Wolske to Present at Partnership for Progress on the Digital Divide Preconference

Martin Wolske, senior research scientist at CDI, will present at the Partnership for Progress on the Digital Divide Preconference this week. The event marks the 20th anniversary of the recognition of the digital divide through social scientific research.

Martin will speak on approaches currently underway at Champaign Unit 4 Schools to advance computational thinking as part of building inclusive digital communities.

The preconference is associated with the International Communication Association (ICA) 2014 Conference and takes place Thursday, May 22 in Seattle, WA.

More on the event: 

This interdisciplinary Preconference, sponsored by Partnership for Progress on the Digital Divide (PPDD) explores the nexus of the International Communication Association (ICA) Conference Theme of “The Good Life” and the issues of digital inclusion/exclusion for those who do not share the advantages of continuous connectivity. The PPDD Preconference is co-sponsored by the ICA Communication and Technology Division, the ICA Communication Law and Policy Division, and the ICA Mass Communication Division.

2014 marks the 20th anniversary of the recognition of the digital divide through social scientific research. As the Internet became commonplace in the 1990s, officials in the Clinton Administration wondered if there should be concern about equity of access to computers and the Information Superhighway. As a result, based on the analysis of Census data about computer/modem ownership and usage collected in 1994, the newly created National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) prepared and released in 1995 the landmark report entitled “Falling Through the Net: A Survey of the ‘Have Nots’ in Rural and Urban America.” From there, the discussion of the inequalities of online access as a new aspect of the larger issues of wealth and poverty began and the “Digital Divide” became a major focus in countries around the world.

Recent research from scholars in, for example, the U.S., U.K., and Canada indicates that nearly 20 years later, even in the most highly developed countries around the world, as much as 20% of the population does not benefit from even minimal access to the Internet. And, that lack of consistent, quality access to emergent communication technologies is antithetical to the nature of a “good life” amidst the transformative changes enjoyed by members of the wired population; those who are offline are alienated from the benefits of the “new opportunities to communicate and interact . . . new experiences, behaviors, and habits . . . [and the ability to] engage with others or receive information” suggested by the ICA Conference Theme. Thus, this Preconference responds to ICA’s call to consider “what a ‘good life’ might look like in a contemporary, digital, and networked society, and what new challenges we might face in attaining it” to include all members of society.

In the search for equity in access to “the good life” in the digital age, scholarly research has played a key role in the public discourse on the issues of the digital divide as well as in the decision-making by policymakers and practitioners as they work to craft solutions to this pressing societal concern. As the digital divide persists past its 20th anniversary, this Preconference provides an extended, in-depth opportunity to consider the current state and future possibilities for research that informs issues related to the digital divide around the world. Further, the Preconference works to identify new areas of necessary, productive research focus to foster greater understanding and enlighten practice and policy going forward so that all global citizens can create their own “good life” in the digital, networked age.


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