The Digital Divide in Canada


Work data:

ISBN: 0-662-32945-7

Type of work: Working Paper


Digital Divide


This is a condensed version of the study Unveiling the digital divide (Connectedness series), catalogue no. 56F0004MIE no. 7, and covers the same subject matter. The digital divide, commonly understood as the gap between information and communications technology (ICT) ’haves’ and ’have-nots’, has emerged as an important issue of our times, largely due to the uneven diffusion of the Internet.

Many variables, including income, education, age and geographical location, exert significant influences on household penetration of both ICT and non-ICT commodities. Thus, divides can be defined for any permutation of the above. In the case of ICTs, divides depend on the specific technology, its timing of introduction, as well as the variable of interest.

This study shows that the digital divide is sizeable; ICT penetration rates grow with income. Generally, the effect of income is larger on newer ICTs (Internet, computers, cell phones) than older and established ones (television, telephone). Then, using the Internet penetration of households by detailed income level, it finds that in an overall sense the Internet divide is slowly closing. This, however, is the result of the accelerated adoption of the Internet by middle-income households - particularly upper middle. The Internet divide is widening when the lowest income deciles are compared with the highest income decile.

At the same time, the rates of growth of Internet adoption among lower-income households exceed those of higher-income households. This is typical of penetration patterns of ICT and non-ICT commodities. Rates of growth are initially very high among high-income groups, but at later stages it is the penetration of lower-income groups that grows faster.

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