The Digital Divide, Framing and Mapping the Phenomenon

The Digital Divide, Framing and Mapping the Phenomenon

Andrea Calderaro (European University Institute, Italy)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-699-0.ch002


This chapter explores the global dimension of the digital divide. It frames the concept and maps the status and the causes of the phenomenon today. The first part investigates how the digital divide can be measured, framing the question and some of the trends foreseen by scholars on the phenomenon. The second part provides the current status of the digital divide, mapping the distribution of the usage of the Internet worldwide with some national indicators and measuring how economic factors cause some of the digital inequalities. The chapter then maps the worldwide unequal distribution of some of the infrastructure of the Internet. By comparing the different measures of the digital divide, the chapter finally provides some conclusions on the expectations regarding the trend of the phenomenon.
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The Spread Of The Internet: From A National To A Worldwide Phenomenon

At its advent, the Internet was not global in nature. The main infrastructure and expertise of the Internet were originally developed on a national scale. It became a global phenomenon only gradually, after a 30 year long process. I consider it an important preliminary step for this research to explore the history of the Internet and how it became global. I argue that this is useful for understanding the Internet’s network structure, and how the very nature of its structure has served to extend its impact worldwide.

It is a commonly held notion that the Internet, as a project financed by the American Department of Defence, was an instrument of communication designed to survive a nuclear attack. However, the earliest idea of the Internet was formulated by computer scientists who had nothing to do with military research (Hanson, 2008). Rather, the Internet was created by people who believed in the power of computers for creating social cooperation in order to amplify human thinking and communication capacity (Rheingold, 2000).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Digital Divide: The gap between those who actively use and contribute to the internet, and those who are only influenced by it.

Internet User: People accessing the Internet.

IP Address: The permanent identification address assigned to the nodes of the internet, making its contents stored by Internet Hosts accessible through the internet.

Internet Penetration: The relationship between the number of Internet users in each country and its demographic data.

Internet Host: A computer storing the contents and the services of the internet.

Internet: A computer network infrastructure which exchanges data carrying various services, such as file transfer, peer to peer networks, emails, on-line chat, VoIP services and the World Wide Web.

Internet Infrastructure: Technological facilities which enable access to the internet.

Network society: The current configuration of society in which human activities, experiences and power are affected by the network nature of the Internet.

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