RS2: Singapore

Conceptualizing and testing a social cognitive model of the digital divide

In the article, “Conceptualizing and testing a social cognitive model of the digital divide,” researchers Wei, Teo, Chan, and Tan (2011) described a quantitative study they conducted on the presence and extent of the digital divide in Singapore. Wei et al. (2011) wanted to determine, through their research, whether their three-level model of the digital divide was supported empirically among students in Singapore. The authors also stated their interest in examining whether Singapore’s efforts to place computers in classrooms, libraries, and other kinds of public places had any influence on the divide, given that “increasing public access to computers has often been deemed the holy grail of reducing the digital divide” (170). The study that Wei et al. (2011) undertook involved a survey of a purposive sample of 4,063 secondary school students from 26 schools that had information technology (IT) as part of their curriculum. The study’s outcome measure was computer self-efficacy (CSE), which Wei et al. (2011), drawing on the work of Albert Bandura, defined as “the belief in one’s capability to organize and execute the courses of action required to manage prospective situations,” specifically with regard to IT use (172). Wei et al. (2011) students’ CSE scores and IT learning outcomes with regard to access to a computer at home, use of home and school computers, gender, and grades at school. The results of the study, according to Wei et al. (2011), supported their three-level digital divide model, which frames the digital divide as a phenomenon that does not only occur due to different levels of access to technology, but also relies on social relationships and individual cognitions. The first level of this divide was framed by Wei et al. (2011) as the divide in levels of access, which, for the students in the study, was whether they had a home computer, while the second level was the degree of digital capability. Wei et al. (2011) found a relationship between these levels in the results, noting that “students without home computers had lower CSE even when they had IT access in schools” (180). In turn, the digital capability divide related to a digital outcome divide, which Wei et al. (2011) operationalized as learning outcomes. Social and cognitive influences on the digital capability and outcome levels for students were also found in the study. Wei et al. (2011) noted, for example, that access to a computer at home “has a stronger impact on the CSE of female students compared to male students,” while using a computer at home to play games developed “intrinsic motivation,” which allowed them to “gain much in CSE compared to students using home computers for utilitarian purposes” only, like homework (182). The large influence of home computer access on the students’ learning outcomes and CSE in the study support the contention made by Wei et al. (2011) that IT at school combined with adequate funding is helpful for closing the digital divide, but that “it is important to have both home and school computing access” (182).

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