YIHUA YANG, LINXIU ZHANG, XIAO HU, QINGHE QU, FANG LAI, YAOJIANG SHI, MATTHEW BOSWELL, SCOTT ROZELLE (2012) The Roots of Tomorrow’s Digital Divide: Documenting Computer Use and Internet Access in China’s Elementary Schools Today
The goal of this paper is to explore the nature of China’s digital divide with a focus on differences in access to computers, learning software, and internet at school and home among different groups of elementary school-aged children in China. Using data from a set of large scale surveys in schools in different parts of the country, we find the gap between computer and internet access of students in rural areas and urban public school students is extremely wide. The gap widens further when comparing urban students to students from minority areas. The gap is less wide when comparing computer access and access to teaching of the most basic computer skills across urban and rural public schools. However, the divide is still large between urban and rural schools when examining the quality of computer instruction and access to learning software. Migration itself does not appear to eliminate the digital divide. Only when migrant families are able to enroll their children into urban schools does the divide substantially narrow. If the digital divide in elementary schools today is a harbinger of employment, education, and income inequality tomorrow, China needs to seriously address this issue in the near future.
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