About Us

Wednesday 13 December 2023

UKZN Libraries: Bridging the Digital Divide

                                  Mfezi Mjwara                     Goitsemang Ncongwane                Sushiela Naidoo

COVID-19 brought more of our lives online and increased the way we connect through technology. For many at UKZN, this offered new benefits such as the ability to work or study from home and more flexibly in learning and working. with the mode of study/work moving to the online platform. However, for many this reality reinforced the digital divide.

The digital divide is essentially defined as “the gap between those with internet access and those without.” With the pandemic creating more of a reliance on our devices and the ability to perform daily functions using technology, those who do not have access are left struggling. The digital divide typically impacts rural communities and low-income households the most. This is no big surprise, considering income is the largest determinant of whether or not a person has internet access alongside the lack of technological infrastructure in rural areas.

The way the pandemic has impacted our world provided an opportunity for the UKZN Library Services to make a real impact in supporting the University community in more innovative ways, when they needed it the most.

This challenge formed a springboard for UKZN Library Services and librarians to create more technology equity [Rev1] and bridge the digital divide in accessing online resources. This meant that every student would have equal access to digital technologies and internet access. UKZN assisted by providing laptops and data to all students.

Librarians at UKZN responded with a number of interventions like the provision of online information service delivery and online training. These included the easy and efficient access to online journals, e-books, course reserve material and theses which were facilitated through online Library training. With these interventions, the library encouraged and continues to encourage, students from undergraduate to postgraduate levels of study to attend in order for them to achieve success in their academic journey. The online services enable local students to reach resources and attend training from their homes and further afield, students from other countries like Namibia, Tanzania, Nigeria etc.  Students from all backgrounds are provided with the fundamental skills so that there is a smooth and efficient transition to online learning at UKZN.

The library webpage can be accessed at https://library.ukzn.ac.za/# . All training materials and recordings can be accessed from UKZN Online Training 2023. The Libguides https://libguides.ukzn.ac.za/c.php?g=1043478&p=9216095 provide fundamental information to assist with academic learning. The table below provides a list of some of the training that was/is conducted via Zoom, presented by librarians, academics and vendors, at regular intervals throughout the year. These training sessions are also offered in a classroom setting that is face to face.[Rev2] 

v    iCatalogue

v    eBooks collection

v    EBSCOhost

v    Google scholar

v    My Library Account

v    Referencing

v    Inter Library Loans

v    JSTOR

v    Literature Review

v    Literature reviews

v    NVivo

v    ProQuest

v    Search Strategies

v    Scoping reviews

v    Science Direct

v    Sabinet online

v    SPSS

v    Open Access

v    Publishing platforms

vUKZN Software tutorials

v    Web of Science

v    CAES: Engineering village

How do these programmes benefit students at UKZN?

v  Helps low performing students catch up with their better performing classmates.

v  Enhances the students’ critical thinking.

v  Improves the ability of students to understand and evaluate computerised materials.

v  Makes it easy for students to adapt to university expectations.

v  Supports educationally disadvantaged students who are under-prepared despite meeting minimum admission criteria.

v  Helps students become independent learners in their own spaces and time.


Educational background has a great influence on the performance of students when they enter university especially during their first-year level of their studies. Many of the high/secondary schools in South Africa lack exposure to scholarly information and online scholarly information resources, good training and standard libraries to prepare learners for the university experience. This makes it very difficult for students to cope with the demands of university level studies. UKZN Library Services play a pivotal role in making sure that university entrants settle in and meet academic expectations. In other words, the performance of these students is bound to be improved if they attend library training and academic literacy programmes offered by the institution. 





 Chalita, S & Erik, B. (2011, September 18-21) Understanding the digital divide: A literature survey

and ways forward [Conference Paper]. 22nd European Regional Conference of the International Telecommunications Society (ITS): "Innovative ICT Applications - Emerging Regulatory, Economic and Policy Issues. Budapest, Hungary https://www.econstor.eu/bitstream/10419/52191/1/672623358.pdf[Rev1] 


Conley, D. T. (2007). The Challenge of College Readiness. Educational leadership, 64(7), 23 -29. http://www.ascd.org/ASCD/pdf/journals/ed_lead/el200704_conley.pdf


Hilbert, M. (2015) Digital divide(s). ResearchGate, 1-7. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/319588474_Digital_Divides


Van Dijk, J. A. (2012). The Digital Divide turns to Inequality of Skills and Usage. The Evolution of the Digital Divide, 57 – 75. https://www.utwente.nl/en/bms/vandijk/news/The%20Evolution%20of%20the%20Digital%20Divide/Evolution%20of%20the%20Digital%20Divide%20Digital%20Enlightment%20Yearbook%202012.pdf




No comments:

Post a Comment