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The other half!

Apr 01,2023 - Last updated at Apr 01,2023

Talk about the digital divide in our society is important indeed, and it is crystal clear that several countries in our globe, primarily the “developed” ones, reap more benefits from technology than we do.

These countries, it should be underscored first, possess more advanced technologies than we do, essentially because they themselves invent and manufacture such technologies.

They also, additionally, employ these technologies more effectively, largely because, again, they design and upgrade their functions and usages.

As for us, the so-called “developing” countries, our role is most often confined to a consumption determined by our financial abilities, and usages affected by our vision and plans, which ultimately fall below expectations.

There is, then, a real digital divide between us and others; and this is an undeniable fact.

However, one problematic issue related to this matter, which often gets glossed over, is that when we talk about a digital divide we only refer to half of the problem, the one pertaining to possession of technology, and forget the other, the one concerning efficient usage.

There is no denying, of course, that possessing sophisticated technology is extremely important.

Most often, others possess more and we possess less, both qualitatively and quantitatively. And this puts us at a disadvantage, technologically.

The best example in this regard is access to cutting-edge technologies in military defense, monitoring, scientific research, medical surgery, etc., in which we feel less fortunate.

Both the fiscal and scientific resources of many other countries are better than ours, and this is why we are unable to possess technologies equal to theirs.

But there is the other half of the divide, which we rarely talk about, namely the one pertaining to making the best usage of the technologies available to us.

Acquiring technology is important; more important, however, is maximisation and efficiency of its usage.

At this level, we have a huge problem, which we rarely address.

Let’s give one example, by way of illustration.

Many of our educational institutions, at the school and university levels, exerted a lot of effort and spent a lot of money, for decades, in order to acquire technologies necessary for online learning, which has been both a dream and a strategic aim for us, for some time now.  

And in fact, these institutions have been able to acquire decent, even very good, technologies for this purpose, enough that would enable them to offer quality online learning.

Have these technologies been used to provide adequate online learning?

The answer, sadly, is: No.

Most of what materialised before the COVID-19 pandemic, with very few exceptions, was rudimentary and insufficient.

In some cases, in fact, the equipment became obsolete before it was put to any use at all.

The reason, in addition to the absence of a vision and a plan for the usage, is that more attention perhaps was given to the possession of technology than to actual usage, or to the fact that we entrusted the usage to those who know how to operate the equipment technically, but lack pedagogical know-how and expertise.

In the absence of pedagogical know-how and a suitable plan, individuals will be using technologies for either basic purposes or entertainment and play.

During the pandemic, usage for the purpose of online learning increased and became a bit more serious and efficient; and we hope the momentum and efficiency continue.

There is another important factor to take into account, in the context of the digital divide: In the days ahead, technology is likely to become even more important than it is today, for a variety of reasons.

One crucial reason is the mounting importance and use of artificial intelligence, which is the forthcoming revolution, one that has already dawned on us in fact.

This is why, in the context of the digital divide again, we have to work on two levels at once, not one: Acquiring technology, and putting it to efficient use.

And indeed, the latter level is the more important, in our opinion.

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