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The novel issue of digital divide is shaping information-based poverty in high-tech societies


Modern ways of life are now built on digital infrastructure and connected by a variety of information and communications technologies and smart technologies. To access this infrastructure, people must be able to reach a certain level of computerization and must communicate with different media in order to conduct their daily lives. However, this rapid digitization has created many inequities as the use of digital is no longer a choice, but a daily necessity.


When people lack digital resources and know-how, their ability to benefit from services and resources has an impact on their health [1]. As we entered an era where technological development and population aging are prevalent, it is vital to capitalize on opportunities to learn how to use technologies for social connection and improve quality of life and home support. Technology has the potential to play an integral role in all those attributes, complementing while keeping knowledge up to date. This rapid digitization presents challenges, such as keeping up with the rapid pace of technological evolution and the language and terminology used, which are becoming too complicated to follow. These barriers stand in the way of adopting new technologies [2].


The concept of digital divide emerged in the 1990s, when the American media coined the term [3] as a metaphor for the inequalities lived between people who had access to technology and those who didn’t [4]. Socially speaking, it illustrates the gap between the majority and diverse minority groups including low-income communities, ethnic minorities, rural communities, older adults, people living with disabilities and women [5], [6]. These are the social classes at risk to experience disadvantage in terms of information and who might not benefit from knowledge and information society [2]. People experiencing the digital divide can be considered information poor, and the senior population is the most affected by the issue [7].


Digital literacy is a key challenge in addressing these new forms of exclusion. A simple way to describe digital literacy is the ability to capture the information generated by a digital tool and to perform the tasks in function [8]. Such literacy has become a crucial component for social and cultural communication [3] and for maintaining the capacity to reach for information over a lifespan [2]. Removing socio-economic and technological obstacles would foster a society of active aging among constant digital evolution [4].


References

  1. Zhou Y, He T, Lin F. The Digital Divide Is Aging: An Intergenerational Investigation of Social Media Engagement in China. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2022; 19(19). doi: 10.3390/ijerph191912965

  2. Ngiam NHW, Yee WQ, Teo N, Yow KS, Soundararajan A, Lim JX, et al. Building Digital Literacy in Older Adults of Low Socioeconomic Status in Singapore (Project Wire Up): Nonrandomized Controlled Trial. J Med Internet Res. 2022; 24(12). doi: 10.2196/40341

  3. Liu L, Wu F, Tong H, Hao C, Xie T. The Digital Divide and Active Aging in China. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021; 18(23). doi: 10.3390/ijerph182312675

  4. Freeman S, Marston HR, Olynick J, Musselwhite C, Kulczycki C, Genoe R, et al. Intergenerational Effects on the Impacts of Technology Use in Later Life: Insights from an International, Multi-Site Study. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020; 17(16). doi: 10.3390/ijerph17165711

  5. Jun W. A Study on the Current Status and Improvement of the Digital Divide among Older People in Korea. Int J Environ Res Public Health [Internet]. 2020; 17(11). doi: 10.3390/ijerph17113917

  6. Song Y, Qian C, Pickard S. Age-Related Digital Divide during the COVID-19 Pandemic in China. Int J Environ Res Public Health [Internet]. 2021; 18(21). doi: 10.3390/ijerph182111285

  7. Kärnä E, Aavikko L, Rohner R, Gallistl V, Pihlainen K, Müller C, et al. A Multilevel Model of Older Adults’ Appropriation of ICT and Acquisition of Digital Literacy. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2022; 19(23). doi: 10.3390/ijerph192315714

  8. Lee H, Lim JA, Nam HK. Effect of a Digital Literacy Program on Older Adults’ Digital Social Behavior: A Quasi-Experimental Study. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2022; 19(19). doi: 10.3390/ijerph191912404

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