Type of work: Working Paper
| Information Society
| Politics and Political Science
What factors have promoted and retarded the spread of the internet globally? The internet is one example of the diffusion and adoption of technology generally. Much as other technologies, the internet has diffused unevenly across countries. This uneven spread has raised concerns over an increasing “digital divide”. The main proposition here is that its spread has been driven by neither technological nor purely economic factors alone. Rather political factors, especially the type of domestic institutions, exert a powerful influence. Groups that believe they will lose from the internet try to use political institutions to enact policies that block the spread of the internet. Some political institutions make this easier to do than others. Data from roughly 190 countries over the past decade (1991-2001) show that a country’s regime type matters greatly, even when controlling for other economic, technological, political and sociological factors. Democratic governments facilitate the spread of the internet relative to autocratic ones. Thus the spread of democracy may help reduce the digital divide.