Exploring the Aspects of Digital Divide in a Developing Country

Article excerpt

Introduction

The exponential growth of the use of ICTs has had a profound impact on many aspects of daily life. Over the past few decades, ICTs have dramatically transformed the societies and the economies around the world. Today, ICTs have become an essential part of modern culture and cover almost all aspects of life. With advanced ICTs, especially the Internet, the world has today become like a global village. Although developed countries enjoy the benefits of ICTs in almost all areas of life, developing countries do not benefit enough from these technologies. As a result of advances in information technologies, the knowledge gaps between the information-rich and the information-poor have deepened over time and that has caused excluding certain parts of the world from enjoying the fruits of global village (Iskandarani, 2008). Then, the world has begun to notice the phenomenon, named as the digital divide. There is a significant digital divide exists between richer and poorer countries in the use of ICT and the availability of complementary assets such as telecommunications networks and skilled ICT professionals (Genus & Nor, 2007; Shih, Kraemer, & Dedrick, 2008).

While the telecommunications infrastructure has grown and ICT has become less expensive and more accessible, today more than ever, the invisible line that separates rich from poor, men from women and the educated from the illiterate; also separates the connected from the disconnected (Zaidi, 2003). The unequal access to and utilization of ICTs has accepted as one of the prevalent issues of our times (Sciadas, 2005).

Almost every indicator shows that there is a significant difference between developed and developing countries in terms of accessing and using ICTs. For example, according to International Telecommunication Union (ITU), while approximately 72 % of the population is Internet user in developed countries, this ratio is 21% in developing countries. The number of fixed telephone lines per 100 inhabitants in developed countries is estimated about 41, but, it is 12 in developing countries (ITU, 2010). It can be challenging to access up-to-date knowledge and information in developing countries (Suchak & Eisengrein, 2008).

The main purpose of this study is to explore the digital divide in Turkey and highlight some approach to bridge it. This paper starts by providing overviews of the digital divide, then go on to explore the different aspects of the digital divide in Turkey. Suggestions and recommendations to bridge the digital divide in developing countries are discussed in the end of the paper.

The Digital Divide

The digital divide can be defined as "the gap between individuals, households, businesses and geographic areas at different socio-economic levels with regard both to their opportunities to access ICTs and to their use of the Internet for a wide variety of activities" (OECD, 2001, p. 5). The global digital divide refers to differences between countries in terms of access to ICTs. ICT access inequality is called as the first order digital divide and ICT use inequality is called as the second order digital divide (Jin & Cheong, 2008). The digital divide problem has geographic, demographic, and socio-economic dimensions (Yuguchi, 2008).

The term "digital divide" was introduced by Larry Irving, Jr., former US Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Telecommunication and Communication in the mid-1990s in order to focus public attention on the existing gap in access to information services between those who can afford to purchase the computer hardware and software necessary to participate in the global information network, and low income families and communities who cannot (Boje & Dragulanescu, 2003).

Wilson (2004, p. 300) defines the digital divide as "an inequality in access, distribution, and use of information and communication technologies between two or more populations. …