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Appropriate Technology Choice

'Availability of technology does not ensure accessibility'


05 January 2010

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Studies have shown that many ICT-based projects instead of promoting learning within illiterate communities have perpetuated inequalities, says journalist Kelly Ng. For widening participation among marginalised groups, there is a need to understand and choose technologies that are best suited for each community, she adds.

In light of disappointing results from research into ICT projects that aim to close the digital divide, Anita Dighe, Director, Directorate of Distance Learning, India warned that expectations must be scaled down.

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Studies have shown that projects to promote learning through technology within illiterate communities often strengthen inequalities rather than reduce them.

The people who benefit from computers and internet access are generally younger people, instead of the intended people who are older, disabled or unemployed.

“ICT increases educational activity among those who are already learners rather than widening participation to include those who had previously not taken part in formal or informal learning,” said Dighe.

The perceived wisdom is that ICT provides access to knowledge and education. However, Dighe points out that the mere availability of technology does not ensure accessibility. Economic, organisational, and socio-cultural factors are barriers governments need to be aware of.

Gender inequalities still persist in most developing countries, she added.

“There is a tendency to miss the social context in which ICT is embedded. You need to acknowledge that the technological and the social aspects of ICT-based projects are intertwined.

Educational achievements are shaped not only by the way education is organised but also by the socio-economic background of the learners,” she said.

There are several areas governments and educators need to work on. First, they need to better understand and choose technologies which are best suited for each community.
Radio, television, films and other traditional media are more likely to be effective in developing countries compared to computers and the internet.

In November, Mongolia launched an education television programme while schools were closed due to the H1N1 crisis. Students were encouraged to reflect on the lessons and respond by messaging their teachers using mobile phones.

“Television is the best way to reach the community because every household has a television. Not all families have computers and fewer have internet access,” Enkhjargal Sukhbaatar, Executive Director, IT Education of Mongolia told FutureGov.

Second, there is a need for research on the reason behind the success or failure of ICT based learning programmes. Evidence is sparse on why people engage or do not engage with technology.

“There is still much to be done,” added Dighe.
“A study last year reported 774 million illiterate people globally. The problem is particularly grave in the South Asian region. Most of the illiterate are women who are older and poor, living in rural areas, and belong to linguistic, ethnic and religious minorities.”

 
Source : Future Gov

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