Monday, November 5, 2012

Internet Inequality

                Although the internet has served the purpose of connecting many people together, it has undoubtedly left people behind. Bridgette Wessels expands on this point in her article “Exclusion, Inclusion and the Internet” stating that with the growth of the internet has created a “digital divide” among the population based on “socio-economic position, geographic location, ethnicity and language, as well as educational capacities and digital literacy.” There were some points that stood out to me, especially the statistics on access that Hispanics and non-english speakers had to the internet, which stated that “Internet access for Hispanics (age three years and older) in 2003 was only 37% compared to Internet access for 65% of non-Hispanic whites…” ( Wessels).
                I found this article extremely interesting because I felt that I could relate to the message. I grew up in a low income neighborhood, and as a young kid, I did not have internet at my house until I was about 11 or 12 years old in middle school.  Before that, the only way that I could actually access the net was by going to my local library, which was about 4 blocks away from my house. When I had to do things such as small research projects, I had to make the trip over to the library, making sure to be on time so that I could use the computers before it closed. Even then, I would have to sign up for a spot and wait in line, sometimes up to an hour just to be able to use a computer for 30 minutes!

                 The Vermont Square Branch Library located in South Central, Los Angeles, the      closest library to my home.

     In my community, the library served as the only way for many to access the internet. Even during high school, when I volunteered for community service hours, there were kids that I would see regularly that would come into the library just to be able to use the computer. Once I actually got internet at home, when I was about 11 or 12, I stopped going to the library as much, but even today, when the internet is much more widely available and computer technology is drastically cheaper, there are many who do not have the resources to be able to access the internet from the comfort of their own home, and the library remains as their way to access the internet. Another good point that Wessels makes is that the lack of computer literacy will disadvantage people when it comes to being skilled for jobs. A person who has a computer at home with constant internet access is going to be much more computer savvy than someone who has to go to a computer lab or library to access the internet. This is going to drastically bring down social and economic mobility for people who are in need of it most. I have a brother who was born 7 years after me, and I sometimes find it pretty crazy that he has grown up with internet access his whole life. It makes me feel like those people who say “back in my day…”
                The internet serves a great tool for learning. There are websites packed with information and search engines ready to search the web for anything that you can type in. The problem is that this tool is not available to everyone, and that can have a large impact on educational attainment on students, especially those who live in underrepresented communities. Technology is a language, and like other languages, the earlier one begins speaking it the better, because as one grows older, it becomes harder and harder to learn.


  1. I do agree with the points you are making! However, I look back to when I was a kid/growing up, and I didn't use the internet all that much. Television and the "educational" shows yes, but internet, no. Everything that I needed I found in books from the school library. I also really don't think that kids would be using the Internet to read the news or look up what's going on in the world. When I was younger I mainly used it to play games on or looking up recipes on Out of all the people that have access to the Internet, how many of them actually use if to look up news? Then again, I do agree that people that have access to a computer/Internet from a young age will have a better understanding of how to use a computer/Internet than someone that had access to it later in life.

  2. I find your post very moving, Brian, and a useful reminder that we cannot assume that everyone has equal access to that fabulous multi-tool we call the Internet. Laney's comment also reminds us that having access to the Internet does not necessarily mean that people are using it in "constructive" ways.

  3. I didn't have Internet access until around the same age, too! I look back at those years and sometimes try to imagine how different life would have been had I had access. And maybe I'm just a quirky person, but I don't regret it at all! I remember my parents didn't buy cable tv, so I would devour books from the library like crazy! I loved going there every week, and picking out a whole stack of books so I wouldn't be without things to do at home :). While the Internet is very, very useful (how else am I writing this comment? ^^), I think my childhood would not have been the same. I would probably have done a lot of similar things, like learning to ride a bike or swim, but I probably wouldn't have biked as much or swam as much if I had the option of being on the Internet and playing games, finding other content, etc. I am very thankful for the Internet, though, especially as a student. So many things are indeed online - assignments, rubrics, homework, readings, entire websites - to have the Internet is indeed something we often take for granted but is a blessing once we consider its uses. Thank you for sharing!