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The Digital Divide refers to any inequalities between groups, broadly construed, in terms of access to, use of, or knowledge of information and communication technologies.[1][2] The digital divide in the United States (and other countries) refers to inequalities between individuals, households, businesses, and geographic areas at different socioeconomic and other demographic levels, while[3][4][5] the Global digital divide designates countries as the units of analysis and examines the divide between developing and developed countries on an international scale.[2]

Approaches

Conceptualization of the digital divide is often as follows:[6][7]

  1. Theoretical explanations for the digital divide, or who connects with which attributes: demographic characteristics of connected individuals and their cohorts.
  2. Means of connectivity, or how individuals and their cohorts are connecting and to what: infrastructure, location, and network availability.
  3. Purpose of connectivity, or why individuals and their cohorts are connecting: reasons individuals are online and uses of the Internet and ICTs.
  4. Lack of connectivity, or why individuals and their cohorts are not connecting.

In coveted research, while each explanation is examined, the others should be controlled for in order to eliminate interaction effects or mediating variables,[8] but these explanations are meant to stand as general trends, not direct causes, of the digital divide in the United States. Additionally, incidence and frequency of usage varies by study. Some report usage as access to Internet and ICTs while others report usage as having previously connected to the Internet.

One means of quantifying the Digital divide is Infostate, proposed by Orbicom-UNESCO.

Theoretical explanations

Research suggests a multitude of explanations for the digital divide including, but not limited to: gender, age, education, income, race, and location; political and cultural access; and psychological aversions to Internet access and usage.[9][10][11][12][13][14][15]

Means of connectivity

Infrastructure

The infrastructure by which individuals, households, businesses, and communities connect to the Internet address the physical mediums that people use to connect to the Internet such as desktop computers, laptops, cell phones, iPods or other MP3 players, Xboxes or Play Stations, electronic books readers, and tablets such as iPads.[16]

Location

Internet connectivity can be utilized at a variety of locations such as homes, offices, schools, libraries, public spaces, Internet cafes, etc. There are also varying levels of connectivity in rural, suburban, and urban areas.[17]

Purpose of connectivity

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Lack of connectivity

Physical, financial, spatial, psychological, and skill-based barriers exist in access of different demographics to Internet and Internet skills.

Overcoming the digital divide

The United Nations is aiming to raise awareness of the divide by way of the World Information Society Day which has taken place yearly since May 17, 2001.[18] It also set up the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Task Force in November 2001.[19]

Implications

Social capital

Once an individual is connected, Internet connectivity and ICTs can enhance their future social and cultural capital. Social capital is acquired through repeated interactions with other individuals or groups of individuals. Connecting to the Internet creates another set of means by which to achieve repeated interactions. ICTs and Internet connectivity enable repeated interactions through access to social networks, chat rooms, and gaming sites. Once an individual has access to connectivity, obtains infrastructure by which to connect, and can understand and use the information that ICTs and connectivity provide, that individual is capable of becoming a "digital citizen".[20]

Economic gains

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Within the capabilities approach

An individual must be able to connect in order to achieve enhancement of social and cultural capital and achieve mass economic gains in productivity. Even though individuals in the United States are legally capable of accessing the Internet, many are thwarted by barriers to entry such as a lack of means to infrastructure or the inability to comprehend the information that the Internet provides. Lack of infrastructure and lack of knowledge are two major obstacles that impede mass connectivity. These barriers limit individuals' capabilities in what they can do and what they can achieve in accessing technology. Some individuals have the ability to connect, but have nonfunctioning capabilities in that they do not have the knowledge to use what information ICTs and Internet technologies provide them.

Criticisms

Second-level digital divide

The second-level digital divide, also referred to as the production gap, describes the gap that separates the consumers of content on the internet from the producers of content.[21] As the technological digital divide is decreasing between those with access to the internet and those without, the meaning of the term digital divide is evolving.[22] Previously, digital divide research has focused on accessibility to the internet and internet consumption. However, with more and more of the population with access to the internet, researchers are examining how people use the internet to create content and what impact socioeconomics are having on user behavior.[23] New applications have made it possible for anyone with a computer and an internet connection to be a creator of content, yet the majority of user generated content available widely on the internet, like public blogs, is created by a small portion of the internet using population. Web 2.0 technologies like Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, and Blogs enable users to participate online and create content without having to understand how the technology actually works, leading to an ever increasing digital divide between those who have the skills and understanding to interact more fully with the technology and those who are passive consumers of it.[21] Many are only nominal content creators through the use of Web 2.0, like posting photos and status updates on Facebook, but not truly interacting with the technology. Some of the reasons for this production gap include material factors like what type of internet connection one has and the frequency of access to the internet. The more frequently a person has access to the internet and the faster the connection, the more opportunities they have to gain the technology skills and the more time they have to be creative.[24] Other reasons include cultural factors often associated with class and socioeconomic status. Users of lower socioeconomic status are less likely to participate in content creation due to disadvantages in education and lack of the necessary free time for the work involved in blog or web site creation and maintenance.[24]

The knowledge divide

Since gender, age, racial, income, and educational gaps in the digital divide have lessened compared to past levels, some researchers suggest that the digital divide is shifting from a gap in access and connectivity to ICTs to a knowledge divide.[22] A knowledge divide concerning technology presents the possibility that the gap has moved beyond access and having the resources to connect to ICTs to interpreting and understanding information presented once connected.[25]

See also

References

  1. U.S. Department of Commerce, National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). 1995. Falling through the net: A survey of the "have nots" in rural and urban America. Retrieved from http://www.ntia.doc.gov/ntiahome/fallingthru.html.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Chinn, Menzie D. and Robert W. Fairlie. 2004. The Determinants of the Global Digital Divide: A Cross-Country Analysis of Computer and Internet Penetration. Economic Growth Center. Retrieved from http://www.econ.yale.edu/growth_pdf/cdp881.pdf.
  3. Norris, P. 2001. Digital divide: Civic engagement, information poverty and the Internet world-wide. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge Univ. Press.
  4. U.S. Department of Commerce, National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). 1995. Falling through the net: A survey of the “have nots” in rural and urban America. Retrieved from http://www.ntia.doc.gov/ntiahome/fallingthru.html.
  5. Patricia, J.P. 2003. E-government, E-Asean Task force, UNDP-APDIP. From: http://www.apdip.net/publications/iespprimers/eprimer-egov.pdf
  6. Buente, Wayne, and Alice Robbin. 2008. Trends in Internet Information Behavior, 2000-2004. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology 59(11): 1743-1760. www.interscience.wiley.com
  7. Hilbert, M. 2011. The end justifies the definition: The manifold outlooks on the digital divide and their practical usefulness for policy-making. Telecommunications Policy, 35(8), 715-736. Retrieved from: http://martinhilbert.net/ManifoldDigitalDivide_Hilbert_AAM.pdf
  8. Mossberger, Karen, Carolina J. Tolbert, and Michele Gilbert. 2006. Race, Place, and Information Technology (IT). Urban Affairs Review. 41:583-620. retrieved from http://uar.sagepub.com/content/41/5/583
  9. Lawton, Tait 15 Years of Chinese Internet Usage in 13 Pretty Graphs. East-West-Connect.com. CNNIC.
  10. Mossberger, Karen, Carolina J. Tolbert, and Michele Gilbert. 2006. Race, Place, and Information Technology. Urban Affairs Review. 41:583-620. Retrieved from http://uar.sagepub.com/content/41/5/583
  11. Wang, Wensheng. Impact of ICTs on Farm Households in China, ZEF of University Bonn, 2001
  12. http://www.cnnic.net.cn/uploadfiles/pdf/2007/2/14/200607.pdf Statistical Survey Report on the Internet Development in China. Jan, 2007.
  13. Guillen, M. F., & Suárez, S. L. (2005). Explaining the global digital divide: Economic, political and sociological drivers of cross-national internet use. Social Forces, 84(2), 681-708.
  14. Wilson, III. E.J. (2004). The Information Revolution and Developing Countries. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.
  15. Carr, Deborah (2007). The Global Digital Divide. Contexts, 6(3), 58-58. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.qa.proquest.com/docview/219574259?accountid=14771.
  16. Zickuher, Kathryn. 2011. Generations and their gadgets. Pew Internet & American Life Project. Retrieved from: http://www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2011/Generations-and-gadgets/Report/Desktop-and-Laptop-Computers.aspx.
  17. Livingston, Gretchen. 2010. Latinos and Digital Technology, 2010. Pew Hispanic Center
  18. United Nations Educational UNDay
  19. http://blog.unicttaskforce.org/ unicttaskforce
  20. Mossberger, Karen, Caroline J. Tolbert, and Michele Gilbert. Race, Place, and Information Technology. Urban Affairs Review 41, no. 5 (2006): 583-620.
  21. 21.0 21.1 Reilley, Collen A. Teaching Wikipedia as a Mirrored Technology. First Monday, Vol. 16, No. 1-3, January 2011
  22. 22.0 22.1 Graham, Mark. (2011). Time Machines and Virtual Portals: The Spatialities of the Digital Divide. Progress in Development Studies, Vol. 11, No. 3, 211-227. Retrieved from: http://pdj.sagepub.com/content/11/3/211
  23. Correa, Teresa. (2008) Literature Review: Understanding the "second-level digital divide" papers by Teresa Correa. Unpublished manuscript, School of Journalism, College of Communication, University of Texas at Austin. [1].
  24. 24.0 24.1 [2]. Schradie, Jen. The Digital Production Gap: The Digital Divide and Web 2.0 Collide. Poetics, Vol. 39, No. 2. April 2011, p. 145-168.
  25. Sciadas, George. (2003). Monitoring the Digital Divide…and Beyond. Orbicom.

External links

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