Keynote Talk at the Foundation University of Islamabad: a few takeaways

It has been a great pleasure to be invited by the Foundation University of Islamabad to give a keynote talk (albeit virtual) about Digital Divide. The event has been moderated and coordinated by Dr. Sadia Jamil (Khalifa University) and Dr Shabbir Hussain (Bharia University, Islamabad) introduced the phenomenon of Digital Divide in Pakistan. It was pleasure see participants from Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh.

In my talk, I emphasised how access to, and use of ICT is a new civil right: an essential necessity to be a full citizen. In fact, an insufficient and unequal access to the Internet can create new forms of social segregation that exacerbate already existing social inequalities. In a digital-reliant society being excluded from the digital realm means missing opportunities to improve one’s quality of life.

Throughout my talk I underlined several times how the advent of ICTs have granted many privileges to their users, but have also given rise to complex forms of exclusion affecting those already marginalized. We focused on the obstacles that prevent certain social groups from accessing and properly using technologies. This limited access and use of ICTs is defined as the “Digital Divide”. The metaphor of the digital divide suggested a division between two dichotomous groups that can be clearly determined. However, it is possible to observe different degrees of e-inclusion and use of ICTs.

For this reason, I focused on the three levels of Digital Divide, namely i) Inequalities in Accessing ICTs; ii) Inequalities in Usages and iii) Inequalities in Outcomes of Internet Access and Uses.

I concluded by emphasizing that accessing the internet, alone, is simply not enough to be digitally included. It is also necessary to have the capacity to create, successfully navigate, understand online content and use ICTs to improve their life chances.

Citizens need the ability to utilize digital infrastructure and not simply to access it.


The evolving digital divide: from the first to the third level

emeraldIn this blog written for the Real Impact blog @massimoragnedda  and @marialauraruiu  discuss the inequalities in accessing and using technology

The rise of Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) was seen at the beginning as an opportunity for freedom of information, and to level up existing inequalities (Rheingold, 1993; Negroponte, 1995). However, scholars realized soon that access to ICTs would give an advantage to specific citizens/users (Resnick, 1998; Hargittai, 2000). The term “digital divide” emerged to describe inequalities in access to the technologies of the information society. At the early stage of research on the digital divide, access to the Internet and ownership of ICTs was seen both by scholars and by policy makers as the most crucial factor. The possibilities for an individual to access and use the Internet are at the base of the first level of digital divide.

Moving beyond access….

Nevertheless, access to the Internet alone cannot determine how much value users gain from the Internet and, therefore, this dichotomy of “haves” and “have nots” is ineffective to describe a phenomenon that is no longer based only on the possession of technology or simple access to it. After the fading of the initial euphoria surrounding the rise of ICTs, it become clear that users with more information skills, more resources, and more social and economic capital would gain greater advantages than others. These digital inequalities opened up new dimensions of social segmentation, interwoven with traditional cultural and social inequalities and potentially reinforcing them. Digital divide started to be seen as a phenomenon relating to complex issues that involve all aspects of community life, in economic, political, cultural and social arenas.

We have moved from the first level of digital divide (mainly based on access to the Internet) to a more sophisticated and multidimensional second level (based on the disparities in computer and Internet use). Skills, competence and abilities to use the Internet have become more important than even. Not only the material access to the Internet is taken into consideration, but also the different uses of it. Recently a new approach defined as the third level of digital divide emerged (Ragnedda 2017). It focuses on the social and cultural benefits deriving from accessing and using the Internet. It analyses the offline returns of accessing and using digital technologies, attempting to understand who gains the most advantage from the Internet (van Deursen and Helsper 2015).

How do we close the divide?

Accessing and properly using ICTs constitutes a new civic right. Narrowing the uneven distribution in the access to, use of, or impact of ICTs between individuals, must be ranked as one of the top human rights priority. The possibilities that the Internet offers to citizens in economic, political, social and cultural areas are not exploited by everybody in the same way. The Internet influences possibilities for citizens to improve their life chances, but in a vicious circle, based on their original social position. In other terms, social strata that already enjoy social advantages become further privileged by using the Internet.

The different uses we make of the Internet lead to completely different roles of the network in people’s lives. Socio-economic and cultural backgrounds affect the access to and the use of the Internet (first and second level) and that this online experience influences people’s life chances and the opportunities they have in the offline world (third level). Digital inequalities, therefore, tend not only to reinforce social inequalities already existing in the offline society, but also to enlarge the gap between the less advantaged and the most advantaged individuals. Social strata that in the social realm tend to obtain more valuable resources are the same that tend to exploit ICTs most advantageously.

Massimo Ragnedda and Maria Laura Ruiu examine how digital capital can be defined, measured and impact policy in their recently published book Digital Capital: A Bourdieusian Perspective on the Digital Divide. Find out more here.

Keynote Talk: Moscow Reading 2019

keynoteIn my Kenyote talk at the 11th edition of the Moscow Reading Conference 2019, held at the Faculty of Journalism, Lomonosov Moscow State University, Moscow, I both focused on the conceptualization and operationalization of Digital Capital. I stressed how Digital Capital should not be perceived as a subset of other capitals, but should be conceptualized as a specific capital. Furthermore, I presented our empirical model and how we operationalized and measured digital capital. Finally, I explained how this model could be replicated in different socio-cultural contexts.

Keynote talk: The Digital Capital Index: monitoring citizens’ digital inclusion

EDtA_ItXsAIQYZdIt has been a real pleasure to give a keynote talk on Digital Capital and Digital Inclusion at the “One day colloquium on Digital Inclusion” in Brussels,  the 5th of September 2019. The event has been organized by IDEALiC, a 4-year project funded under the research program BRAIN-BE of the Federal Science Policy (2015-2019). In my keynote speech I focused on the Digital Capital Index and how it can be used, by policy makers, charities and foundations, to address digital inclusiveness and promote digital rights. The “One day Colloquium” was devoted to the presentation of the results of the project carried out over the past 4 years by the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB), Université Catholique de Louvain (UCLouvain) and the Fondation Travail-Université (FTU) and has been financed by BELSPO. The discussion on this theme was enriched by the experiences of field actors from the three regions and by the contributions of work carried out in other European countries.

VI edition of EU China Dialogue Summer School of Media and Communication Summer school

me in chinaIt has been a great honor and pleasure to be one of the invited teachers at the 6th Summer School at PKU in 15-24 July 2019, organized by the China Media Observatory (CMO) of Università della Svizzera Italiana (USI) in cooperation with School of Journalism and Communication of Peking University (PKU). The European Media and Communication Doctoral Summer School (SuSo), the Europe-China Dialogue: Media and Communication Studies Summer School (ECDSS) has been successfully organized for 5 years, taking place in Beijing (China), Lugano (Switzerland), and Brussels (Belgium).

The 2019 programme had a new format and emphasis that focus more on “scientific training” – the provision of theoretical and methodological guidance for PhD students, postdocs and graduate students who are eager to engage in research at the early stage of their academic career. It aims to bring together scholars from different cultures to shed light on contemporary issues in (and not limited to) media, communication, political economy and cultural studies. As the fast-changing world is reshaped by the digitalization of the media sphere, scholars in Europe and China are facing the same challenges posed by the new information world that is full of misinformation, radical emotions, fragmented knowledge and deep uncertainties. The Summer School provided a platform linking scholars from the two great civilizations in order to foster the generation of new ideas or solutions for a better global communication exchange under the framework of Europe-China Dialogue.

During my time in Beijing, I taught classes and discussed with more than 30 students from Europe, USA and China students. Furthermore, we visited the CCTV and China Daily headquarters.


IAMCR presentationThe IAMCR 2019 was the largest conference ever organized by IAMCR, with 1,785 registered participants from 83 countries and 5 continents. The International Association for Media and Communication Research – the preeminent worldwide professional organisation in the field of media and communication research – organized the conference at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid from the July 7 – 11, 2019.

The day before the main conference, I co-organized with my colleagues Bruce Mutsvairo (University of Technology Sydney) and Kristin Skare Orgeret (Oslo Metropolitan University) a preconference/Special issue Information, Communication and Society. The preconference Era or Error of Transformation? Assessing Afrocentric Attributes of Digitalisation has been really successful with 18 case studies presented and discussed. Continue reading “IAMCR MADRID 2019”

Access to, and use of ICTs is as a new civil right: an essential necessity to be a full citizen

Liverpool LondonThe Digital Inclusion Policy and Research Conference 2019 (18 June to 19 June, London Campus of the University of Liverpool, University of Liverpool in London) brought together academic research with policy makers and stakeholders to review the current state for the art in digital inclusion policy and practice. DIPRC2019 drawn upon over two decades of research, policy, and practice. Over this time digital inequalities, digital inclusion and digital literacies have changed in response to developments in digital technologies and media. The primary aim of this conference was to link up international policy efforts to address digital inequalities, access and skills with the outcomes of recent research at from around the globe.


I underlined how the benefits of digital equity go well beyond the single citizen but impact on the community as a whole. We all known that an insufficient and unequal access to the Internet can create new forms of social segregation that exacerbate already existing social inequalities (Ragnedda 2018a). In fact, in a digital-reliant society being excluded from the digital realm means missing opportunities to improve one’s quality of life (Ragnedda and Mutsvairo 2018).

Continue reading “Access to, and use of ICTs is as a new civil right: an essential necessity to be a full citizen”

Operationalising and measuring Digital Capital: identification of indicators

PPDDNext week (22-24 May 2019) I will be in Washington DC at the Partnership for Progress on the Digital Divide 2019 International Conference. I will be presenting a paper written with Maria Laura Ruiu titled “Operationalising and measuring Digital Capital: identification of indicators”. l will first introduce the Digital Capital and how we have conceptualized in bourdeusian terms as “a set of internalized ability and aptitude” (digital competencies) as well as “externalized resources” (digital technology) that can be historically accumulated and transferred from one arena to another. Then I will try to explain how we have operationlized this new specific capital. Finally I will be presenting the first results of an empirical research we carried out in the UK to measure the Digital Capital. This is the first attempt ever to operationalize and measure this new specific capital. The model we will be proposing can be used and applied in other social and cultural contexts.

IAMCR 2019. Digital Divide Working Group

did-logo-optimalWe have been receiving many great submissions to our Working Group in the past weeks. Looks like we’ll have lots of interesting discussions and presentations at IAMCR 2019, Madrid. You can still submit your abstract (both individual and panel proposals are welcome) before February 8, 2019 through OCS system.

The overarching conference theme in 2019 is “Communication, Technology, and Human Dignity: Disputed Rights, Contested Truths”. The theme addresses issues of human rights and dignity in a modern globalized world, where ICTs and artificial intelligence are influencing the way human rights are currently understood, promoted and protected. The theme seeks to explore the role of information and communication technologies in both supporting and subverting the exercise of rights and the achievement of universal dignity. It also argues that such rights as the right to voice and visibility, to have one’s experiences and ideas fairly represented in public sphere, to have access to the comprehensive information are now gaining a status of fundamental rights in the society.

Continue reading “IAMCR 2019. Digital Divide Working Group”

Towards Digital Equity

hong kong presentationOn January 10-11 2019, I participated at the International Symposium “Wellbeing and Inequality in the Digital Age: New challenges and new possibilities” Lingnam University, Hong Kong.

The symposium, very well attended, posed interesting questions:

How will technological change impact on life chances, wellbeing and social inequality?

Is a digital society ‘smart’ for all, or exclusionary for many-and in what ways?

How is technology reshaping the social policy agenda?

What does new technology offer in terms of new ways to deliver policies and to better inform citizens?
I presented a paper titled “Towards Digital Equity” in which I argued that “digital inclusion projects”, regardless their public or private nature, aim to create an inclusive society in which no-one is left behind.

Here my abstract:

  Continue reading “Towards Digital Equity”