Virtual Inequality: Beyond the Digital Divide

Virtual Inequality: Beyond the Digital Divide

Virtual Inequality: Beyond the Digital Divide

Virtual Inequality: Beyond the Digital Divide

Excerpt

The issue of the [digital divide]— or disparities in information technology based on demographic factors such as race, ethnicity, income, education, and gender—captured headlines as the Internet made otherwise steady progress in permeating American society. Casting a shadow over the country's newfound fascination with the information [superhighway] were persistent reports that the poor, minorities, and others remained disconnected. The numbers contained in the reports were troubling indicators of a potential problem, but they said little about the causes or consequences of the problem and the possible remedies. For example, was the problem affordability or the ability to learn how to use the technology? Was it the ability to find and use the information on the Internet? Was it a lack of awareness of the possible uses and benefits of information technology? And what difference did it make anyway, even if some people never use computers and the Internet—would they and society be appreciably worse off? Much of the prior research has focused less on these questions than on counting the number of people who have access to technology at home. This is a first step—as Deborah Stone has said, counting is a political act and raises awareness of an issue—but it does little to inform debate or to offer guidance to policymakers.

To us, there was a larger story to be told, and through telling the story we could better define the problem and appropriately target public resources. The real story of the [digital divide] could be found by understanding more about the experiences, attitudes, and needs of the individuals caught in the gap. A survey that focused on lowincome communities and included a number of minority individuals would enable those most affected to tell their own story. By thinking about why disparities in information technology are a policy issue—about the possible consequences for society and for normative values such as equality of opportunity—we could also begin . . .

Author Advanced search

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.