The Digital Divide and Technology Generations – European Implications from the Austrian Perspective
Methods.The OECD Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC) assesses the proficiency of adults in key competences for participating in information-rich societies, including problem solving in technology-rich environments. Complementing PIAAC data with 36 qualitative interviews conducted with practitioners from senior education in seven European countries (Austria, Czech Republic, Italy, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Spain), spatial, socio-structural and temporal dimensions of digital exclusion are analysed.
Results & Conclusions. Results show that ICT-use and competences decline with age in all participating countries. This attends to external (i.e. costs, age-insensitive design) and internal (i.e. technological scepticism, security concerns, lack of competences) barriers and therefor to several “bottle-necks” of the digital divide, such as social stratification, lack of competences but also lack of simplicity of technical devices. However, the Austrian case study shows that technology generations play an important role in access to technology and technological competence.
Info-exclusion of older adults calls for a generational approach, considering cohorts with a similar ”technological biographies”. However, generation appears to be one dimension in the digital divide among many. Beyond, data suggests that life transitions (e.g. lifelong learning) can both form and transcend generational exclusion from ICT. Lifelong learning and generation-sensitive pedagogical models appear as one approach to entangle the digital divide in Europe.