Digital Divide to Digital Dividend: What will it take?

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Daniel, John
West, Paul
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Commonwealth of Learning (COL)

Digital Divide to digital dividend: What will it take? Online EDUCA Berlin 1 December 2005, written by: Sir John Daniel and Paul West Commonwealth of Learning, presented by Sir John Daniel // Good evening and greetings also from my South African co-author and colleague, Paul West. Our title is Digital Divide to Digital Dividend: What will it take? The conference theme is technology-supported learning and training. Our first aim is to flag the greatest challenge in learning and training; namely to give billions of poor people access to it. Can we connect technology to learning and training for their benefit? We shall explore eLearning through a wide-angle international lens taking in the whole world. The larger question is in our title: what will it take replace the digital divide with a digital dividend? // In developing countries the challenge begins with demography. Forecasts indicate a population of 7 - 8 billion people in the developing world in 2025 - more than half of them young people. We have already crossed the threshold of 100 million post-secondary students worldwide, and numbers are forecast to grow to 125 million before 2020. Today there is a huge discrepancy between the proportions of people in developing and developed countries who have access to post-secondary education. 40-50% age participation rates (APRs) are becoming the norm in developed countries, whereas they remain below 5% in some sub-Saharan African countries. // In response new providers of post-secondary education are proliferating. Some of these operate across national borders, sometimes by eLearning. However, a recent study found that cross-border post-secondary education is, for the moment at least, a negligible phenomenon in developing countries (Daniel, Kanwar and Uvaliæ-Trumbiæ, 2005). So developing countries must rely mainly on home-grown solutions to expand post-secondary education. Can eLearning provide the radical reconfiguration of the key variables of capacity, quality and cost that is needed? That is the key question. What will it take for digital divide to become digital dividend? // We link this to the wider challenge of improving the quality of life of the world's poorest people. C.K. Prahalad and his colleagues have looked at how corporations can better serve those at the bottom of the world economic pyramid (Prahalad, 2004). They draw attention to the four billion poor people in the world who aspire to better lives and urge corporations to review their globalisation strategies through a new lens of inclusive capitalism since, 'for companies with the resources and persistence to compete at the bottom of the world economic pyramid, the prospective rewards include growth, profits and incalculable contributions to humankind' (Prahalad & Hart, 2002).

Educational Technology,eLearning,Open Educational Resources (OER)