Digital Literacies, Knowledge Disparities and Sustainable Development

Principal Investigator (PI): Assoc Prof Ravi Sharma

Co-Principal Investigator (Co-PI): Nil

Collaborators: Guan Chong, Professor Richard Smith

Funding Agency: MOE Tier 2

Start Date: Jul 2015

End Date: On-going

Abstract: How can knowledge be diffused across a society so that it may be more effectively exploited to create national wealth? Can we bridge knowledge disparities with digital literacy? Will the resultant “level playing field” generate greater contributions to national wealth and a more equitable sharing of it? These are the key research questions addressed in this proposal. There is considerable agreement across disciplines that knowledge is a key driver of sustainable development. The challenge of sustainable development is that it meets the needs of the present without compromising on the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. The research described in this proposal attempts to understand the causal relationships among the access to knowledge, its diffusion through society, and that society’s ability to apply such knowledge towards sustainable development.

In the era of the Internet, a critical mass of such activities take place through digital exchanges of codified information being shared across networks and applied in order to create value. The participation and inclusion of a given population in such purposeful activities has attracted much scholarly interest. More specifically, digital literacy has now become synonymous with active, participating citizens – a public good referred to as digital entitlements. International bodies such as the ITU have taken a lead role in specifying a host of ICT indicators grouped into opportunity, infrastructure and utilisation which measure the Digital Opportunity Index of a society. Other bodies such as the World Bank and UNESCO have prescribed indicators of social inclusion. But neither types of measurements have explored the link between digital opportunities and sustainable development.

This research proposal examines the postulate that digital literacies bridge knowledge disparities within a society and create conditions for sustainable development. A critical aspect of the contemporary wealth of a nation is the platform for digital exchanges that take place in health, education, trade, industry and other public services.