Access to Digital Libraries for Disadvantaged Users …

Access to Digital Libraries for Disadvantaged Users :

« Digital libraries, designed to serve people and their information needs in the same way as traditional libraries, present distinct advantages over brick and mortar facilities: elimination of physical boundaries, round-the-clock access to information, multiple access points, networking abilities, and extended search functions. As a result, they should be especially well-suited for the disadvantaged. However, minorities, those affected by lower income and education status, persons living in rural areas, the physically disabled, and developing countries as a whole consistently suffer from a lack of accessibility to digital libraries. This paper evaluates the effectiveness and relevance of digital libraries currently in place and discusses what could and should be done to improve accessibility to digital libraries for the disadvantaged. »


Student Access to and Skills in Using Technology…

Student Access to and Skills in Using Technology in an Open and Distance Learning Context :

« Amidst the different challenges facing higher education, and particularly distance education (DE) and open distance learning (ODL), access to information and communication technology (ICT) and students’ abilities to use ICTs are highly contested issues in the South African higher education landscape. While there are various opinions about the scope and definition of the digital divide, increasing empirical evidence questions the uncritical use of the notion of the digital divide in South African and international higher education discourses.

In the context of the University of South Africa (Unisa) as a mega ODL institution, students’ access to technology and their functional competence are some of the critical issues to consider as Unisa prepares our graduates for an increasingly digital and networked world.

This paper discusses a descriptive study that investigated students’ access to technology and their capabilities in using technology, within the broader discourse of the “digital divide.” Results support literature that challenges a simplistic understanding of the notion of the “digital divide” and reveal that the nature of access is varied. »


Can’t surf, won’t surf: The digital divide in mental health

Background: New health information technology (HIT) increasingly plays a role in health care as technology becomes cheaper and more widespread. However, there is a danger that those who do not use or have access to technology will not benefit from HIT innovations, thus creating a “digital divide”.

Aims: To assess the extent to which mental health service users have access to, skills in using and appetite for various technologies.

Methods: A cross-sectional survey was used to assess technology use and access patterns of 121 people from community mental health services. Data were analysed using logistic regression.

Results: Technology use and access were very similar to that of the general population with older individuals reporting less familiarity, access and confidence across a range of technologies. Black, minority and ethnic (BME) groups were more likely to access computers outside of their own homes than white individuals. Older participants experiencing psychosis indicated a desire to increase their computer use.

Conclusions: The findings reported here contrast with recent evidence suggesting that those who do not engage with technology are “self-excluders”. Furthermore, BME groups may need extra support regarding provision of technology in order to engage with HIT.


Les « trois horloges » de la « société de l’information ». De la disharmonie à la rupture ?

Ecrit en 2007, après le Sommet Mondial de la Société de l’Information, organisé à Tunis en 2005, ce texte propose une réflexion approfondie et originale. Il a aujourd’hui, en ce début 2011, une pertinence renforcée qui donne à réfléchir sur notre “Société de l’information”. Avec la mondialisation, les TIC sont devenues prééminentes.

Le « DigiWorld » incluant notamment le secteur des télécommunications, focalisé autour des technologies, connaît une croissance exponentielle. L’horloge technologique rythme la dynamique de la SI à une cadence très élevée. Cette « horloge » imprime le tempo de l’économie mondiale. L’horloge économique suit le mouvement. Les nouvelles lois de l’économie et des réseaux imposent leurs mécanismes. L’économie des réseaux précise en particulier que « les forts se renforcent » et que « les faibles s’affaiblissent ».

Inexorablement. La rupture, visible à Tunis en 2005, entre les différents pavillons du Sommet Mondial de la Société de l’Information, est manifeste. La troisième horloge, l’horloge « humaine et sociale » montre qu’une majorité de l’humanité peine à s’approprier les technologies, à les rendre « utilisables ».

Cette horloge peut-elle être remise à l’heure ou bien les écarts ne sont-ils pas destinés à s’accroître ? L’essor des TIC n’a en aucune façon conduit à une résorption des fractures, contrairement à ce qui a été longtemps annoncé et qui reste une opinion dominante. Les TIC ne sont pas synonymes d’information, de connaissance et, de façon évidente, ne sont pas associées à une qualité de l’information améliorée.

Au contraire, les fractures s’approfondissent. Nous avons montré la disharmonie, la rupture croissante et d’une ampleur extrême entre les horloges technologique et économique d’une part et l’horloge humaine et sociale d’autre part. »


Dazzling technologies’: Addressing the d…

Dazzling technologies’: Addressing the digital divide in the Southern African universities :
The ‘digital divide’ is both an infrastructural reality and a metaphor for Africa’s position in the global economy. We live in an era that defines itself by the extent to which it interacts, creates and shares knowledge globally, using the network of advanced telecommunications, the Internet. Southern African countries, their universities and research communities, are recognising that focusing purely on basic network infrastructure is inadequate to the needs of scholarly research and higher education in the 21st century. Southern African universities must acquire the means to participate effectively in global knowledge production. In particular, they must adopt and use advanced telecommunications infrastructure in the form of National Research and Education Networks or NRENs and a regional REN to connect students and researchers across national borders.
Yet the means to share knowledge is not sufficient to bring about a healthy knowledge economy. A paradigm shift has to be made from a purely technological view of the issues, to a full recognition of the interplay between technological infrastructure and the developmental and knowledge purposes to which it is put.
This article provides an overview of the emerging NREN landscape, noting developments under way that are intended to promote and facilitate excellence in scientific networking in the region. It discusses the constraints and enabling conditions for overcoming the digital divide in the Southern African higher education context. Finally, it proposes a rudimentary performance indicator framework for assessing progress.