The role of IT literacy in defining digital divide policy needs


Work data:

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Type of work: Article (academic)


Digital Divide | Digital Literacy | e-Government & e-Administration


This article expands our current understanding of the digital divide by examining differences in individuals’ IT skills acquisition. In the last two decades scholars have gradually refined the conceptualization of the digital divide, moving from a dichotomous model mainly based on access, to a multidimensional model accounting for differences in usage levels and actors’ perspectives. Digital divide views tend to focus on groups of users and user characteristics and focus less on different processes of use. As models of the digital divide became more complex, research focused on deepening the understanding of demographic and socioeconomic differences between adopters and non-adopters. While IT literacy is an important factor in digital divide research, and studies examine user characteristics with respect to IT literacy, few studies make the process of basic IT literacy acquisition their main focal point (Selwyn, 2005). This perspective furthers our thinking by expanding the notion of user characteristics beyond demographic and socioeconomic differences to differences in the processes leading to internet use. Based on a dataset referring to an Italian region, this paper presents a metaphorical interpretation of the digital divide in general and explores the process of IT skills acquisition in particular. Our analysis shows the key role of self-learning and the presence of three distinct approaches in IT skills acquisition leading to different needs in terms of policy. We argue that these preliminary results are a useful starting point for the design of more effective and sophisticated digital inclusion policies.