The term digital divide holds a particular social and academic caché, but it is problematic in that it can lead to technologically deterministic thinking. It does not necessarily offer nuanced understandings of socioeconomic conditions under which the marginalized live. The term digital inclusion might be more useful, but it is still ambiguous since it may privilege the “digital” over other factors such as education and appropriation. This paper explores the different ways that scholars have been thinking about the digital divide and digital inclusion.
It starts with perspectives of the digital divide that address issues of physical access to information and communication Technologies (ICTs), education and technological savvy, and culture and sociopolitical empowerment. It also considers the scholarship that appropriates the perspectives of digital inclusion, different definitions of the term, different criteria by which inclusion is determined, implications of such perspectives, and the problems such scholars aim to solve by exploring digital inclusion. This literature review examines issues around the digital divide and digital inclusion, focusing on proposed initiatives to use digital technology to decrease the gap of access that exists between groups of different socioeconomic backgrounds.
Research on digital divide access between ICTs and social and economic development has been undertaken for decades. It has, in many ways, been limited by initial efforts at conceptualizing, understanding, researching, and responding to the issues of the digital divide (West 2006). Perhaps the most obvious factor characterizing the digital divide is the extent of physical access to ICTs and the internet (Loader and Keeble 2004).1 Chinn and Fairlie (2004) describe the digital divide as the inequalities between any groups in terms of access and use of digital technologies. In this sense, the digital divide is usually concerned with statistics of access and can contribute by acknowledging where the gaps and problems are situated.
SOURCE: David Nemer. “From Digital Divide to Digital Inclusion and Beyond: A Positional Review.” Indiana University, 13 November 2018.
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