Edited by Ruth Towse and Christian Handke
The discussion of a digital divide in Internet access and use is the most recent manifestation of the broader phenomenon of information poverty (Hayward, 1995; Wresch, 1996; Arunachalam, 1999). Across and within societies, enduring and widespread disparities exist in access to all forms of information and communication technologies, including the audiovisual sector (radio, television, and films), telecommunications, and the print sector, as well as dial-up and broadband connections to the Internet. Moreover, today it makes little sense to focus only on the digital divide in computing technology, because industries that once used to be regarded as distinct sectors are increasingly converging into multimedia enterprises; smart phones access DVD movies, the New York Times video can be watched on TiVo-enabled televisions, while cell phone snaps of breaking events appear on network TV. Indeed even the conventional notions of ënewsí and ëthe news mediaí, or ëaccess to the Internetí, once clear cut, have fuzzier boundaries today. To address these issues and clarify trends, we will start by comparing national indicators based on official statistics, standardized by international agencies such as UNESCO, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the OECD, Eurostat, and the World Bank, based on time-series data for all countries where data is available. These sources are limited in certain important respects, however, including problems of systematic bias in missing data, whether measurements relate to availability or use, and deciding upon the most appropriate unit of analysis for comparison.
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