Learning to Bridge the Digital Divide

Centre for Educational Research and Innovation

Across the OECD, attention is focusing increasingly on what has been dubbed the "digital divide" - a term that refers to the gaps in access to information and communication technology (ICT). The stakes are high, as ICT is now integral to the social fabric and is the catalyst for "new economies" to emerge. Exclusion threatens the ICT "have-nots", whether individuals, groups or entire countries. Political awareness of the stakes at issue grows sharply, as indicated by the prominence of the digital divide in G-8 discussions.

Education and learning lie at the heart of these issues and their solutions. They are the lifeblood of our 21st century knowledge societies, and ICT is critical to them. The gaps that define the "learning digital divide" are thus as important as the more obvious gaps in access to the technology itself. Learning is central in the still more fundamental sense that the machines and equipment are useless without the competence to exploit them. Nurturing this competence is in part the job of schools and colleges, in part dependent on the learning that takes place throughout life in homes, communities, and workplaces.

This volume meets an important need in the contemporary international literature on education policy, lifelong learning, and economic and social development. It presents analysis of the "learning digital divide" in different countries - developed and developing - and the policies and specific innovations designed to bridge it. The evidence shows that ICT can be the solution to inequalities rather than their cause - digital diversity and opportunity rather than digital divide.