The Global Digital Divide: Evidence and Drivers

The Global Digital Divide: Evidence and Drivers

Frederico Cruz-Jesus (NOVA Information Management School (NOVA IMS), Lisbon, Portugal), Tiago Oliveira (NOVA Information Management School (NOVA IMS), Lisbon, Portugal) and Fernando Bacao (NOVA Information Management School (NOVA IMS), Lisbon, Portugal)
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 26
DOI: 10.4018/JGIM.2018040101


This article presents an analysis of the global digital divide, based on data collected from 45 countries, including the ones belonging to the European Union, OECD, Brazil, Russia, India, and China (BRIC). The analysis shows that one factor can explain a large part of the variation in the seven ICT variables used to measure the digital development of countries. This measure is then used with additional variables, which are hypothesised as drivers of the divide for a regression analysis using data from 2015, 2013, and 2011, which reveals economic and educational imbalances between countries, along with some aspects of geography, as drivers of the digital divide. Contrary to the authors' expectations, the English language is not a driver.
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1. Introduction

Information and communication technologies (ICT) play an important role in the global economy (Lee, Gholami, & Tong, 2005; World Bank, 2016). The belief that greater adoption and use of ICT may foster economic growth and development, trumping the present economic difficulties, has been supported by some of the most important nations and world organisations, such as the United Nations (UN) (United Nations, 2016), the United States of America (USA) (e.g., US Department of Commerce, 2000), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) (e.g., OECD, 2011), and the European Union (EU) (e.g., European Commission, 2010a, 2013, 2015). These have developed some type of strategy for promoting digital development and intensified the use of ICT to engender economic growth and development. Besides its economic importance, it is widely accepted that these technologies also positively influence the individual´s quality of life and welfare (Dewan & Riggins, 2005; Kim, Lee, & Menon, 2009). At the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), sponsored by the UN and International Telecommunications Union (ITU), it was declared that the global challenge for the new millennium is to build a society “…where everyone can create, access, utilize and share information and knowledge, enabling individuals, communities and peoples to achieve their full potential in promoting their sustainable development and improving their quality of life…” (WSIS, 2003, 2005), a commitment reinforced some 10 years later (WSIS, 2013, 2014).

Despite the recognised importance that ICT may have for economics and welfare, helping countries to achieve sustainable growth, the fact is that research about these issues is still, in some ways, limited. Within academia, two main types of studies regarding the global digital divide can be distinguished: some studies focus on measuring the divide, while others focus on explaining what drives it (Cruz-Jesus, Vicente, Bacao, & Oliveira, 2016). Although this work covers both types simultaneously, the authors are particularly interested in the second type of research, i.e., to understand the divide´s drivers. The authors believe that measuring the global digital divide is indeed a subject worth investigating. However, to effectively design and deploy efficient measures to narrow it, some light must be shed on the divide´s causes. Moreover, considering that most of the studies emphasising this particular aspect of the global digital divide are mostly related only with the use of Internet per se (Billon, Marco, & Lera-Lopez, 2009), the authors also intend to provide a more comprehensive view of ICT adoption and use across countries. To accomplish this aim, in this paper, measures of the digital development of countries other than merely the Internet usage are considered.

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