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Information Technology Policy and the Digital Divide

Lessons for Developing Countries

Edited by Mitsuhiro Kagami, Masatsugu Tsuji and Emanuele Giovannetti

The proliferation of new information technologies throughout the world has raised some important questions for policymakers as to how developing countries can benefit from their diffusion. This important volume compares the advantages and disadvantages of the IT revolution through detailed studies of a variety of developed and developing nations and regions: Argentina, Estonia, the EU, India, Japan, Korea, Mexico, South Africa, Thailand and the USA.
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Chapter 4: IT Policies and Issues: US and the Americas

Andrew B. Whinston


Andrew B. Whinston 1. INTRODUCTION Indicators for Internet infrastructure and online users worldwide have shown phenomenal growth in every aspect of the new telecommunications technology since the introduction of the World Wide Web in the early 1990s. During the last decade, the number of people who have access to the Internet has increased from a virtually negligible number to a range of 300–500 million, depending on various surveys. NUA’s estimate put the figure at 513 million in August 2001 (NUA (2001)). Some 426 million were online in July 2001 according to Nielsen/NetRatings; of these, 236 million people were active online users during the month of July 2001 (Nielsen/NetRatings (2001)). At the same time, the number of Internet hosts that provide contents and services increased from just over a million in 1993 to 110 million in January 2001 (ISC (2001)). Despite such extraordinary successes, adequate and effective access to the Internet continues to be limited to a few countries and, within each country, to those who are in middle to upper income brackets. A critical measure of Internet diffusion is the share of the US among the Internet users. In 2000, about half of Internet users were located in the US and Canada, slightly down from 57 per cent in 1999, according to CommerceNet. Worldwide, top-ten countries accounted for 85 per cent of the total Internet population in 2001 (see Table 4.1). The growing disparity in Internet access among countries or socio-economic groups is called ‘the digital divide’. A deepening...

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