Reducing the digital divide in order to build an information society for all is one of the top priorities for European policymakers. A better understanding of the determinants of broadband access at the individual level represents a key starting point for any e-inclusion policy. Based on a review of the literature on digital divide and broadband access, we document different approaches to understanding the digital divide and argue that these perspectives can also help to understand broadband access. Combining the digital divide and broadband literature provides a systematic and theory-based approach to the selection and inclusion of variables in different models. This chapter presents the results of a survey conducted in an Italian region. We provide some implications of our findings and argue that policymakers should explore the relationship between IT skills acquisition, broadband access, and Internet use in order to develop more effective policies and programs.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Multi-Dimensional Divide: A competing viewpoint which assumes that the digital divide is a mirror of other types of socioeconomic inequalities, and suggests access and use are important determinants of the digital divide. In addition, other dimensions such as income, age, education, location, and IT skills impact access and use.
Systemic Approach: Accounting for the interactions and interdependencies present among a number of items forming a unifying whole (broadband diffusion).
Access Divide: A common viewpoint which assumes that the digital divide is a symptom of an ‘access to technology problem’ and as an inherent delay in the diffusion of technology among different geographic areas and social groups.
Hiperlan (HIgh PErformance Radio LAN): A wireless LAN standard; a European alternative for America’s IEEE 802.11 standards. The standards are defined by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) by the BRAN (Broadband Radio Access Networks) project.
IT Skills: A varied concept, ranging from skills describing information-retrieval and searching activities to skills regarding the synthesis of information and productive use of information in daily activities.
Multi-Perspective Divide: A competing viewpoint which rejects that any one group of individuals inherently uses technologies differently than the majority, and suggests any questions about access and use should be evaluated based on the needs and problems of the most disadvantaged groups, in addition to how the intersections of race, gender, class, worldview, and so forth come together.
Digital Divide: Often characterized as a set of relationships between information and communication technologies (ICTs) and groups of individuals, who are situated within a complex arrangement of social, environmental, political, and economic issues. Popularly, the term itself, digital divide, carries the connotation of those who have access to technology and those who do not have access to technology.