Digital Inequality: On The High End Of The Digital Divide

It has been interesting examine the concept and reality of the digital divide in my personal sociopolitical, economic, and cultural contexts. I am originally from the 3rd largest city in the U.S., Chicago, and now live in Seoul, the largest city in South Korea. Both environments feel similar from a developmental perspective though they both vary in trivial and important ways. The most important similarity in regards to the digital divide is that I have lived in/on the high end of this continuum, as well as have worked in the high end of that spectrum in both places.

Each country is considered to be a world leader on the ICT Development Index, yet rankings and numbers never really do justice to the reality of the situation, or the closest approximation thereof. I had not realised that Korea is quite literally on the top of the index, ranking in at #1 and #2 depending on the year. As a long term resident of Seoul, the conveniences of ICT resources are literally every where. In my particular field of work as a former educational technology specialist at an international school for 5 years, never did I lack ICT resources. However, when taking a more detailed look at the other micro-environments within the city and nation, as well as having learned a lot about the restrictions in Korean public schools from my graduate students (I also work as an adjunct professor), there is still very much a divide that needs to be addressed.

This is no easy task, of course, as there is a complex and dynamic relationship between poverty, geography, politics, and education that go well beyond simple “access” to ICT resources like the internet. Access is not a problem for most people in the world’s #1 or #2 ICT Developed nation, it is what people can do with the resources as a result. This themes occurs over and over in the literature on technology integration as well.

I am sure it would surprise most people that many students in Korea are not allowed to use personal electronics in school for school work, and some schools even confiscate their cell phones at the beginning of each day. This is a stark contrast to international schools (i.e. progressive, western-style education) where such tools are an integral part of facilitating and achieving learning goals, productivity methods, and school missions. By looking at some of these issues I was able to come up with some potential methods (i.e. suggestions) of improving aspects of the divide in Education, Rural Communities, and for Low Income Residents. While these may seem broad as a national treatment, the size of South Korea is smaller than my home state of Illinois, and the city of Chicago closely mirrors the same issues described here, though some causes are notably different.

With a better knowledge and articulation of the digital divide, especially as it exists in my personal and professional context, I can advocate for improvements, and should I find myself in a position of leadership in any capacity, I can strive to make more targeted and meaningful changes that benefit all stakeholders in that community. The next time I teach Ed-Tech for Language Educators, I will definitely add the Digital Divide to my initial overview of learner considerations.

You can take a look at the presentation in either the Google Slides format, or the narrated version through VoiceThread. The medium, in my personal opinion is somewhat limiting, so I took care to try to use good visual design through various colour and typography schema to present information clearly. Ideally I would prefer to make this in an interactive multimedia object using Hype, but this would take a significant amount of time that is beyond the scope of the assignment.


VoiceThread Narrated Presentation

Google Slides Presentation

Google Doc Outlines/Notes


2 thoughts on “Digital Inequality: On The High End Of The Digital Divide

  1. This was a really interesting presentation because I don’t know much about South Korea. In watching your presentation and reading through this post, I wonder if it wouldn’t be a better way to show the IDI for each country to show how much of a divide in technological accessibility there is. It’s obvious there is a skew in the data because of the super-accessible in comparison to the super-inaccessible.

    As an adjunct professor, are you now also in communication with public school teachers? Have you talked to any of them about integrating more technology?

    Thank you for sharing about this!

    1. Jen,

      Yes South Korea’s education is definitely a paradox- it often ranks extremely high on various OECD indicators, and the ICTDI is no exception. That being said, the reality of student unhappiness, suicide rates, etc., are also the highest in the OECD. The issue of the absence of technology in education here isn’t so much of ignorance as it is deliberate avoidance. The reason why is extremely complex and attitudes of the established teaching profession aren’t so keen to modernise for one reason or another. Even universities still take attendance on paper, and grades do not need to be submitted to the end of the semester. So unless a student keeps track of their own progress, they have no way of knowing where they stand all semester- and that is only one issue of many! Access to technology isn’t the issue, but purposeful application of.

      Most public school teachers don’t have the time to really implement technology-based solutions (5 classes with 40 students per class), in addition to computers and WiFi not being available in class other than the teacher’s projector. Public schools do have computer labs, but they have to be signed up, and often public school teachers cite a lack of skills on part of the students that compel them to avoid using the lab. Though, you have to wonder that if the teacher doesn’t teach them these skills, then where will they acquire them?

      I’m not sure what a decent solution is to the skew in data, but, it definitely needs to be looked at critically. The formerly #1 nation on the list still has a long way to go to truly being transformative across most sectors of the society, education being a chief example of this paradoxical irony.

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