The Digital Divide among Students and Support Initiatives in the Time of Covid-19

May Marie P. Talandron-Felipe, Ateneo de Manila University


This paper investigated the digital divide among students of a state university in the Philippines in relation to its implementation of technology-led flexible learning due to the CoViD-19 pandemic. The study focused on two major factors of the digital gap: location (urban vs rural) and socio-economic (income clusters). Results provided further evidence that geographic location and income affect digital inequality among students. Both aspects have an impact on device ownership, stable internet connection at home, and frequency of access. Prior online learning experience also shows dependency on a student’s geographic location. Location groups and the alternative ways to access the internet have a significant relationship where students from urban areas are more likely to spend money for temporary data subscription, go to internet cafes, or use their neighbor’s, friends’, and relative’s Wi-Fi connection. On the other hand, those from rural areas are more likely to utilize free data and free Wi-Fi in public areas or have no other means to connect at all. The students were also categorized based on the context of flexible learning implementation of the university: those with device and with connectivity, with device but no connectivity, no device and no connectivity. For each category, different support initiatives were developed including utilization of school’s ICT facilities, funds for internet subscription, and tablet lending. The study emphasized that school administrators and teachers must take digital divide into consideration in crafting instruction, support guidelines, and policies for flexible learning. A follow up study is also recommended to validate the effectiveness of the university’s ICT support initiatives presented in this paper.