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Digital Divide

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La brecha digital: acceso y uso de las TIC

Introducción
Estamos inmersos dentro de una revolución tecnológica, donde las Tecnologías de la Información y la Comunicación (TIC), basadas en una tecnología digital, se han convertido en el eje vertebrador de nuestras economías y también de nuestras vidas cotidianas. En un mundo ya polarizado, las nuevas tecnologías aportan un elemento más a las desigualdades, pues no todos acceden o las utilizan por igual, y muchos quedan marginados de sus beneficios, creándose así la denominada brecha digital.
Este término de brecha digital ha estado nuevamente de moda a propósito del “Informe Global sobre Tecnología de la Información 2011-2012: Viviendo en un mundo hiperconectado” , publicado recientemente por el Foro Económico Mundial (WEF, por sus siglas en inglés), dónde queda evidenciado la existencia de una brecha digital global, entre las economías avanzadas y el resto del mundo. (ver Fig.1)
En términos generales, la brecha digital se refiere a las desigualdades entre las economías avanzadas y el resto del mundo en términos de acceso y uso de las tecnologías de la información y la comunicación. Pero de manera intuitiva pensamos que estas desigualdades vienen marcadas por los que tienen y por los que no tienen acceso a las TIC.
Obviamente la posibilidad de acceso, referida a la infraestructura, es un requisito indispensable (necesario pero no suficiente) para disfrutar de los beneficios de la sociedad de la información. Limitarse a esta perspectiva es asumir el determinismo tecnológico
O, ¿acaso como docentes, podemos creer que por el mero hecho de contar con las TIC en nuestras aulas, mejorará el proceso de aprendizaje? Bien sabemos que las habilidades que poseamos y el uso que le demos a esta tecnología, es lo que realmente aportará una diferencia. Fig. 1 Mapa de índices de conectividad (escala del 1 al 7, de múltiples variables que miden el impacto de las TIC)

Veremos que la cuestión clave no es el acceso desigual a las TIC, sino más bien las formas desiguales en que las TIC se utilizan.
La brecha digital, para muchos, no es un fenómeno cualitativamente nuevo, sino que es la extensión de las antiguas desigualdades y diferencias sociales en la era de la información. Pero sin dudas la brecha digital suma más elementos a las desigualdades, Además una vida social que se mueve a la velocidad de internet, agrava las divisiones económicas existentes a nivel global.
Oportunidades de acceso a las TIC
En comparación con los años 90, años en el que se popularizó el término de brecha digital, actualmente se observa que los niveles de acceso a las TIC, en especial a ordenadores e Internet, han aumentado de manera considerable a nivel global. La migración de Internet a plataformas como la televisión digital y los teléfonos móviles, y la disminución de los costos han multiplicado las posibilidades de acceso. Comenta Neil Selving (2006) que por ello muchos se plantean que ahora el problema es, por el contrario, el excesivo acceso a las TIC.
Esto es una realidad para algunos, pero ni por asomo es una realidad generalizada:
“Hoy en día, más del 70 por ciento de los ciudadanos del mundo viven en sociedades que acaban de comenzar su agenda de digitalización”, señala en el informe de la WEF Cesare Mainardi, Director Ejecutivo de Booz & Company. Las desigualdades en las oportunidades de acceso a las TIC referido, al acceso a infraestructuras de telecomunicaciones, computadoras, conectividad a internet (que viene a ser un modelo dicotómico de brecha digital de los que tienen y los que no tienen), apuntan según el informe de la WEF, a una brecha profunda, la más marcada, entre los países desarrollados y los países en desarrollo, tanto en términos de cantidad como de calidad. El África Subsahariana, señala el estudio, sigue siendo la región menos conectada del mundo, donde sólo el 13 por ciento de las personas utilizan Internet, sólo un 8 por ciento de los hogares de la región disponen de una computadora personal PC, y menos del 4 por ciento tienen acceso a Internet desde casa.
Pero las diferencias en cuanto a infraestructura no la encontramos sólo entre países desarrollados y países en desarrollo, sino que también dentro de una misma sociedad pueden existir desigualdades, por ejemplo según sea una zona urbana (más conectividad) o rural (menos conectividad), o en general a zonas más densamente pobladas le corresponderá una mejor infraestructura que a las zonas menos pobladas.
Toda vez que tenemos garantizada la infraestructura, aparece otra limitante al acceso: primero nuestra solvencia económica para costear equipos y servicios y en segundo lugar, nuestras habilidades en el manejo de la tecnología digital. En ambos aspectos también la brecha es profunda entre países desarrollados y países en desarrollo según el citado informe.
La tendencia global en la última década ha sido el abaratamiento de equipos y servicios, pero igualmente en los países en desarrollo siguen siendo costosos, y también dentro de los países desarrollados existen marcadas diferencias, por ejemplo en España las conexiones a internet de alta velocidad están entre las más caras del mundo desarrollado y por debajo de la media en cuanto a velocidad; los españoles pagan de media 4,15 euros por megabit por segundo, en comparación con los 1,56 de Francia y los 1,25 de Portugal, en estas condiciones sólo el 57,4% de los hogares españoles tienen conexión a internet de banda ancha.
En el caso de que podamos pagar equipos y servicios y no tengamos las habilidades básicas para usarlos, nuevamente quedamos excluidos de los beneficios de las nuevas tecnologías. Es este punto, por ejemplo, las personas con menor formación, las personas mayores, o con un perfil económico bajo tienen mayor riesgo de quedar excluidos.
Brecha digital: uso de las TIC
A nivel global existen innumerables iniciativas en políticas de inclusión de las TIC, no sólo desde el nivel público, sino también desde instituciones privadas y organizaciones no gubernamentales. La Cumbre Mundial sobre la Sociedad de la Información (CMSI) , en su agenda de Túnez, instaba a la solidaridad y la cooperación internacional: “Hacemos un llamamiento a la comunidad internacional para que se fomente la transferencia de tecnología en condiciones de mutuo acuerdo, incluidas las TIC, para que se adopten políticas y programas que ayuden a los países en desarrollo a poner la tecnología al servicio del desarrollo, entre otras cosas mediante la cooperación técnica y la creación de capacidades científicas y tecnológicas para colmar la brecha digital y del desarrollo.”
Pero muchas iniciativas son consideradas un fracaso, pues sólo han tomado en cuenta la atención a la infraestructura, que ciertamente es muy necesaria, pero debe acompañarse de políticas de integración que conviertan la infraestructura en un instrumento social capaz de mejorar la vida de las personas, como concluye Mark Warschauer (2003).
Este autor nos comenta de un experimento llevado a cabo en la India donde se instalaron unas cabinas para proporcionar acceso a las computadoras a los niños en una de las zonas más pobres del país, la idea consistía en permitir que los niños tuvieran acceso diario ilimitado para que pudieran aprender a su propio ritmo, estrategia trazada en virtud de un concepto conocido como la educación mínimamente invasiva que resultó ser en la práctica, según palabras del autor, “la educación mínimamente eficaz”, pues los padres se quejaron del bajo rendimiento escolar de los niños que descuidaron sus estudios para jugar en las computadoras, que era todo el uso que le daban. El experimento carecía de una política educativa y de contenido relevante para dicha comunidad.
Otra iniciativa es el proyecto de un ordenador por niño, como el que incluye el proyecto Escuela 2.0 de España, que se ha venido realizando en distintas regiones del planeta, con más o menos éxito, y según Ismael Peña-López (2009), el mayor éxito viene dado por la inclusión en los programas, de planes para el desarrollo de apropiadas competencias digitales en el uso de las TIC. Peña López concluyó que la brecha digital en las aulas españolas no se debe, en general, a una falta de infraestructuras sino a una falta de competencias digitales y a una deficiente adaptación de las Tecnologías de la Información y la Comunicación a la enseñanza y el aprendizaje.
En general vemos que el éxito de la integración de las tecnologías TIC depende en gran medida del uso efectivo que se haga de ellas, un uso efectivo que sólo logramos en la medida que desarrollamos nuestras habilidades digitales.
El enfoque de los usos de las TIC, apunta a una brecha digital en cuanto a resultados, al uso efectivo de estas tecnologías para crear desarrollo y bienestar. Según los usos que demos a las TIC, realmente podremos disfrutar en mayor o menor grado, o quedar excluidos, de los beneficios que nos aportan las TIC en todos los aspectos de la sociedad de la información, como pueden ser la mejora de nuestra calidad de vida, o las mayores oportunidades de empleo.
En España, según el análisis realizado en el informe WEF, a pesar de los niveles aceptables de desarrollo en cuanto a infraestructura de las TIC, no aprovechamos su potencialidad para sacar una ventaja competitiva, ni mejorar el bienestar social a causa del tradicional bajo rendimiento en el sistema educativo.
Por otro lado el uso efectivo de las TIC apunta a un aspecto que no podemos perder de vista, y es el hecho de que los usos de las nuevas tecnologías van más allá del saber cómo, se necesitan competencias específicas, competencias digitales: es necesaria la alfabetización digital. Al hablar de alfabetización a secas, podemos pensar en las habilidades básicas de lectura y escritura, pero ¿qué utilidad tienen dichas habilidades si por ejemplo no nos permiten la comprensión de un texto dado?; así mismo la alfabetización digital no se puede limitar a adquirir las habilidades básicas que nos permitan el manejo de las TIC y navegar por internet, sino que deben permitir desarrollar capacidades para comprender las posibilidades y limitaciones de las TIC, obtener i discernir la información de utilidad, la habilidad para desarrollar nuevas destrezas usando estas tecnologías y aplicarlas en cualquier ámbito: educativo, personal o laboral.
Como en otras esferas del conocimiento, habrá diferencias entre individuos, pero al ocupar las TIC un rol esencial en nuestras vidas cotidianas dentro de la sociedad de la información, la alfabetización digital pasa a ser una cuestión de supervivencia, que debe llegar a todos.
Los docentes tienen la oportunidad de convertir la brecha digital en una oportunidad digital para todos, aportando a la alfabetización digital un enfoque que vaya más allá de la perspectiva meramente instrumental. Pero primero deben comenzar por borrar la brecha digital que existe entre el uso de las TIC en casa y el uso desfasado de la escuela. La labor es ardua pero no permite dilación.

Bibliografía y referencias
Agenda d Agenda de Túnez para la sociedad de la información (2006), Cumbre mundial sobre la sociedad de la información, Obtenido de http://www.itu.int/wsis/docs2/tunis/off/6rev1-es.html
Ferro, E., Helbig, N. C., & Gil-Garcia, J. (2011). The role of IT literacy in defining digital divide policy needs. Government Information Quarterly, 28(1), 3-10. Obtenido en: http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eric&AN=EJ907945&site=ehost-live&scope=site; http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.giq.2010.05.007
Selwyn, N. (2006). Digital division or digital decision? A study of non-users and low-users of computers. Poetics, 34(4–5), 273-292. doi: 10.1016/j.poetic.2006.05.003
Selwyn, N. (2010). Grados de la división digital: Reconsideración de las desigualdades digitales y educación superior contemporánea Universitat Oberta de Catalunya. (2010). Revista de universidad y sociedad del conocimiento. Obtenido de: http://www.raco.cat/index.php/RUSC; http://rusc.uoc.edu/ojs/index.php/rusc/issue/view/v7n1
Peña López,I. (2010) De los portátiles a las competencias: Superación de la brecha digital en la educación. Universitat Oberta de Catalunya. (2010). Revista de universidad y sociedad del conocimiento. Obtenido de: http://www.raco.cat/index.php/RUSC; http://rusc.uoc.edu/ojs/index.php/rusc/issue/view/v7n1
Warschauer, M. (2003). Demystifying the digital divide. Scientific American, 289(2), 42-47. Obtenido en: http://www.nature.com/scientificamerican/journal/v289/n2/pdf/scientificamerican0803-42.pdf
World Economic Forum, & Insead. (2012). The global information technology report. Living in a Hyperconnected World Obtenido en http://reports.weforum.org/global-information-technology-2012/

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...Digital Divide: Literature Review Name Institution Course Professor Date Abstract A digital divide is the economic and social inequality in relation to access to and use of information technologies among populations and demographics. This paper is a literature review of peer reviewed and scholarly articles that seek t bring the issue into perspective. The paper discusses the apparent existence of the digital divide, as well as the methods and strategies implemented to curb the divide. Schools and communities are utilizing technologies, but the gap of access and acquisition is brought in by factors such as low incomes. There is also the generational gap since the old people may not know about the technologies, or they may acquire but lack necessary skills to use them. A gap exists also among the different layers of acquisition of technology, ability to manipulate information, and consumption of information as is apparent with mobile phones. It is therefore essential to have mechanisms that narrow the digital divide by enabling internet access to all areas, and use of technologies equally n communities and in schools for all groups. The literature asserts that it may be difficult to close the gap completely, but it is possible to narrow the gap and benefit many minorities. Introduction In essence, one of the problems occurring in America recently is the digital divide apparent among populations...

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The Digital Divide

...INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY JOURNAL ASSIGNMENT THE DIGITAL DIVIDE The digital divide, simply put, is the gap between those people and communities with access to information technology and those without it. Yet, the fact is there are many divides, characterized by community, ethnic, economic, and age groups. These differences provide the basis for much research into internet use, and for the identification by some of the digital divide as an increasingly important feature of the growing economic and political gaps within and across 'developed' and 'developing' countries. The internet can be used as a tool for social, political and economic participation. Its facilitation of one-to-many and many-to-many communication and open publishing means that those affected by the divide may suffer disadvantages relating to education, employment and awareness of contemporary issues. The digital divide is now seen as a pressing international and consequently, much research and media attention have been directed at understanding who is affected and why. It is generally accepted that the digital divide is more than just an issue of access, and information technology training and literacy is needed to assist those affected by the digital divide, who can then create content relevant to their needs. Internet and computer use has undoubtedly increased in the United States and the digital divide may be smaller within certain populations. However, it remains a fact that poorer people may not be......

Words: 780 - Pages: 4