Bridging the Digital Divide: An Analysis of a Notebook Borrowing Program at a Rural Primary School in Australia

A. Selwood, J. Atkinson, and R. Black (Australia)

Keywords

digital divide, rural, notebook, bridging.

Abstract

In Australia a Digital Divide exists between metropolitan and rural areas. Using State Government funding, Chiltern Primary School, a rural primary school initiated a program allowing members of the local community to borrow notebook computers for use at home. This study analyzed the program’s impacts and benefits on program participants and the broader community and areas for improvement. A mixed methods approach was adopted using secondary data and face-to-face interviews with a total of 13 key informants and program participants. The study identified a number of benefits for program participants including easy access to ITC in their homes and improved skills and increased confidence. The benefits for the community were limited but did improve links between the school and community. A number of problems with the program were identified including participants’ lack of knowledge about the computer set up and software, lack of technical support and the ongoing costs of supporting the program. Respondents identified a number of possible solutions such as extra technical support both at home and within the school, improved instructions for participants, compulsory initial training, clear use guidelines, and revised administration processes. This type of program has the capacity to benefit other similar communities, however the problems identified first need addressing.

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