The digital divide

Is the Digital Divide Really Closing? A Critique of Inequality Measurement A Nation Online
Steven P. Martin
Pages 1-13

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce Report "A Nation Online: How Americans are Expanding their Use of the Internet," computer ownership and Internet use are rapidly becoming more equally distributed across households in the United States. The authors of "A Nation Online" use two statistical arguments to support this claim: 1) annual rates of increase for computer and Internet use are increasing most quickly for poor households, and 2) "Gini" coefficients for inequality of computer use are decreasing. These analyses critique these arguments and show that patterns that the authors attribute to decreasing inequality are instead explained by two factors: 1) computer and Internet use is increasing, and 2) households with higher incomes began using computers and the Internet earlier than households with lower incomes.

Reanalyzing these same data using odds ratios indicates that computer ownership and Internet use may actually be spreading less quickly among poorer households than among richer households. If current trends continue, poor households will eventually have the nearly universal levels of computer and Internet use currently seen among richer households, but this "catching-up" could take two decades.

2. An Expanding Digital Divide? Panel Dynamics in the General Social Survey
Alan Neustadtl, John P. Robinson
Pages 14-26

One important question about the digital divide is whether the divide between users and nonusers is continuing to expand or is not. Dynamic answers to this question can only come from panel studies in which the same individuals are followed across time. This study examines such questions using reinterview data from the General Social Survey (GSS), in which 1538 respondents interviewed in person in 2000 were reinterviewed by telephone in the Fall of 2002, using items that most discriminated Internet respondents in 2000.Of the 15 GSS attitude questions, only the three dealing with interpersonal trust were notably related to changes and continuity in Internet use, and of 8 behavior questions only the increases and decreases in TV viewing mirrored the changes found in the static 2000 data.

3. IT and Social Inequality in The Netherlands
Jos De Haan
Pages 27-45

In the Netherlands, access to IT is unevenly distributed among population groups. As in other countries, males, young people, the higher educated and higher income groups take the lead. This pattern also applies for the possession of a PC and for Internet access at home, as well as for the frequency and diversity of use and for digital skills. These differences coincide with old inequalities. However, the rise of IT also leads to new inequalities. Early adopters of a PC have gained an early advantage, and they have a lasting lead compared to laggards. Early adopters more often have Internet access at home, they have more digital skills, and they use the PC more often. These differences cut across existing social inequalities. This lead by early adopters also applies to differences between early and later adopters with regard to e-commerce and establishing new social contacts via the Web.