Digital Divide in the Population of Serbia

Article excerpt

Introduction

Corresponding to the process of globalization, the so-called information capitalism is also developed, initiating new forms of social divide and class polarizations (Castells, 1996). This type of divide is nowadays called digital divide. This complex term implies different types of polarizations. On one side, that is polarization between highly developed, usually wealthy countries and regions that are connected to a global computer network and poorly developed and very often poor parts of the world, that are due to their elementary problems still far away from that kind of connection. That is also a kind of polarization, which is monitored within a given society on different levels: between highly educated elite and low educated parts of population, gender polarization, polarization of the young regarding to the older population, as well as the polarization of the rich at one side and the poor at the other. These polarizations are monitored and analyzed by setting and comparing the level of ICT accessibility, the level of ICT use, the level of ICT literacy etc. in different social groups or in different countries and regions.

Studying and measuring of digital divide between countries and regions is significant from the aspect of discovering the capacity of one nation to participate in the global information society. When digital divide is monitored within one country, it is possible to affect the design and the change of the current developing strategies, by measuring the gap between different socio-economic groups in the context of their potentials to participate in ICT application.

The precise indicators and appropriate measures of this complex social phenomenon enable quantitative expression of its movement in time or space. Using them, the preconditions for its regular monitoring and affecting its further course are provided.

The paper offers suggestion of one methodology, by which the social polarization on population, induced by different opportunities of social groups to participate in transition towards information society, is quantitatively expressed.

Digital Divide: The Meaning, Types, and Measurement

The term digital divide denotes the gap between individuals, households, enterprises or geographical regions that are on different levels of socio-economic development, which is monitored through their possibilities for the access to ICT, as well as their use of Internet in private, social and business activities (OECD, 2001).

The achievement of "information society for all" presents one of political priorities of the European Union, which is emphasized in the European Union project, with the same name (European Commission, 2000, 2002). This political priority determines setting clear goal of minimizing all forms of digital divide. As opposed to digital divide, the terms participation and inclusion are introduced. In the working documents of European Union bodies these terms are used when defining goals such as designing rightful society, with such socio-economic environment in which all citizens, or at least the majority, will be able to enjoy the advantages of information society (European Commission, 2001).

Digital divide presents a complex, multidimensional social phenomenon that is noticed at different levels of monitoring and that causes many consequences on society (Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, 2005). Its effect is seen in international context, when it is monitored and measured among different countries, as well as in national framework, within a particular country. It is noticed through differences concerning availability of ICT infrastructure, ways of its use and possibility of enjoying the advantages that ICT use provides. Digital divide usually refers to population domain. However, it is also possible to measure and express digital divide among business entities, applying the appropriately defined criteria and measuring models. …