Introduction to Computer Information Systems and Ethics
The U.S. Digital Divide
Though the exact percentage is argued over by the experts, we can be happy to know that in the United States the Digital Divide continues to shrink. About 80% of the population of the United States uses the Internet. They use the Internet at school, work, home, and everywhere else. It's rare to find a McDonalds, one of the lowest common denominator eating establishments, that doesn't have a Wi-Fi connection. Computers and Internet access are always getting cheaper, which is great news because staying connected to the world is such an important quality. We stay alive and thrive through building relationships of all different kinds and the Internet is a powerful means of obtaining these relationships. Not only that, but most jobs today require the use of the Internet in one way or another. Due to the importance of the Internet, however, the percentage of Americans using the Internet should be closer to 99%. According to Forbes, there are several reasons why some people have never used the Internet or don't use it very often. The biggest percentage of them said they don't want or need to go online, because they're either too busy or because they think the Internet is a waste of time. A slightly smaller number of them said it is difficult or frustrating to go online, either because they don't understand or are physically unable. Ultimately, the importance of the Internet is understood the world over, meaning that the digital divide in the U.S. will continue to shrink so our country can stay competitive with Europe and Asia especially.
Global Digital Divide
The Global Digital Divide is an issue that our world seems to be facing more and more as time goes on. Like the US Digital divide, it is a comparison of groups of people with access to technology but on a global scale instead of a country scale. The problem arrises when one country's people has more access to technology and /or communications than another country. Most developed countries have a majority of their population with some access to technology, however it seems that many developing countries lack the technological accessibility that the others have. The largest problem caused by this is the lack of education. The internet today is such a source of information that one could potentially gain their entire college degree while hardly ever stepping foot in a classroom. Many people around the world lack the opportunity to gain an education because of their lack of access to the internet and other technology that would help them to learn things at a faster, easier, or more efficient rate. The internet has so many uses: school courses, communication, language tutoring, translations, calculations, and so many more.
More on the Digital Divide
The concept that is called the Digital Divide is the reality that technology, specifically computers and the Internet, is not available to all individuals. The digital divide is thought to be based on physical access to computers, Internet, and related technology. Some people consider the people that have access to computers and the Internet but do not understand how to use it are also part of the category of people that do not have true access to digital technology. One article explains that there are multiple dimensions to the digital divide. It claims the difference in not necessarily determined by the access to the Internet, but by access to ICT (Information and Communications Technologies) and to Media that the different segments of society can use. Other factors that should be considered are the quality of connection to the Internet and the cost of access to the Internet. Researchers also report that disadvantages can take such forms as lower-performance computers, lower-quality or high price connections, difficulty of obtaining technical assistance, and lower access to subscription-based contents. The reason that the digital gap is a concern for society is that information and communication technologies are vital to quality civic life. One article explains that access to new technology splits clearly along socio-economic class lines. According to U.S. census data, more than 30 million homes have no broadband access, most of them concentrate in some of the poorest parts of the country. According to another survey 84% of the teachers surveyed felt that today's digital gap is leading to greater disparities between affluent and disadvantaged schools. Technology can inform people by creating mutual understanding about different cultures and societies; technology also plays a part in education and governmental reform. By lessening the digital gap economic equality, social mobility, and economic growth will be more readily available.
The Americans with Disabilities Act requires companies with more than 15 employees to make reasonable accommodations for anyone that has known limitations. Nowadays, there is hardware and software specifically designed to aid individuals with physical disabilities. The most common technology that has been introduced is used to help those who are visually impaired or hard of hearing. There are various input devices available today to assist users communicate, usually on the computer.
- Braille or large-print keyboards
- One-handed keyboards
- Switches, eye tracking systems
- Pointing Devices
- Voice Input devices
In addition to the various input devices, there are output systems as well. The most common one is a screen reader that can read text information for the blind. There are also printers that can print in Braille instead of the conventional ink. Assistive technology is not always the best option, however. Often times it can be too expensive for the individual and not match their exact needs. Devices should be researched and tried out before purchasing. Training for these devices also needs to be taken into consideration. For example, what if this technology stops working for the user?
So how do some of these assistive devices such as Braille keyboards, one-handed keyboards, eye tracking systems, pointing devices, and voice input devices work? First off, made up of raised dots that signify a "language," and thus can be read by touch, Braille keyboards allow the visually impaired population to type and enter any text for the computer in Braille. Secondly, to assist people with limited movement of only one hand, each of the one-handed keyboard's key contains two letters (accommodating both the left and right side keys on a conventional keyboard), making it easier for all keys to be reached with just one hand. They also provide with the ability to input data to the computer hands-free through speech recognition systems. To act as mouse alternatives, many other pointing devices like foot-controlled mice (controlled solely by the feet), head pointing systems (directed using simple head movements), and eye tracking systems (tracking the movement of the eye) are commonly used. To add on to all these types of outstanding assistive technology, there is also another alternative input system known as "sip-and-puff" system, which is activated by one's inhaling or exhaling!
Next, once the data has been input into the computer using any of these assistive input devices, assistive output devices come into play. These devices include screen readers, which read aloud all the text information on the screen; Braille displays act similar to Braille keyboards as they continuously convert screen output into Braille form. Lastly, there are also Braille printers – sometimes known as Braille embossers – which transfer and print computer generated text into embossed Braille output. Therefore, instead of the traditional ink, the embosser creates raised dots on a page for the visually impaired to read.
Assistive Technology in the Classroom
Assistive technology can be especially helpful in the education setting. Thanks in large part to the mainstreaming and inclusion efforts in schools today, students of every ability are integrated into traditional classrooms. This integration can be greatly aided by the use of assistive technology. Assistive Technology allows students with disabilities to learn and complete lessons more independently. Educators can use a variety of tools to help all types of students. Screen readers can be used to read text to visually impaired students. There are many programs available (some are even free) that can be used to read documents aloud to students. This can be helpful for both visually impaired students, as well as students that are cognitively impaired and unable to read. Close captioning and subtitling help students that are hearing impaired. Eye tracking systems as well as sip and puff systems are especially helpful for students with mobility impairments. Voice recognition software can also provide a way for students to write more efficiently without the use of a keyboard. Adding these technological advancements to the classroom allows students to participate in lessons and activities that would not otherwise be available to them.