Policy as a Bridge across the Global Digital Divide

Policy as a Bridge across the Global Digital Divide

Meena Chary (University of South Florida, USA) and Stephen K. Aikins (University of South Florida, USA)
Copyright: © 2013 |Pages: 16
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-1852-7.ch019
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Abstract

This chapter assesses how public policy can be used to bridge the global digital divide, especially in developing nations. First, the chapter characterizes the Internet technologies encompassed within the digital divide according to dimensions of individual socioeconomic characteristics and service provider infrastructure characteristics. Then, the chapter develops a set of technology policy dimensions as they affect those two dimensions, using case vignettes from India to illustrate policy actions. Finally, the chapter makes policy action recommendations to bridge the digital divide, including investments in education and literacy, e-governance, intermediary services, infrastructure, and regulation.
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Background

The characteristics of the global digital divide can be generally grouped into two basic categories (See Figure 1). The first category describes the characteristics of the individuals who are affected by the digital divide – that is, those who fall on either side of that gap in the ability to access and use: users and potential users. The second category of characteristics describes those institutions (private or public) offering the required services to users. These service providers (and potential service providers) may be offering backbone services (such as network capacity) or last-mile services (such as end-user access) (Chandrasekhar, 2003). The combination of these two categories helps us better understand and define the global phenomenon known as the digital divide.

Figure 1.

Characteristics of the global digital divide

As a note, the digital divide is a dynamic phenomenon, changing with time (Bagchi, 2005). Therefore, while we hope to attain a conceptual understanding of the characteristics of the digital divide, how we measure the digital divide must be revisited continually to accommodate the evolution of the phenomenon.

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