The Digital Divide: Inequality in The Age Of The Internet

The Digital Divide Inequality In The Age Of The Internet Guest Blog The Equality Trust (1)This is my brief post for The Equality Trust. Social inequalities play a key role in information society, influencing citizens’ engagement in political, social, cultural and education life. Social inequalities influence the way in which individuals access, use and enjoy the benefits of Information Communication Technologies (ICTs), and the internet in particular.

Inequalities connected with the introduction of ICTs are intertwined with already existing social inequalities, in a circular and cumulative process. Groups slower in adopting the new technology will not always will be able to bridge the gap with the fastest, with the consequent growth of differential access and use. It is likely that over time the problem of the gap in access will tend to decrease. In the UK, for instance, more than 90% of population access the internet. However, at the same time, inequalities in using ICTs are increasing. Indeed, not all technological innovations are equal, since some citizens/users may have more capacity/skills/motivation/interest than others in accessing and using such technologies. As several studies have suggested, digital inequalities, in terms of political participation, healthcare and education, are entangled with already-existing social inequalities.

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Towards an inclusive digital society

CC9A9471.jpgIt has been a big honour for me to give a Keynote talk at the 10th International Media Readings in Moscow “Mass Media and Communications-2018“, 25-26 October 2018, Moscow.

Abstract: At the same time as granting many privileges to their users, the development of the information society has highlighted the existence of obstacles preventing certain social groups (people who are disadvantaged in terms of age, gender, ethnicity, location, income, education or disability) from accessing and properly using technologies. An exclusion from, or even partial access to, the digital realm has become a significant source of social inequality. Digital inclusive initiatives tend to promote the use of ICTs as a means to create social inclusion. Enhancing digital inclusivity means helping citizens to use ICTs to find the resources and services they need when they need them the most. The aim is to include everyone in society by having access to ICTs and the skills, knowledge and confidence to use them to benefit their everyday lives. To build a digitally inclusive society it is necessary to challenge the digital divide by helping citizens to access, use and get the most out of ICTs. These three elements—access, use and social benefits—correspond to the three levels of the digital divide, intended as an articulated and multifaceted phenomenon that encompasses variables other than simply access. Any attempt to foster inclusion in the digital realm needs to consider these three levels.

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Conceptualizing digital capital

telematics_and_informaticsMassimo Ragnedda (2018), Conceptualizing Digital Capital, Telematics and Informatics,

1. Introduction

This article makes a theoretical contribution by looking at the rise of digital capital and its relation to the already existent social, economic, personal, political and cultural capitals (the five capitals, 5Cs from now on). It specifically refers to the ways through which the interaction between the digital capital and the 5Cs generates inequalities in online experience (second level of digital divide), and how this new capital contributes towards the creation of the third level of digital divide, seen as the inequalities in the returning social benefits of using the Internet (van Deursen and Helsper, 2015Ragnedda, 2017). This paper will attempt to explain how, in order to make profitable the resources gained from the digital realm and transform them into social resources, individuals need a positive interrelation between the digital capital and social (Bourdieu, 1983Coleman, 1990Putnam, 1995), political (Syed and Whiteley, 1997), economic (Bourdieu, 1983), personal (Becker, 1996) and cultural capitals (Bourdieu, 1983). This interaction helps individuals to transform the digital resources into social resources and to exploit the full advantages offered by the Internet.

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