Explaining the Global Digital Divide: The Impact of Public Policy Initiatives on Digital Opportunity and ICT Development
Type of work: Communication
Categories:e-Readiness | Information Society | Policy & Regulation
The development of affordable information and communication technologies (ICTs) over the past 25 years has created an environment for people across the globe to have greater access to telecommunication and Internet services. Much of the previous research suggests that these technological advances have mostly exacerbated existing inequalities between developed and developing nations and created new inequalities within societies between the information rich and poor. There seems to be very little research, however, that provides comprehensive explanations for the global digital divide and, in particular, the impact of national public policy initiatives that seek to expand access to ICTs. Most of these studies have tended to be either largely descriptive, qualitative case studies, or quantitative analyses that have had a very narrow concept of ICTs. Our research examines the digital divide by analyzing the impact of national policies in the form of strategic planning, regulation and investment on the International Telecommunications Union’s Digital Opportunity Index and ICT access and use indicators in approximately 150 countries. Our multiple regression analysis shows that when controlling for measures of economic, political, social and educational development, there is greater digital opportunity and greater overall technology adoption and use in countries that have competition to provide basic telecommunication services and make a higher financial investment in ICT development.