I. In a bid to embrace the use of information and communication technologies, which are contributing to the growth of national economic systems, the current jubilee government has projected a unique plan to provide every child joining class one, a laptop, in the same year. This is due to the fact that ICT has been successfully integrated into the technological and economic systems of the developed and industrialized countries, along with the tremendous economic growth they have experienced over the years.
Review of Literature
Developmental proponents emphasize that bridging the digital divide is an essential component of the greater, long term and overarching developmental aims. The implementation of ICT would thus help in reducing the increased gap between the developing and developed countries as it would help promote the advancement of human capital.
In this light, the one laptop per child (OLPC) model represents an example of a strategy, which encompasses the needs of all by even aiming to challenge existing grassroots developmental approaches. It aims to reduce and curtail the existing and increasing digital divide, right at the schooling level, so that the future generations would not suffer from a lack of technological know-how on the basis of economic disparity. For this purpose, it aims to empower every school-going child with their own personal laptop, which they can use to promote their own education. (OLPC, 2007)
In order to better understand the usefulness of this model, this paper presents a comparison of the OLPC model to some centralized educational initiatives, aimed at narrowing the digital divide. With the availability of reliable and accurate information, there would be greater chances for the Kenyan government to implement its laptop projects successfully.
II . The digital inequality and the digital divide
It is very important to understand the fundamentals behind the various programs such as the OLPC aimed at embracing technology and reducing the digital divide, before analyzing the OLPC. Their central goal is to ameliorate the socioeconomic problems prevailing in many developing countries by reducing the digital divide. A lot of research has been done in recent years on the different aspects of the digital divide. The term, itself is usually used to describe the differences in accessibility to ICT in different countries. ” (Kenny and Fink, 2003).
This phenomenon is however not only witnessed between the rich and poor nations. The digital divide has also been found to encompass the unequal ICT access patterns within countries, such as the divide between the societies’ rich and poor, or the urban and rural citizens (Kenny and Fink, 2003).
III. Education, ICTs, and Current Approaches to Development
In the words of Mark Warschauer, an expert on the subject of methods to combat the digital divide, there are five variables that define digital inequality. These are
1. technical- inequality of bandwidth.
2. autonomy- can it be accessed from different places by at least five users, simultaneously at any time.
3. Skill- knowledge of how to use the internet to retrieve information.
4. social support- the kind of support available from peers and seniors in terms of advice as to how to use this.
5. Purpose- what is the aim of using the ICT? (Warschaeur, 2003)
An overwhelming amount of data conclusively demonstrates that there is a gap between developing countries and developed countries in terms of ICT equipment and users.
The American the public education system has also increasingly focused on the usage of enabling technologies which support the assumptions of modern educational theory that these technologies help the children in grappling with difficult concepts as well as shaping the development of critical thinking and problem-solving faculties.(Cuban, 1986).
The challenges facing the development of technology-enabled education in developing countries is not limited to lack of community resources. They also include issues of adoption and acceptance by the members in part owing to the natural resistance to a new technology which is often encountered, as has been seen in the past. Some of the resistance is based on the view that the development of such technologies would make students dependent on them. As an example, there was a lot of resistance offered to the use of machines and calculators as people felt a lot of discomfort in shifting from pencil and paper to the use of handheld tools. However, such innovations have in general been supported by the school administrators and technologists. (Postman, 1993).
There is a strong view that ICTs and innovation promote economic growth and development and this is also accepted by many economists. Many theories exist which try to explain how technological innovation drives economic growth. Economists cite the quick-paced economic growth of developed countries in the second half of the twentieth century as evidence that such a relationship exists. This is recognized by Rosenberg too, who states that many observers feel that the growth of Western technology and economic growth, have taken similar geometric patterns. ( Rosenberg and Birdzell, 1986). As a result, there is a decided preference on the part of economists to favor the theories of Joseph Schumpeter rather than Adam Smith’s market-oriented theories. According to Adam Smith, a decentralized market economy will generate the creation of new wealth as long as there is the satisfactory distribution of this wealth. (Delong and Summers, 2001).
ICTs, Education and Current Approaches to Development
How successfully a developing country is able to implement developmental programs depend on their efficiency at able to use the existing knowledge resources. Many countries find this challenging as the contexts in which these new technologies were created are far different than their own contexts and hence there are issues with implementation as it is difficult to adapt these technologies to the local conditions. (Boas, Dunning, and Bussell, 2005).
So far, research has confirmed that economic growth is bolstered by technological transfers. Developmental initiatives which involve the grooming of the human capital with an explicit focus on ICT will become more prominent with time. The successful implementation of such initiatives requires that education be given the highest priority in the development of the human capital and hence education at all the different levels (primary, secondary and tertiary) should aim at being comprehensive, technologically advanced, and capable of creating conditions for innovation and technological transfer. This in turn will lead to an increase in economic opportunities. In order to ensure this, the technology imported from other countries as a result of technology transfer needs to be modified to fit to the local requirements. (Boas, Dunning, and Bussell, 2005). This would be aided by investing in competent and skilled workers who can study and assimilate the new technology and enable it to the conditions in the adoptee country and this would be promoted by investments in literacy and technology.
There is an interdependence between ICT implementation and good quality education. Good quality educational opportunities are needed for the adoption of ICT by the people in a country and ICT adaptation will lead to enhanced standards of education. Warschauer finds many similarities between traditional literacy and ICT literacy and both share many features which ultimately contribute to the development of human resources and ultimately successful economy. These include improved communication and enhancement of knowledge. He notes that both require the development of various skills include communication, cognition, knowledge, attitudes such as desire and confidence (Warschauer, 2002).
In addition, the use of ICT is important for both teachers and students. It helps to improve teaching- learning in teachers’ classrooms. There are many programs which are available to teachers to use ICT in their classrooms. The use of these programs requires the development of ICT-enabled classrooms and learning institutions. ICT is also believed to connect the world through opportunities for global educational exchange. Pippa Norris’ a leading digital divide scholar, predicts that the increased accessibility to the internet would increase global access to education and training especially through distance learning programs (Norris, P (2000). Thus, the use of ICT will significantly improve the educational facilities in countries that want to make a mark in the field of the global knowledge economy.
On the surface, the close connection between ICT and education may seem easy to establish for international collaborative development but it is a challenge to implement and propagate ICT in established and deep-rooted educational systems.
Efforts to comprehensively and holistically reduce the digital gap are ongoing, alongside attempts to understand the depth and intensity of the digital divide problem. Digital divide metrics are excellent practical indices that can be used to measure these differences during studies related to the differences in internet reach and access across different populations in the world as well as differences in how people use these media. (Hargittai, 2002). Experts also mention about the difficulties to make any definite predictions on the use of technology as they are very closely integrated with the day-to-day life of most of the societies that are making use of them. As Light mentions “The wide array in which multiple interactions with different people, organizations, institutions, and cultures such as individual teachers, schools, or academic subjects – makes it difficult for any particular technology to have a uniform or even entirely predictable effects “ (Light, 2001).
To summarise, developing countries must consider many issues while planning for the introduction and implementation of various kinds of technologies. These include their social context, socio-economic issues, kind of educational systems, attitudes etc. Boas, Dunning and Russells emphasize that the success of the digital revolution will depend on how these technologies are acclimatized to their new contexts and conditions and the different strengths of organized interests in playing a role in organizing and managing the global political economy.( Boas, Dunning and Russells, 2005)
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