowledge, when they desire to do so, whereas, those in the lower strata of the society fail to acquire knowledge even if they want to. This is simply because they cannot afford to do so.

The world is increasingly communicating through digital devices which come at a cost. So if you are in the stratum of society which can afford to buy a digital device, you will be able to communicate better, and in turn, be able to access more content. And if you cannot afford to own a digital divide, you fall in the other stratum. This leads to the society divided into digital have's and have nots -  the Digital Divide.

Today students use mobile phones and tablets to compare and share notes, teachers distribute soft copies rather than printed notes. So those students who do not have 'Smartphones' end up not being able to access the content that others do. This is the new kind of Knowledge Gap - the one created by digital divide.

The digital divide does not depend only on the availability of a mobile phone. The facility to access content also depends on the  quality of network signal, which is again created by digital equipment. So if your network is strong, you have a better chance of accessing content faster. So, though the mobile phones are getting cheaper, the network quality is showing little sign of improvement. Yesterday, the Andhra Pradesh (A state in India) Chief Minister chastised the network operators for poor quality of network in the cyclone affected areas, which hampered rescue and rehabilitation operations in the state.

Thus, Digital Divide and Knowledge Gap go hand in hand.