Digital Divide versus Digital Inequality

07 Feb defines divide as; to separate into parts, groups, sections, etc. It defines inequality as; the condition of being unequal; lack of equality; disparity: inequality of size.

Digital Divide: The gap between those who have access to digital technologies and those who do not; or the gap between those who use digital technologies and those who do not understood in binary terms distinguishing the “haves” from the “havenots” (Hargittai 2003)

Digital Inequality: A refined understanding of the “digital divide” that emphasizes a spectrum of inequality across segments of the population depending on differences along several dimensions of technology access and use.(Hargittai 2003)

The research I have done along with the information that Professor Stacey DeLoose provided has brought me to the conclusion that most of the general public is unaware of the significant problem that not only our great country faces but all developed and developing counties face.  We are staring at a revolution that is leaving many behind, even with the greatest intentions of our government, nationally and locally.

The inception of the World Wide Web saw a large gap between the haves and have-nots, this was also the case with the telephone, radio and TV in each of their inceptions.

Figure 1. The percentage of the adult US population online, 1994-2001

The encouraging aspect of this is that as the market grows so does the availability of internet access as long as pricing is kept in check.  The graphs above show the gaps getting smaller as we move forward in the internet generation.  Research also shows that that cell phone service prices have dropped almost 25% in the last decade and internet service has only come down 4%.  The electronic devises that are available for connectivity has increased steadily over the last decade and show no signs of slowing down and prices have come down with the influx of new technology, but connection prices have not come down to match.  As wonderful as this new technology is, it does no good for connectivity if the internet service provider has priced most of America out of the market.  Along those lines, with the purchase of new technology, the user will need to understand how to operate the new technology to its fullest potential.  Without the understanding of how to use the internet other then to be the end user, the user does not gain the full potential of being connected.

When we switch gears to digital inequalities we are opening up a much broader range of discussion.  We now look at differences between gender, age, ethnicity, demographics, annual incomes and education.  As we look deeper there is a greater gap of inequality then was thought.  The graph below shows the relationship between these.

There are ways of correcting the digital inequalities we face in the US so as to ensure our competitive edge in the global market.  The first comes with education by enforcing the knowledge of communication and understanding how to use technology as a means to improving our way of life.  Second, keep the cost of equipment and internet service down to an affordable level for all economic levels.  Third, recycling used equipment to be refurbished and sold at a discounted price to those that can not afford new equipment.  The last would come from training individuals on how to use the technology for more then just being the end user, to have a more proactive role in the internet.

The graph below shows the ranking between countries and their connection level and that this is not just a problem here in the US but also abroad.  It also shows that we have slipped in the rankings.


Barzilai-Nahon, K. (2006). Gaps and bits: Conceptualizing measurements for digital divide/s. The Information Society, 22(5), 269-278. (PDF file)

Computer and Internet Use by Students in 2003. (2006). Retrieved from

DiMaggio, P., & Hargittai, E. (2001). From the ‘digital divide’ to ‘digital inequality:’ Studying Internet use as penetration increases. Princeton University Center for Arts and Cultural Policy Studies, Working Paper Series number, 15. Retrieved from…gittai.pdf

DiMaggio, P., Hargittai, E., Celeste, C., & Shafer, S. (2004). From unequal access to differentiated use: A literature review and agenda for research on digital inequality. Social Inequality, 355-400. Retrieved from…uality.pdf

Hargittai, E. (2003). The digital divide and what to do about it. New Economy Handbook, 821-839. Retrieved from…divide.pdf

ITU Country rankings. (2010). Retrieved from

McConnaughey, J., Nila, C. A., & Sloan, T. (1995). Falling through the net: A survey of the “have nots” in rural and urban America. National Telecommunications And Information Administration. Retrieved from

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Posted by on February 7, 2011 in My YouTube Channel


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