Abbot Scholar Thomas ’03 Discusses ‘Digital Divide’

Discussing the use of technology and its availability among different social groups both across the United States and at Phillips Academy, Abbot Scholar Itiah Thomas ’03 delivered her presentation “The Digital Divide: A Social Divide?” on Tuesday in the School Room. Thomas concentrated her presentation on the availability of computer access with regard to race, gender, nationality, socioeconomic classes, and education, while touching upon what could be done to improve the computer literacy of PA students. Explaining the focus of her lecture, Thomas stated, “Technology is a luxury that only the privileged can enjoy…[technology is moving] towards being a necessity for success.” The first subject that Thomas touched on in her presentation was the relationship between race and the “digital divide.” Displaying graphs with information pertaining to computer and Internet usage among different races, Thomas focused on computer usage amongst Caucasians, African-Americans, Asians, and the people of the Pacific Islands. Her studies showed that there has been a drastic increase over time in Internet and computer usage amongst minority groups. Thomas then discussed the effect of gender on the “digital divide.” Her research showed that more men than women currently use computers and the World Wide Web. Thomas attributed this difference to the fact that men are more likely to take part in careers and interests based on computer-related math and science fields. However, Thomas noted that more women have begun using computers over the last several years. The third subject in Thomas’s presentation was based on the relationship between socioeconomic class and the “digital divide.” According to Thomas, the main reason that there is a socioeconomic issue with technology is because of the high prices of computers. Thomas’ graphs showed that people of lower socioeconomic class have a lower computer usage rate than people of a higher socioeconomic class. Thomas commented, “It’s harder for one in the lower ranks to rise up into the higher ranks without [computer] access.” However, Thomas noted, since the price of computers have fallen steeply, this socioeconomic gap will likely tighten in the near future. Thomas concluded her presentation by discussing the relationship between education and the “digital divide.” Thomas stressed the importance of having technology in school, stating that having access to computers gives students knowledge and a greater opportunity to learn.