Digital Divide in Scholarly Communication

Digital Divide in Scholarly Communication

Thomas Scheiding
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5888-2.ch197
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Any discussion of a digital divide as it applies to scholarly communication specifically requires first a discussion of a digital divide more generally. A digital divide has been discussed since 1999 and refers to unequal access to technology with Norris (2001) providing a review of the early discussion of the divide. This divide is thought to exist largely because of economic differences. Less economic prosperity within a country translates into less technology per person and less of an incentive or motivation by individuals to use it. This divide can exist both within a country and across countries. Within a country the divide can exist between urban and rural regions, between different sectors of the economy, and between different income brackets. These same differences can exist across countries with the divide particularly pronounced between developed and developing countries. From Hilbert (2011) we then see that the digital divide then becomes conceptualized in terms of who is connecting to an ICT, the characteristics of those who are connecting to an ICT, the specific kind of technology used, how intense or sophisticated the use is of the ICT, and the motivations behind why an individual would make use or not make use of an ICT.

DiMaggio et. al (2004), van Dijk (2005), and Hargittai and Hsieh (2013) highlight the difference between the terms ‘digital divide’ and ‘digital inequality.’ The digital divide term refers to a statistical and formal analysis of those who have access to an ICT. The digital inequality term refers to the difference in benefit received from the use of an ICT. Eliminating the digital divide through changes in policy and investments in technology may perpetuate and aggrandize inequality if the changes are unequally applied to the various communities in a society. Despite the progress made in expanding access to technology, both a digital divide and digital inequality continues to exist across and within countries.

The fact that technology has gotten less expensive means that more individuals are able to obtain it. This fact has led some such as Galperin (2010) to focus on how individuals are connecting to an ICT. The use of ICTs are associated with higher productivity levels, greater educational attainment, and the linking of rural to urban areas. When the focus is on use, attention then turns to whether policy makers recognize the consequences of their regulations.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Digital Divide: Different magnitude of access, intensity of use, and level of contributions with an information and communication technology.

Second-Level Digital Divide: After resolving access to an information and communication technology, the second-level digital divide focuses on the intensity and manner of usage of the technology and the differences that exist across groups.

Open Access: Access to research in the form of either individual manuscripts in institutional repositories or articles in electronic journals where few if any restrictions to the reader are present.

Donated Access: Free or low-cost access by readers to journals and databases made possibly through charitable programs, publisher initiatives, or targeted funding from government and philanthropic organizations.

Digital Divide in Scholarly Communication: Different magnitude of access, intensity of use, and level of contributions to scholarly communication that occurs in an electronic format.

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