ICT in the workplace: access for all or digital divide?

2008-04-14T11:43:58Z (GMT) by Helen Greenwood Louise Cooke
The paper presents the findings of research into the extent and impact of restricted access to ICT based communications for specific groups of staff in UK further and higher education organisations. Educational institutions disseminate key corporate information internally via email, intranets and Virtual Learning Environments. However, the extent to which access to electronic communications is available to all personnel within such institutions in the UK has not previously been established. The research arose from a concern that a significant proportion of staff were being routinely excluded from access, thus perpetuating and extending existing inequalities among personnel and creating a digital divide between the ‘information rich’ and the ‘information poor’. A questionnaire survey was used to quantify the extent of restrictions on staff access across the sector, whilst case study research was used to conduct a qualitative analysis of its impact on individuals and institutions. The findings indicate that lack of hardware and network infrastructure pose less of a barrier to access than does lack of ICT skills, lack of motivation either to use computers or to gain ICT skills, and line manager resistance to staff using computers or accessing ICT training in work time. Job function was the factor most associated with lack of access, with cleaning, catering and estates staff least likely to have access. However, there were also examples identified of effective practice in extending the range of personnel with access and ensuring inclusive communication with all personnel. These insights into good practice should be transferable to a wide range of workplace contexts.