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article imageSocial impact of digital inequality revealed

By Tim Sandle     Jul 30, 2017 in Technology
The digital age is making life easier for many, especially in terms of accessing and exchanging information. Digital literacy is especially important for accessing health services and government portals. But what about those left behind?
Digital inequalities can be assessed according to Internet usage, computer skills and self-perceptions. The fact that some people within society struggle needs to be addressed as more information from government and business goes on-line. Some argue that this level of social outcome should be considered alongside inequalities relation to the three great social power structures: race, class and gender. This is the outcome of a review by an international team of scholars.
Lead researcher Michael J. Stern, from the University of Chicago states: "It is increasingly clear that individuals' digital engagements and digital capital play key roles in a range of outcomes, from academic performance to labor market success to entrepreneurship to health services uptake.”
The academic goes onto note that those “who function better in the digital realm and participate more fully in digitally mediated social life enjoy advantages over their digitally disadvantaged counterparts -- a key linkage which social science is only beginning to grasp."
Two seniors relaxing on a bench
A man listens to his iPod while the woman fills out a crossword puzzle
By Ed Yourdon
More worryingly the report infers that digital exclusion rates are actually increasing in some societies, such as the U.S. This is due to the rapid rate that information is going on-line. A relatively recent example was the launch of Obamacare in the U.S., where a website was developed to the primary source of information. Often the very sector of society that the report was aimed at did not have the required digital literacy to access it.
While there is a digital transformation imperative that private and public sector organizations need to follow, thought must be given to the short-term presentation of data and access to information while efforts are made to boost the confidence of many sectors of the population in interacting with digital data.
The research into digital inequality has been published in the journal Information, Communication & Society. The research paper is titled “Digital inequalities and why they matter.”
The digital division is not simply one of demographics, however. A study by Michigan State University researcher William Chopik has found that social technology use among older adults is linked to better self-rated health and fewer chronic illnesses and depressive symptoms. Moreover, the take-up rate by seniors of on-line services is growing.
File photo: Surface Laptop
File photo: Surface Laptop
Despite the growth with seniors, the use of health related applications is highest with younger people. A further study finds 84 percent of U.S. teenagers turn to the Internet when they have health concerns.
More about Digital, digitalization, digital transformation, Health, Aging
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