Description

We contend that as Internet penetration increases, students of inequality of access to the new information technologies should shift their attention from the “digital divide” --- inequality between “haves” and “have-nots” differentiated by dichotomous measures of access to or use of the new technologies --- to digital inequality, by which we refer not just to differences in access, but also to inequality among persons with formal access to the Internet. After reviewing data on Internet penetration, we describe five dimensions of digital inequality --- in equipment, autonomy of use, skill, social support, and the purposes for which the technology is employed -- that we believe deserve additional attention. In each case, we develop hypotheses to guide research, with the goal of developing a testable model of the relationship between individual characteristics, dimensions of inequality, and positive outcomes of technology use. Finally, because the rapidity of organizational as well as technical change means that we cannot presume that current patterns of inequality will persist into the future, we call on students of digital inequality to study institutional issues in order to understand patterns of inequality as evolving consequences of interactions among firms’ strategic choices, consumers’ responses, and government policies. 

Publication Details
Publication Year:
2001