Monthly Archives: April 2013

The Digital Divide

We in Ireland, have a digital divide, which is often described as being generational. The first of these two are the people who wish technology, and the global invasion that comes with it, would go away. These people, often secretly, hope that it won’t last. The second are the people who believe that technology is the answer for everything. These people will assume that any issues to do with family health, plumbing, purchasing and entertainment can all be sorted through Google, or from a DIY video on You Tube., and if all this fails, will post a question on their Facebook page.

It is almost as if information and communication technologies have brought a crippling sense of inadequacy to some people and a bloated sense of empowerment to others. Neither of which are real. The reality that we are facing is somewhere between these two points of view.

The Internet has, provided a platform for a great many systems that have influenced and changed the way people communicate. This revolution facilitated by, Skype, YouTube and Facebook, is truly wonderful. The democracy that has emerged with the introduction of Web 2.0 technologies, have prised the power to distribute and publish information, from the hands of the few into the fingers of many.

There is no doubt that the Internet and its off shoots are here to stay and will have an increasing impact on our lives over the coming years. However, it would be foolhardy to equate the ability to access and use the Internet and social media with the importance of real learning. Those who have developed understanding and depth of insight into a subject, provide the fertile ground that nurtures evolution and development of new ideas grounded on old knowledge.

The Global Information Technology Report states the people and countries most likely to benefit economically and socially, from information technologies are the ones who have access to a high speed Internet at a reasonable cost, have the skills to use it efficiently, and are willing to invest resources

So, it is your choice will you benefit from this technology or not?

The hammer has hardly changed in 2.5 million years

Joan Maguire with President Patrick Hillery

Joan Maguire with President Patrick Hillery in the Computer Training Room in Ballyferriter, 1984

The first personal computer, the apple I was developed in 1978, which brought about the era of personal computing. Before that all computers were large, and were housed in special air conditioned rooms, with terminals attached. Unless you worked in the industry, the only sight you got of one, apart from pictures in books, was when you went to the bank or checked in for a flight.

The early IBM PC’s, were among the first personal computers. This was the technology used in the courses that I taught here, thirty years ago. They had DOS 1.0 operating system, WordStar as the word processor, Supercalc as a Spreadsheet, Peachtree accounting system and DBaseII as the Database. There was no sign of Windows or laptops. Dingle had no ATM machine. The World Wide Web did not exist.

The personal computing era has continued from that time to this. During this era, personal devices have become smaller and have increased in functionality.

A smartphone today, can do so much more than one of those Desktop PCs. It is portable, so much so, it can fit in your pocket. It can store more information and photographs. It comes at a fraction of the
£3,500 price tag of the IBM PC, for the computer alone, each one of the pieces of software cost hundreds of pounds and the printer also cost extra.

A smartphone can connect to the Internet and give the owner access to Facebook and Twitter, and thousands of small applications (apps) at a very reasonable price of just few euro . It is also a phone. These smartphone devices which were probably beyond the dreams of people in the 1980’s are now commonplace.

The rate of change in technology is extraordinary, and is unusual. A carpenter uses a hammer, it was there when he/she was young and it is still there. Carpenters and builders in the future will probably still use hammers. Hammers have been around for 2.5 million years.

With more and more people throughout the world employed in researching and developing technology, we can expect the rate of change to continue and to even increase. The plain truth of the matter is that we don’t adapt as quickly as the technology develops. If you buy a new smartphone or pad by the time you have learnt to use it has been surpassed by something else.

We need to be discerning before adopting new technology, in the words of one of my past students, “Computers I know all about them, and I want to have nothing to do with them”. This reaction is probably not common place, but, it shows that this person had considered whether they wanted to adopt the new technology and had decided against it. How many times with new technology do people assess the technology and the pro’s and cons of it , before they engage with it?

As we come near the end of the Personal Computer Era, and we look forward to what has to come. Ask your self the question before buying or engaging with technology. What will this do to improve my life or that of, the people around me.