The digital divide in education
Before I talk about paths other family members in my generation took in the German educational system, I want to come back to what my cousin Thorsten said in his interview: “The future of education is in Web.2.0.”
Many of the other bloggers and I have already written about this: No matter whether in Kenya or in Germany, technology opens new doors to education everywhere. But these don’t overcome old problems.
As I wrote in May, the higher your level of education already is, the better you can profit from the opportunities the Internet offers. If I only speak one langue, I can understand only a small fraction of what is available online. Speakers of economically important and widely-used languages – such as English, French, and German – are still in a better position: In their languages you can find so much more than in languages of smaller language groups. So you will find almost four billion English articles on Wikipedia but only 361 in Swazi. There are many more examples of this. They show us that people who don’t know English are disadvantaged in the digital world, too. Therefore, inequality in access to education can’t be completely balanced out through technology. On the contrary: Sometimes it is even exacerbated!
Technical prerequisites must be in place to open websites at all. But lacking Internet access, rural areas or countries with poor infrastructure are more left out than before. In these areas, companies can’t profit from installing wires or radio towers. Costs may be too high, or there may just not be enough people who’d pay.
Economic interests don’t only determine who gets Internet access. They also influence what we can read online. If we trust in “googling” our knowledge, the risk is high of the first results being those manipulated by companies who have paid their online marketing and search engine optimization specialists to get their sites placed highly. Of course, the crowd of “normal” users has a certain power, too – but is it strong enough to counter economic – and often also state – interests?
I find such questions very interesting. And I think all of us in society and politics have to grapple with them. That is why I’m looking forward to next week’s Global Media Forum that starts on Monday in Bonn. During this international media conference hosted by Deutsche Welle, I’ll be able to discuss live with the other four bloggers and listen to experts. This year’s motto is “Culture, Education, Media.” I’m especially excited about having the opportunity to participate in the different workshops. Some deal with my new blog post’s topics, e.g., “An Algorithmic View of the World: How Google and Others Shape Awareness and Education“ and “Learning Is a Two-Way Street: Participation in Communication and Education.“ I’ll write next week about my experiences from the conference.
DateJune 22, 2012 | 8:00 am