Establishing the human dimension of the digital divide

Partridge, Helen L. (2005) Establishing the human dimension of the digital divide. In Quigley, Marian (Ed.) Information Security and Ethics: Social and Organizational Issues. IRM Press, Hersey USA, pp. 23-47.


This chapter will explore the human dimension of the digital divide. It argues that existing digital divide research takes primarily a socioeconomic perspective and that few studies have considered the social, psychological or cultural barriers that may contribute to digital inequality within community. This chapter will discuss an ongoing research project that explores the psychological factors that contribute to the digital divide. Using the Social Cognitive Theory, the research examines the Internet self-efficacy of Internet users and non-users in Brisbane, Australia and San Jose, California, USA. Developing a psychological perspective of the digital divide will expand current understanding of a phenomenon that has far reaching social and economic implications. It will allow a more precise understanding of what is and who represents the digital divide in community. Organisations who are involved in bridging the digital divide will be better placed to develop strategies and programs that can more effectively narrow the gap between ICT "haves" and "have-nots".

Introduction The digital divide between Information and Communication Technology (ICT) "haves" and "have-nots" has been a topic of considerable discussion since the U.S. federal government released its 1995 report on household access to technologies such as the telephone, computers and the Internet (NTIA, 1995). Since this time many organizations have endeavoured to bridge the digital divide through a diverse range of initiatives and projects. These initiatives and projects have been developed based on the current understanding of the digital divide. This understanding has been developed primarily from a socio-economic perspective. According to current studies (Lenhart, Horrigan, Ranie, Allen, Boyce, Madden & O’Grady, 2003; NOIE, 2002; NTIA, 2002), the primary factors contributing to the digital divide are income, employment and education. As personal computer prices have fallen and Internet services to the household are becoming increasingly less expensive, the socio-economic perspective of the digital divide becomes less convincing to explain all reasons for ICT nonuse.

The 1999 study by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) into the digital divide in the Unites States suggested that the "don’t want it" attitude is fast rivaling cost as a factor explaining non-use of the Internet. Further support for this suggestion was more recently given by a Pew Internet and American Life Project (Lenhart et al., 2003) study, which stated that nearly one-quarter of Americans are "truly disconnected," having no direct or indirect experience with the Internet, whilst another 20% of Americans were "Net evaders," that is, people who live with someone who uses the Internet from home. Net evaders might "use" the Internet by having others send and receive e-mail or do online searchers for information for them. Recent criticism of the current digital divide studies (Jung, Qiu & Kim, 2001) has suggested that the studies fail to consider the psychological, social and cultural barriers to the digital divide. If all members of community are to be allowed to become active citizens and if community organisations are to develop services and resources that will contribute to bridging the digital divide, efforts must be made to more clearly understand the social, psychological and cultural differences that contribute to its development. This chapter discusses a current research project into the psychological barriers of the digital divide. The chapter is divided into three parts. Part one considers what the digital divide is. A brief picture of the digital inequality in Australia and the United States is outlined. The limitations of current digital divide studies are discussed. So too is the relationship between information ethics and digital inequality in the information age. Part two outlines the current research project. The research approach, the underlying theoretical framework and the expected outcomes are discussed. Part three will discuss the future and emerging trends of digital divide research, suggesting further opportunities for study and exploration.

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ID Code: 1534
Item Type: Book Chapter
Additional Information: For more information about this book please refer to the publisher's website (see link) or contact the author . Author contact details :
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Keywords: digital divide, internet, self efficacy, information ethics, information rich, information poor, control psychology
ISBN: 1591402867
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > INFORMATION AND COMPUTING SCIENCES (080000) > LIBRARY AND INFORMATION STUDIES (080700)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > PSYCHOLOGY AND COGNITIVE SCIENCES (170000) > PSYCHOLOGY (170100)
Divisions: Past > QUT Faculties & Divisions > Faculty of Science and Technology
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2005 IRM Press
Deposited On: 10 Apr 2007 00:00
Last Modified: 29 Feb 2012 13:07

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