All posts by kch178

Problematizing the digital divide

The Digital Education Future Lab at University of Canterbury was delighted to host Professor Laura Czerniewicz from University of Cape Town last month, who have worked issues around digital inequality and inequity for a long time. Unfortunately, some of these challenges have become more complex and more complicated. 

“Classic” digital divides

There are three classic digital divides. First level of digital divide is access to the Internet. The second level is digital skills. The last level is getting the benefits. A number of studies clearly evidenced that the access to technology benefits economically and socially.  

As inequalities get increased or divides are addressed, inequalities morph into new forms, that is, the digital divide paradox. Social complexity mixed with the integration of technology deeply in the society, with the coexistent of these different forms of technology (access; use; participation; benefits; sovereignty; agency; transparency). For example, during COVID Malaysia moves their entire education system, their learning management system onto Goggle classroom. Teachers are required to report using Google tools. What kind of agreement was signed? This is one of the most insidious forms of digital inequality that we’re starting to see. Because those most vulnerable have to accept these supposedly free tools which we know are not free at all. People are paying the data they are handing over their user behavior and they have the least choice. The pandemic exposed social inequalities and inequalities. One of the outcomes of the pandemic is that it shone a light on digital inequality.  

How conflict is digital inequality?

Digital inequality can be regarded as the simple terms, that is, to have any digital access, even electricity. What’s fascinating about connectivity nowadays is that 90% of the world’s population now have cell phones. In this way mobile technology can be assumed to be widespread. Connectivity is ubiquitous but the urban rural divide persists everywhere. The next extraordinary point is that the cost of data and of connectivity is huge. Globally there is a 30,000% difference between the cheapest price for data and the most expensive. Finally, the affordability gap & value-for-money gap globally is huge. Electronic Frontier Foundation conduct excellent studies on what people should be spending. Nevertheless, in that sense digital inequality is very simple, which is about access, costs, and the quality of device.  

However, the ways in which digital divides and inequalities are actually incredibly complex. First, it is impossible to divide digital inequalities from social inequalities. They reflect each other. Links between technology and inequality are multifaceted. Additionally, digital inequality intersects with post-digital datified society. In other words, the society is intrinsically digital. The material world and the digital world are so blurred.  

Digital tools and divides co-exist. The big shift is networked digital technologies, because that’s when data is shared, when digital divides become more complicated, and much more entangled with the material world. Current situation is smart technologies, and smart stands fir self-monitoring analysis and reporting technology. For example, AI based, it changes the kinds of inequalities that exist. The world now lives with and through digital data. Everything is datafied. The ability to engage with understanding that digital data is so much more complex. It is near impossible to be disconnected. Everyone is data point.  

Robust Research

There are numerous theoretical resources available. Most have broader sociological and educational use, can be tailored. There are a lot of ways that we can look at these issues for those who are still quite rightly contact with access is the issue.  

  • Resource Appropriation Theory 
  • Talks about different levels of digital divide. This plays an essential role in addressing the nuances of the phenomenon, and thus, it supports the researcher in making informed choices in society.  
  • Posits that the digital divide is not a static and a permanent condition but fluid 
  • Stresses the need to study digital inequalities in different situations and societies, that is, in different settings 
  • Theory of practice 
  • Demystifies notion of success through relevant forms of capital including social and cultural capital. Useful to shed light to injustices that are related with the context of people and how differences in education lead to other differences in life, e.g., digital inequality 
  • Theory of habitus stresses the influences of education upon one’s ability to attain success 
  • Helps to show that inequality is not a naturally occurring phenomena but it is related to a lack of social/cultural/economic/symbolic capital 
  • Culturally Historical Activity Theory 
  • Emphasizes the interdependent relationship between the individual and their wider community 
  • See digital inequality as a cultural-historical phenomenon 
  • Highlights how no ‘tool’ (whether digital or physical) is ‘neutral’ 
  • Dialectical rather than binary logic; contradictions as a site of dynamic change. View of contradictions as progressive 
  • Promotes research aimed at exploring how digital inequality is experiences and changes.  
  • Critical Pedagogy and Digital Liberation 
  • Highlights digital inequality as part of larger social inequalities 
  • Sees technology as not neutral and not a panacea: 
  • Is not just about access to technology but about harnessing technology for agency 
  • Links with bell hooks (1994) and education as a process of hope and freedom. 
  • Is aspirational and emergent 

Thank our guest Laura for providing all the useful resources to contribute to this blog. She has had many roles in education over the years including academic, researcher, strategist, advocate, teacher, teacher-trainer and educational publisher. Threaded through all her work has been a focus on equity and digital inequality. Laura foregrounded a range of issues. You can see her ppt here.  


Czerniewicz, L., & Carvalho, L. (2022). Open, Distance, and Digital Education (ODDE)–An Equity View. In Handbook of Open, Distance and Digital Education (pp. 1-20). Singapore: Springer Nature Singapore. 

Is Well-being measurable?

In This article

  • What is Well-being?
  • Is Well-being measurable?
  • Well-being in the context of Aotearoa New Zealand

What is well-being? Happiness? Life satisfaction? After decades of research, it seems no one can define what well-being is as it is never a simple concept of a single existence. It is a complex construct of a range of factors and researchers often try to measure it.

Associate Professor, Billy Osteen at the University of Canterbury. states that it may be more worthwhile to count well-being than define it. For a long time, the thought was, well-being was equal to money. People will be thought to have more well-being than somebody who didn’t make the same amount of money. However, people will still feel happy when their income reaches a level where they can afford a nice house, and a way to transport themselves, or even being able to take a vacation now and then, which doesn’t require a huge amount of money. In other words, earning more money or accumulating more wealth does not mean more well-being. Therefore, measuring pure money and well-being doesn’t tend to go hand in hand. There’s other stuff going on. In addition, GDP was also not designed to assess well-being, which involves different dimensions and aspects of human life.

In New Zealand, there is still an ongoing debate about what is well-being. Is it really measurable? And more importantly, why it is necessary to measure well-being? And more importantly, why is it necessary to measure well-being? The book Wellbeing: Global Policies and Perspectives, Insights from Aotearoa New Zealand and beyond, reviews everything there is to know about well-being. Myth or magic? You’ll have to read on to find out!

What is Well-being?

The first chapter is really like a short history of well-being. Since it is a question that has been asked for thousands of years, it’s nothing new. Though it is not conducted with a firm answer, it is undeniable that well-being is never a simple but a complex combination of factors such as

living purposefully, feeling a sense of accomplishment, feeling good, and building authentic relationships (Bentea, 2019; Seligman, 2011).

Some scholars argue that culture has an important impact on how people define well-being (Oishi and Gibert, 2016; Tove 2018). In other words, the meaning of well-being differs in different cultures and contexts. For example, in the western tradition, well-being is often associated with individual achievement and satisfaction, while eastern cultures tend to place greater emphasis on collective well-being and harmony.

Nevertheless, the authors in this book conclude that there is no definite answer to it. The important thing is that you can read it and come to a conclusion of your own. It is important to think about well-being as a more complex thing than a simple thing.

Is Well-being measurable?

Bhutan is often credited as being the first country to measure well-being, as they have been using the concept of Gross National Happiness (GNH) as an alternative to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) since the 1970s. Other examples of measures that go beyond economic performance include efforts in the United Kingdom, India, and France.

Researchers advocate for appropriate and accurate ways of conducting research – but when it comes to measuring well-being, it is always hard to find a certain criterion to count it. Unlike GDP, which can be measured using objective economic data, well-being is subjective and varies from person to person. It takes a lot of creativity and probably more time and attention. Qualitatively, it requires researchers to figure out different sides of well-being in the census people filled out. It is important to recognize that well-being is a complex and multifaceted concept that may be difficult to fully capture using quantitative methods.

So, is well-being measurable – yes, it can be, but it takes a lot more effort, which could be more in-depth! As it may be difficult to fully measure, it requires a more holistic approach that takes into account the social, cultural, and environmental factors that contribute to well-being.

Well-being in the context of Aotearoa New Zealand

Aotearoa New Zealand is known for its holistic approach to promoting well-being. The five main well-being objectives guide the government’s budget decisions and deliver a slew of benefits for the environment, work, health, Maori and Pacific peoples, and child well-being. Specifically, there are 18 indicators the New Zealand government came up with, including air quality, water quality, and good education, which also map onto the sustainability goals.

In 2019, New Zealand launched a “Wellbeing Budget” that allocates funds based on five key areas of well-being: mental health, child well-being, indigenous populations, environment, and infrastructure. In the book, each chapter reflects the different contexts around well-being, such as well-being in early childhood education in Aotearoa New Zealand. Explore more details in the e-book here!

Bentea, C. C. (2019). ‘Approaches of Happiness and Well-Being in Psychology’, International Multidisciplinary Scientific Conference on the Dialogue Between Sciences & Arts, Religion & Education, 3(3), 257-64.
Kamp, A., Brown, C., McMenamin, T., & O’Toole, V. (2023). Wellbeing : Global policies and perspectives: Insights from aotearoa new zealand and beyond. Peter Lang.
Oishi, S., and Gilbert, E. A. (2016). ‘Current and Future Directions in Culture and Happiness Research’, Current Opinion in Psychology, 8, 54-8.
Tov, W. (2018). ‘Well-being Concepts and Components’. In E. Diener, S. Oishi, and L. Tay (eds), Handbook of We—Being. Salt Lake City, UT: DEF Publishers., accessed 30 August 2022.