Information Exchange: Publications

The Digital Divide: Reviewing the Evidence

Author: Aimee Molloy

"Over the past several decades, technology has dramatically changed the way in which Americans live and work. The introduction of electronic mail and the world wide web has transformed the way many people conduct daily activities such as communicating, shopping, and getting the news. The rate of computer ownership has soared in the past few years. Between 1984 and 1997 the percentage of American households owning a computer rose from 8 percent to 42 percent and approximately one-quarter of all households had Internet access in 1998 (Papadakis 2000). 

But while technology penetration is growing, some recent studies have shown it is not growing at the same rate or to the same level for all populations. This imbalance, referred to as the digital divide, has some politicians and educators worried that the growing gap between the information rich and the information poor will have grave consequences for those that find themselves on the wrong side of the divide.

The term digital divide is used to describe the disparities in computer and technology access among different populations. For some, it is largely an issue of civil rights, considered most importantly as a gap in access between white Americans and minorities. Others focus on socioeconomic disparities, pointing to the incongruity in ownership between the rich and the poor and those with different levels of educational attainment. A few studies look at the differences in access among urban and rural populations, considering the importance of the lack of rural access to high speed broadband technologies, such as cable modems and digital subscriber lines (DSLs). The issue of content on the Internet is also beginning to receive some attention, as educators and researchers highlight the scarcity of material on the web that is targeted to minority populations or presented in a language other than English."

Date Created: June 2000; Date Posted: February 2007




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