- Technology

Is it possible to reduce the generational digital divide?

The digital divide is the concept that refers to the separation between those who can make use of new digital technologies and those who cannot for reasons that can be very diverse. Many have classified this phenomenon only as an economic problem, however, this is a half-truth, since there are other types of gaps, such as language, politics, education, gender, teacher-student, psychological and generational.

On this occasion I want to focus on the last one, that is, on the generational digital gap which, according to Alonso’s description (2017), is the distance that divides digital natives and digital immigrants, which requires special attention since, according to the quote, the figures of the United Nations (UN) indicate that 10% of the world’s population is over 60 years of age, which will probably double by 2050 according to their forecasts.

It is important to mention that the activities for which digital immigrants (born between 1940 and 1980) make greater use of the Internet have to do with the reading of newspapers, online encyclopedias and e-mail and, to a lesser extent, the use of social networks, although the latter is beginning to have a greater place among them (Alonso, 2017).

We must ask ourselves a question: what prevents this generation from integrating ICTs and the Internet in a more habitual way in their daily practices? To this one can respond immediately that there are several factors and it is necessary to quote Alan Key’s phrase: “The things we have to learn are difficult, while the things we grow up with are only part of the environment”.

However, the most important is to find the answers that will contribute to reducing the generational digital divide. In this respect, the following proposals should be noted:

Firstly, it would be appropriate to develop enough search tools to make information easier to find in the different virtual environments most used by this group of society, such as, for example, voice tools, as well as to develop methods of access with fingerprints so that the use of the different tools is much more user-friendly. Similarly, it is highly recommended to adapt the different typographies to the visual capacity, which in the case of older adults is usually more limited than that of younger.

Another proposal that I found very interesting is the project called Teenagers Teach Internet Skills (TTIS), in which younger people share their knowledge of new technologies with older adults. This method became an inter generational experience that fostered a positive attitude among older people regarding their comfort in working with adolescents and respect for adolescents, the ability to teach, and patience with older people. Overall, the results suggest that the inter generational experience benefited both groups in learning and skills development and led to a positive change in attitude towards the other generation.

In short, to look for diverse ways so that the interaction with the TIC both of the natives and of the digital immigrants is adapted to their needs and to implement policies for its attainment will contribute, without any doubt, to the reduction of the generational digital gap in a significant way, which would eliminate a great amount of barriers, that have been marked by the new technologies, between these two important groups of the society.

About Karen P. Lawson

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