Conceptualizing a Contextual Measurement for Digital Divide/s: Using an Integrated Narrative

Conceptualizing a Contextual Measurement for Digital Divide/s: Using an Integrated Narrative

Karine Barzilai-Nahon (University of Washington, USA), Ricardo Gomez (University of Washington, USA) and Rucha Ambikar (The Center for Information & Society, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-699-0.ch034
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Measurements for the digital divide/s have often engaged in simplified, single factor measurements that present partial and static conceptualization and, therefore, measurements of the digital divide/s. The following chapter encourages policy makers to choose appropriate tools and programs to measure digital divide/s according to three dimensions: (1) the purpose of the tool; (2) levels of observation; and (3) methods of approaching the data. Then it describes an integrated contextual iterative (ICI) approach suggested by the authors as an effective way to assess digital divide/s including perspectives of different stakeholders. The approach is illustrated with examples from a research project studying public access venues in 25 countries around the world.
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The definition of the digital divide/s and the empirical analysis of its components have been much debated in existing literature on the subject (Dewan & Riggins, 2005; Hargittai, 2003; James, 2008; Warschauer, 2003). Traditional thinking in disciplines like communications, sociology, information systems and science on the issue of digital divide/s revolved around the issue of access. Policy makers attached overriding importance to the physical availability of infrastructure and connectivity – a function, perhaps, of the reality of resource allocation to address the digital divide/s in the 90s. However, as Warschauer (2003) argues,

a digital divide is marked not only by physical access to computers and connectivity, but also by access to the additional resources that allow people to use technology well. However, the original sense of the digital divide term - which attached overriding importance to the physical availability of computers and connectivity, rather than to issues of content, language, education, literacy, or community and social resources - is difficult to overcome in people's minds.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Accessibility: refers to technology and behavior characteristics that help people with disabilities to use and access computers.

Affordability: a measure of a financial ability to pay for infrastructure, service and content of technology.

Cultured Technology: ways in which communities and societies reshape technology and make it as part of their culture, while on the other hand allowing this technology to make certain changes in their customary way of life.

Monotopical Factors: Monotopical measures of digital divide typically identify one or a few variables that influence a dependent variable, which, in turn, reflects one aspect of the divide such as awareness, access, attitudes, or application.

Contextual Factors: factors which reflect a particular context, characteristics unique to a particular group, community, society and individual.

Usage: a measure which reflects the frequency, number and type and other characteristics of using technology.

Digital Divide/s: a general term which reflects inequalities and disparities among countries, groups, communities and individuals in regard to awareness and behavior activities that relates to information and technology.

Access: Inequality which is reflected in terms of the physical infrastructure and availability of technology.

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