From Structuralists to Instrumentalists

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The purpose of this literature review is to provide information about several ICT initiatives undertaken in education on a global basis in order to overcome the digital divide and summarise the findings of these initiatives. Due to the limited scope of the study, the bulk of the review mainly concerns initiatives undertaken in secondary schools from 1990 onwards, though general information regarding other areas of digital development has been included where relevant.

This literature begins with a description and definition of the digital divide. The paper then provides a theoretical framework and organises the results of the literature review for sections like-

  • Descriptive case studies
  • National policies
  • Country comparisons and
  • Empirical studies

Defining the digital divide
The term digital divide was first coined by Lloyd Morrisett, president of the Markle Foundation (Hoffman, et al., 2001). According to Hoffman et al., Morrisett vaguely conceived of a divide between the information-haves and have-nots. While Morrisett is credited with the term, the coupling of ICT and inequality is not new. This belief is also evident in Compaine’s (2001) claim that: “Before there was a ‘digital divide’ there were the ‘information haves and the have-nots.” (Compaine, 2001).

The marked gap between the number of countries that are high-level ICT participants and the number that are low-level ICT participants has been referred to as the global digital divide (World Economic Forum, 2000). So, an uneven pattern or gap of ICT diffusion between industrialised countries and least developed countries exists as measured by the number of phone lines per inhabitants (teledensity), the number of Internet hosts, the number of Internet users, the number of households that own computers, and the number of cell phone users (Campbell, 2001).

The global digital divide, as well as the digital divide within countries, is also referred to as the ‘technological divide’ (Rice, 2001).

In a similar vein, according to an ITU (2002) report, the digital divide is not only defined in terms of lack of access to telephone services, but also in terms of lack of access to ICT.

OECD (OECD, 2001) roughly frames the digital divide as: “the gap between individuals, households, businesses and geographic areas at different socio-economic levels with regard both to their opportunities to access ICT and to their use of the Internet for wide variety of activities.” So, the digital divide reflects various differences among and within countries.

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