Original Research

The impact of digital divide for first-year students in adoption of social media for learning in South Africa

Mohube I. Mphahlele, Sello N. Mokwena, Appolonia Ilorah
South African Journal of Information Management | Vol 23, No 1 | a1344 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajim.v23i1.1344 | © 2021 Mohube I. Mphahlele, Sello N. Mokwena, Appolonia Ilorah | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 04 November 2020 | Published: 19 August 2021

About the author(s)

Mohube I. Mphahlele, Department of End User Computing, Faculty of Information and Communication Technology, Tshwane University of Technology, Pretoria, South Africa
Sello N. Mokwena, Department of Computer Science, Faculty of Science and Agriculture, University of Limpopo, Sovenga, South Africa
Appolonia Ilorah, Department of Computer Science, Faculty of Information and Communication Technology, Tshwane University of Technology, Polokwane, South Africa


Background: Social media comprise technologies that facilitate learning in higher education institutions. However, many first-year students at tertiary education institutions are not taking advantage of social media for their learning because of environmental and personal factors related to the digital divide (DD).

Objectives: The objective of this research study was to investigate the impact of the DD factors on first-year students in using social media for learning in tertiary education institutions.

Method: A survey method was used to conduct the study. Social cognitive theory was employed as a theory underpinning this research. A questionnaire technique was used to collect data from 600 first-year students of a multi-campus university. Three hundred students came from each of the two campuses. Regression analysis was performed with the purpose of testing the hypotheses of the study.

Results: The result of the analysis revealed a low computer access and usage but a high percentage of mobile devices usage by students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Personal factors were found to have an impact on the behaviour of students in adopting social media for their studies. The study also found that the prevalence of social media nullifies the lack of computer resources and connection to the Internet in disadvantaged areas.

Conclusion: This study demonstrated that the DD was more complex than hitherto envisaged. The study recommends that ownership of computers and devices connected to the Internet needs to be promoted, especially in disadvantaged areas.


digital-divide; social media-economic; information and communication technology; first-year students; Facebook; Twitter; YouTube; social media; social status; rural areas


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