Digital Divide and Social Inclusion (VII): Education for the Knowledge Society through Social Inclusion

Notes from the first II Conferencia Internacional Brecha Digital e Inclusión Social (II International Conference on the Digital Divide and Social Inclusion held at the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid will be hosting at their campus in Leganés (Spain) on October 28th to 30th, 2009.

Plenary session: Education for the Knowledge Society through Social Inclusion
Moderator: Juan Manuel Villasuso Estomba, Professor at the Universidad de Costa Rica y Director de PROSIC

Digital Divide: Results of a cognitive summation
Jesús Lau, Director de la USBI Veracruz y Coordinador de la Biblioteca Virtual, Universidad Veracruzana

Education makes a difference in technology adoption. But socialization — or the social factor — is even more important. on the other hand, we tend to focus on content, on knowledge, when assessing the success of education, but just seldom focus on skills and competences; though this should be the goal of the school and of Education at large.

Cognitive processes become useful when applied into action. That’s why the shift from knowledge to competences is so important.

Map of skills:

  • reasoning,
  • oral expression,
  • literacy,
  • ICT skills and media literacy,
  • informational literacy.

While Internet penetration is still low and increases with a very low speed, mobile telephony has a higher penetration and is indeed more quickly adopted by new users. We should probably leverage mobile telephony to foster access to the Information Society.

Some insights:

  • The technological divide is an output of the economic development
  • Education is determinant for social inclusion
  • Cognitive inequality is cause-effect of the digital divide
  • We need inclusive societies, and education is an inequality killer
  • Policies of informational inclusion are highly required

Multiliteracy, citizenry and social inclusion
Manuel Area Moreira (Catedrático de Didáctica y Organización Escolar. Facultad de Educación de la Universidad de La Laguna

Please go to to see the embedded presentation

Libraries, historically: expensive, based on scarcity, classy or elitist, individualist. Now, content is free, there is abundance, democratization of the access to knowledge, interactivity.

The digital divide is not only lack of access to technology, but the practices. Illiteracy has always been a factor of differentiation and power. But, actually, the concept itself of citizenship has changed in a digital society. To be a full citizen, several literacies have to be mastered: basic literacy, media, technological and informational. We need multiliteracies.

Two opposite approaches when fostering the Information Society: mercantilist vs. aimed towards inclusion for a democratic development. In the words of Paulo Freire: Banking literacy (I’ve got stock of knowledge and can give it to you) vs. problem literacy (you have to feel you need to know things to solve your problems).

Dimensions of skills:

  • Instrumental dimension: know how to access information
  • Cognitive dimension: know how to transform the information into knowledge
  • Socio-comunicational dimension: know how to express oneself and communicate
  • Axiological dimension: know how to use information democratically and ethically

Summing up: without a multiliterate citizenry there will be not a democratic building of the Information Society.

Computer and Informational Literacies (Ci2) in Higher Education
Nieves González Fernández-Villavicencio, Head of the Sección de Tecnología y Sistemas de la Biblioteca de la Universidad de Sevilla. Biblioteca General Universitaria

How do digital natives behave? Concerning just usage (not their skills) it doesn’t seem that there are many different across ages, being “just for fun” the main reason people access the Internet. Hence, digital natives might not be that savvy when it comes to mastering usage (not tools).

Information search and usage techniques: a new subject in the syllabuses of the new degrees at UC3M
Mayte Ramos, Director of the Biblioteca del Campus de Colmenarejo de la Universidad Carlos III de Madrid; Raúl Aguilera, Director of the Biblioteca de Ciencias Sociales y Jurídicas de la Universidad Carlos III de Madrid.

The European Higher Education Area (EHEA) offers new opportunities to change the way people learn and, more important, how resources are made available for and used by students. This, of course, puts the focus on students’ competences and, among others, on digital skills, necessary to access digital information.

The library helped in creating a subject on “Search and usage of information techniques”:

  • where to find information you can trust;
  • ethical use of information, citing and bibliography;
  • information retrieving in electronic environments


I think that most definitions on what digital literacy is, fall short in many issues, especially in the community factor and the strategical factor. Please see Towards a comprehensive definition of digital skills, by myself prior in this blog.

On the other hand, after a debate on “good” or “bad” uses of the Internet, I strongly recommend reading Neuman & Celano’s The Knowledge Gap: Implications of Leveling the Playing Field for Low-Income and Middle-Income Children and Warschauer’s Laptops and Literacy: A Multi-Site Case Study.


II International Conference on the Digital Divide and Social Inclusion (2009)

If you need to cite this article in a formal way (i.e. for bibliographical purposes) I dare suggest:

Peña-López, I. (2009) “Digital Divide and Social Inclusion (VII): Education for the Knowledge Society through Social Inclusion” In ICTlogy, #73, October 2009. Barcelona: ICTlogy.
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