Second Order Divide in Internet Usage in Developing Countries: An Overlooked Issue?

Second Order Divide in Internet Usage in Developing Countries: An Overlooked Issue?

Aparna Purushothaman, Lone Dirckinck Holmfeld, Moly Kuruvilla
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-6912-1.ch003
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Internet literacy is crucial to become information literate and for lifelong learning for today's citizens. However, there is an identified gendered digital divide in Internet usage, as the major proportion of unconnected citizens, especially in the developing economies in asian countries are women. The problems of the gender digital divide are not just limited to connectivity and infrastructural issues, literacy and the cost of access, which are often discussed in the literature. The authors identify some of the second order factors that are often overlooked and arise out of cognitive, psychological and social factors leading to the digital divide. The paper also discusses possible measures that could be taken up to address the second order gender digital divide.
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2. Is The Gender Digital Divide Still A Developmental Issue?

In regard to the digital divide, one of the most pertinent technological inequalities is the gender divide (Dixon et al., 2014). The gender digital divide refers “to the structure of opportunities, cultural attitudes and skills related to the use of ICTs” (UNESCO, 2014, p. 50). In terms of the Internet, the digital divide is fundamentally gender related (Bimber, 2000; Kennedy, Wellman, Klement, & Klement, 2003; Ono & Zavodny, 2003; Vijayalakshmi & Bhavani, 2006). While the Internet is considered to be ‘genderless’ since it is available to and usable by anyone who chooses, a greater proportion of the unconnected global citizens are women (UNESCO, 2013).

There is no denying the fact that when women are successfully connected to the Internet they can be well informed, and this can significantly contribute to the economic and social development of a country and lead to significant boost in its national income (Intel, 2013). Although there has been a reported increase in the access to and use of technology by both women and men, women continue to be less technologically oriented than their male counterparts. Women are less intense users of both e-mail and the Web, and they use the web less diversely than do men (Miller & Shrum, 2011). Gender differences continue to be reported in research studies (Johnson, 2010; Pan et al., 2011). The Internet is not viewed as an enabling environment for women, as many women do not feel comfortable with some of the content (Gajjala, 2002). Some studies show that women tend to show higher levels of discomfort with the Internet and show more anxiety than men (Chou, 2003; Jackson et al., 2001; Schumacher & Morahan-Martin, 2001; Tsai, Lin, & Tsai, 2001). Hence, women use the Internet less frequently compared to men (Bimber, 2000; Kennedy et al., 2003; Ono & Zavodny, 2003; Wasserman & Richmond-Abbott, 2005).

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