Understanding the Dimensions of the Broadband Gap: More than a Penetration Divide

Understanding the Dimensions of the Broadband Gap: More than a Penetration Divide

Maria Rosalia Vicente (University of Oviedo, Spain) and Ana Jesus Lopez (University of Oviedo, Spain)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-611-7.ch106
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Over the last decade the Internet has brought about significant changes in the economies and societies worldwide. It has changed communication habits, adapting incrementally to the needs of the users of the networks. It has created a world-wide web of knowledge sharing, creativity, and collaboration and has fostered globalization. In this context, new and traditional players are adapting to the challenges through new business models. Nowadays, the diffusion of broadband is providing the basis for the transition to the Internet of the future. In the next years the development of very high-speed networks will permit the launch of new interactive media and content services. The widespread expansion of low cost wireless broadband will allow the Internet to become more pervasive (European Commission, 2006).
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As the diffusion of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) has taken place the issue of the digital divide has emerged to occupy a central position on both international and national forums.

According to the OECD (2001) “the term digital divide refers to the gap between individuals, households, businesses, and geographic areas at different socio-economic levels with regard both to their opportunities to access information and communication technologies and to their use of the Internet for a wide variety of activities”.

The digital divide is a complex, multifaceted, and evolving concept. At first the issue of the digital divide was understood in binary terms: the gap between ICT “haves” and “have-nots”. But as the number of Internet users has grown, the digital divide has progressively shifted from an “access” divide to a more complex “use” divide that can be indirectly observed through the diversity and variety of Internet use, and the very heterogeneous abilities of individuals to find information online in an efficient and effective way (Hargittai, 2002; OECD, 2008a).

Broadband has had a very significant effect on this variety of Internet use. High-speed connections have opened up a huge range of interactive applications and services, with more and more user-generated content being uploaded and shared.

Therefore, the broadband gap should not be seen as a mere penetration divide. Above all, it is a divide in the range of services people can access and use. And, more fundamentally, it suggests how future divides in wealth may take shape, as broadband is increasingly determining the ability of individuals, firms, and nations to create future wealth.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Composite Indicator or Index: A mathematical combination of a set of indicators.

Digital skills or e-skills: The learned capacity to use information and communication technologies, and to search for information online in an efficient and effectively way.

Digital Divide: The gap in the access and use of information technologies between individuals, businesses or territories.

ICT: Information and communication technologies.

Cluster Analysis: A set of algorithms and methods which aim is to identify homogeneous subgroups of cases in a population.

Factor Analysis: A multivariate technique that can be used to either identify the underlying dimensions for a set of variables, or to determine whether the information can be summarized in a smaller number of factors.

Broadband: This term usually refers to high-speed access to the Internet.

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