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The vice chancellor of the Open University has said the digital divide is now between people who do and do not understand how to exploit IT fully.

In an opening speech to the Jisc conference in London on 12 April 2010, Martin Bean said that the digital divide was no longer about haves and have-nots in terms of access to IT and ownership of devices.

"In my mind now the digital divide is much more about those that actually understand how to use and apply technology in their lives and their work as a necessity, rather than simply getting access to the technology per se," he said.

According to Bean the issue leads directly into the need to educate people for new types of work. He told delegates that learning in the workplace needs to become integral.

"The only way we dig our way out of this economic crisis and recession ... is if we recognise that we have got to embed learning for life in the workplace," he said.

Bean argued that distance education is growing and universities and colleges face a challenge to find alternative models of delivery. He said higher education institutions need to look at learning not as a once in a lifetime opportunity, but as a lifelong experience.

Another major challenge is being able to transform information into meaningful knowledge, Bean said.

"The day that Google became a verb, and teachers in primary and secondary schools starting looking at Wikipedia as a trusted source of information, we should all have started to think deeply about the notion of how we longer teach people of all ages where to find information and talked instead about how to make sense of that information," said the vice chancellor.

He predicted that trust in content will be one of the big issues in the future.

"Our libraries collectively ... need to be spending as much time thinking about sense making of information as they do about simple retrieval of information," he told the audience of university and college delegates.

This article was originally published at Kable.

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