Plugged in_ yet disconnected by yaofenjin


									   Plugged in, yet disconnected
Analyzing the future of Internet use and the digital divide

                  By Brook R. Corwin
                     Oct. 28, 2009
Plugged In, Yet Disconnected: analyzing the future of Internet use and the digital divide

Introduction: the Internet’s rapid rise
Following its inception in the mid 20th century, the Internet serviced an extremely limited
group of users. Decades passed before the user group expanded beyond military officials
and scientific researchers. Even as it became accessible for a mass audience in the late
1980s and early 1990s, the Internet and the personal computer reached only a small
subset of the population, one that was highly educated, mostly male and privileged to the
extent of being one of the select few with access to online networks.

Momentum eventually turned to the masses, however, at least within developed nations.
Graphical user interfaces and more advanced operating systems made it possible to utilize
computers even with limited to no experience in programming. Barriers to Internet access
began to fall while the learning curve for utilizing the technology also dropped
precipitously. To this day, Internet use has risen at an incredibly fast pace. In developed
nations, the Internet is now ubiquitous, and it is relied upon for essential everyday tasks
such as conducting business transactions, mapping directions, researching information,
making reservations, sending correspondence and even finding health advice. Developing
nations are also seeing rapid increases in Internet use, particularly in cities, while select
rural areas have been targeted by government or non-profit entities with a mission of
connecting those regions to a high-speed network. There are still billions without Internet
access, but far more are being added than lost. At this rate, it will soon be impossible to
compete as a business or even as an individual employee without a high-speed Internet

Given this ongoing trend through the decades for expanding Internet access and advances
in computing technology, some have postulated that in the near-future Internet-
connectivity will be universal, a right enjoyed by all regardless of location or education
level. For many this would represent the end of the digital divide, a long-discussed issue
referring to the gap between those connected to technology and those who lack those
resources. Given the tremendous energy expended by some to expand high-speed
broadband networks, and the absolute necessity for such infrastructure in order to
compete economically, it’s feasible to conclude that the age of divided access will soon
be a problem of the past.

But will universal Internet access truly equate to universal benefits? Studies on Internet
use reveal a wide range of ways that people utilize the technology, and not all have a
positive impact on their livelihood. Once the divide on Internet access is bridged, there
are no guarantees that all of society will be able to afford the tools necessary to maximize
the Internet’s potential, or that they will possess the education needed to make sense of
how the online world can enhance the physical world. Will population segments log onto
the Internet for the first time only to waste their hours with games or absorbing inaccurate
information? How many will actually incorporate web tools into their education,
employment and personal tasks? Will navigating the Internet in the future require not just
high-speed access but also expensive hardware and software only a select few can afford?
This paper will briefly survey the remarkable pace of rising Internet connectivity, while
also examining the barriers that remain and the efforts underway to ensure universal

Plugged In, Yet Disconnected: analyzing the future of Internet use and the digital divide

access. It will then look at the more intangible factors of the digital divide, those not
easily measured by usage rates or network speed, to see how issues of education and
affordability might still create a sizable gap between the technology haves and have-nots
even in a world where everyone is equal in terms of connectivity.

A steady stream of new users
After relatively slow growth during its first few decades of existence, the Internet’s reach
has expanded at an incredible pace across the globe. It continues to pick up millions of
new users by the week, with the most rapid growth in regions of the world where Internet
penetration is lowest. The most recent world Internet usage statistics, as tabulated this
year by Miniwatts Marketing Group, show a 362 percent growth in the number of
Internet users across the world from the years 2000 to 2009 (Internet World Stats). Africa
and the Middle East have the fastest growth during the period, each expanding their tally
of Internet users by more than 1,300 percent. For the entire world, Internet access is a
little less than 25 percent, a low figure given its importance in developed regions. But the
rates show that this figure is likely to rise and keep rising in the near future, particularly
as Asia becomes more developed and connects its sizable population. Asia has the most
Internet users with 704 million, yet that figure represents less than 19 percent of its
population. The continent’s most populous nations, China and India, are rapidly
becoming more developed, which statistics show is a strong predictor of future Internet
penetration. Even in North America, the most developed and connected continent in the
world, there remains 26 percent of residents who don’t use the Internet, indicating plenty
of room for growth. On a global level, it is undeniable that the trend is towards more
access to more people. The graphics on the next two pages illustrate Internet use by
continent and demonstrate how the fastest growth is occurring in areas with the smallest
current penetration, an indication of more growth to come.

Plugged In, Yet Disconnected: analyzing the future of Internet use and the digital divide

Plugged In, Yet Disconnected: analyzing the future of Internet use and the digital divide

Plugged In, Yet Disconnected: analyzing the future of Internet use and the digital divide

A more detailed analysis of Internet access shows that the rate of growth isn’t universal
among all demographic groups. While some groups have quickly achieved access, others
have lagged behind in their adoption rates. A large body of research shows
industrialization and median income of a nation as a strong indicator of its IT penetration.
A 2005 study of Internet access in 40 countries over a 16-year span (Across the Digital
Divide) shows that income closely correlated with IT penetration, yet the study also
documented evidence that the divide is narrowing in terms of PCs, mainframes and the
Internet. Much of this is due to advancements in technology that enable broader levels of
access. A similar study done a year earlier (The Determinants of the Global Digital
Divide) looked at a number of demographic and socioeconomic factors in Internet and
computer use in 161 countries. It found that age, education levels and income were
statistically significant variables correlating with Internet use. Gaps in Internet use that
fall along racial and ethnic lines are also documented. A recent survey conducted by the
Pew Internet & American Life Project honed in on the age gap (Broadband Now). Its
findings demonstrated a considerable generational divide, with just 30 percent of
Americans 65 and older using broadband Internet, compared with 77 percent for 18-29
year olds. Other reports focus on race and ethnicity in documenting divisions in use. A
2009 study of students at 40 U.S. institutions of higher education (U.S. College Students’
Internet Use) found that minorities were significantly less likely to use the Internet for
their studies. In 2007, the Pew Internet & American Life Project looked at Internet use
among Hispanics and blacks within the general U.S. population (America’s Digital
Divide Narrows). Both groups lagged behind whites by at least 10 percentage points, but
the gap was narrowing. A 2008 study comparing the Internet technology use of
immigrants in the U.S. and natives also presents evidence that minorities lag behind
Caucasian counterparts when it comes to this technology (Immigrants, English Ability
and the Digital Divide). The study showed that English ability, and whether the language
was spoken at home, was a key factor in Internet use.

Such research indicates that if universal or near-universal Internet access is ever
achieved, all groups will not reach it simultaneously. Statistics back up this theory,
particularly with regards to income. The results of a 2007 study by the University of
Washington show that only 37 percent of students whose families make less than $20,000
had Internet access at home, compared to 88 percent of students from families making
more than $75,000 (A New Ruler for the Digital Divide). The 2007 Pew study shows that
90 percent of college-educated adults regularly use the Internet, regardless of ethnicity
and race (America’s Digital Divide Narrows). Based upon these findings, it’s likely that
certain demographics will be the first to achieve universal Internet access, while
minorities, immigrants and those with less income or education will take considerably
longer to reach this status. The generational gap may take longer to bridge, as current
senior citizens may never adopt the Internet in large numbers. As this generation dies out,
however, it will be replaced by a new generation that is already largely familiar with the
Internet and its many uses.

Plugged In, Yet Disconnected: analyzing the future of Internet use and the digital divide

Disparities in the quality of access
Measuring access isn’t as simple as answering a yes or no question. The difference
between a slow dial-up connection and a high-speed broadband connection is incredibly
influential in how and for what purpose the Internet can be used. Even if an entire nation
has Internet access, differing connection speeds segregate groups by the tasks they can
perform online. The University of Washington study pointed out the flaws of measuring
Internet access through an all or nothing model, arguing that a more sophisticated
approach is needed that takes download speeds into account (A New Ruler for the Digital
Divide). Simple emails may work for slow dial-up networks, for instance, but these
connections effectively render online video, audio, animation and high definition
graphics as off-limits. With most websites now including these components, anyone
without the bandwidth to access them is effectively divided from the general public.
Recent research makes it clear that there exists a wide disparity in connection speeds
even within developed nations such as the U.S. Population density is the biggest factor in
this disparity, as rural areas offer little incentive for private Internet service providers to
build the necessary infrastructure. The profit margins are small or non-existent to build
high-speed networks if only a few thousand people will utilize them. A recent report by
the Communications Workers of America measures this disparity. It found that the U.S.
as a whole lagged way behind many other developed nations with an average download
speed of 5.1 megabits per second (Internet Speeds Vary Across the USA, Leaving a
Digital Divide). States in the northeast or mid-Atlantic typically had speeds faster than
this average, led by Delaware’s 9.9 megabits per second. But in southern states such as
Arkansas, Mississippi and South Carolina the average speed was below 4 megabits per
second. Western states also fared poorly; with Alaska and Idaho the two slowest states at
download speeds of 2.3 and 2.6 megabits per second, respectively. Across the country,
only 38 percent of rural households have broadband access, compared with 57 percent of
urban households and 60 percent of suburban households. Only 20 percent of households
had speeds in the range of the top three ranked countries for broadband connectivity —
South Korea, Japan and Sweden. The graphic on the next page illustrates the considerable
differences in download speeds by state.

Plugged In, Yet Disconnected: analyzing the future of Internet use and the digital divide

While some may debate weather universal access is an inevitable destination or a
daunting challenge to undertake, few will argue that Internet connectivity is absolutely
essential in order to compete on equal footing in the workplace. Many also emphasize the
wealth of non-professional tasks and functions migrating to online, making it essential for
even a stay-at-home parent to utilize the Internet in order to live a productive and fruitful
life. Without the Internet, an individual or organization is at a severe handicap on several
levels, a gap that will only grow in magnitude as access becomes more common. These
were among the conclusions reached by a 2005 report conducted by the deputy prime
minister of the United Kingdom (Inclusion Through Innovation: Tacking Social
Exclusion Through New Technologies). Rural school systems also suffer, unable to
teach basic computer skills because some of their schools lack broadband connections. A
2008 study looking at race and gender differences in Internet use as a predictor of
academic success found that those who actively utilize the technology were significantly
more likely to do well academically, indicating the importance of the digital divide as a
educational issue (Race, Gender and Technology Use: The New Digital Divide). The
digital divide also makes an economic impact. The Communications Workers of America
report estimates that for every $5 billion invested in expanding broadband infrastructure,
more than 97,000 new jobs are created in the telecommunications, IT and computer
sectors (Internet Speeds Vary Across the USA, Leaving a Digital Divide). Rural

Plugged In, Yet Disconnected: analyzing the future of Internet use and the digital divide

communities struggling to recruit new businesses and industries can’t lure new
companies if there’s no established broadband network in place for them to utilize, since
that level of connectivity is essential for businesses to compete in a national and
international marketplace. It’s no coincidence that the demographic groups identified by
Pew as most lacking in Internet access — older, less educated, of minority status —
closely correlate with the demographic groups that have the highest unemployment rates.
When Internet access is improved, on the other hand, new choices and opportunities
emerge for the most distressed communities and individuals. Washington State
University recently implemented a digital inclusion project that used grants to implement
technology centers in some of the state’s most rural areas (Division of Governmental
Studies and Services at WSU: Digital Inclusion). Its research in tracking how the centers
were utilized showed that a majority of users leveraged the technology for educational
purposes, even more so than social purposes. A significant portion also used their access
to search for employment, fill out an online application, or learn new software skills vital
to the workplace. Many took online classes, workshops or tutorials. Some even
completed entire diploma, certificate or degree programs. These tasks, all absolutely
essential to remaining economically competitive, would have remained off-limits without
the public resources to bring Internet connectivity to places where it didn’t exist.

It’s this sentiment that fuels passionate and highly organized initiatives to bring
broadband access to the places where it’s needed the most. In developed nations such as
the United States and those in Western Europe, that means reaching rural areas currently
lacking in access. According to Connected Nation, a Washington D.C.-based non-profit
organization, a 7 percent increase in broadband penetration could stimulate the economy
by more than $134 billion (Rural Americans Long to be Linked). Benefits would accrue
from the creation of new jobs, more efficient e-commerce transactions and reduced travel
expenses. "As a country, we're basically punishing people for living where they want to
live," Vince Jordan, CEO of Colorado-based Internet carrier Ridgeview Telephone, said
in an interview for the USA Today article. Today Jordan estimates it’s not uncommon for
service providers to charge several hundred dollars for broadband instillation, pricing out
many rural residents, compared to free instillation in most urban markets. With the
private sector disinterested on tackling the issue of rural broadband on its own,
government entities and non-profit organizations are stepping up to meet this critical
need. The Federal Communications Commission is providing an overall framework, and
much of the monetary resources, for this effort. Earlier this year the FCC announced that
$7.2 billion of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is set aside specifically for
projects that expand broadband access. The FCC is also working on a report to Congress,
to be delivered early next year, on how to reach the ambitious goal of 100 percent
broadband connectivity in the United States. Many of the funds are targeted for
community-based Internet providers knowledgeable about the needs of their particular
markets. The executive director of one such provider, Wally Bowen of Mountain Area
Information Network in Asheville, NC, called this approach “historic” in a recent
interview with “Democracy Now” (Bridging the Rural Digital Divide: FCC Starts Work
on National Broadband Strategy). Bowen says non-profit organizations are uniquely
equipped to maximizing the reach of broadband access since they are motivated primarily

Plugged In, Yet Disconnected: analyzing the future of Internet use and the digital divide

with the overall health of their communities. “The $7.2 billion … is just an historic
opportunity for the creation of local networks,” Bowen said. “It’s moving away from the
kind of absentee-owned networks that we’ve suffered under all these decades that are
beholden to Wall Street and not beholden to our communities.” Bowen said advances in
technology are making it much easier for community-based telecommunications
companies to deliver high speed Internet. The financial incentives offered through this
part of the federal stimulus package could encourage more to begin offering this service,
thereby improving the odds that even the most rural areas will have a company
committed to giving them broadband access. “It’s just critical that we find alternative
revenue streams, and here comes along the stimulus package, which is presenting that
opportunity,” Bowen said. “One thing I’m concerned about is that—a lot of our
colleagues in the media reform movement think that becoming an ISP is like rocket
science. It’s not.”

The European Union has also embarked on a similar initiative this year, outlining
regulations that would provide public aid for IT infrastructure projects in areas where
broadband access does not exist (EU Seeks to Close Digital Divide with Broadband Aid).
Urban areas with multiple Internet service providers would have a much more difficult
time receiving this aid. Recipients of the aid could not favor any particular technology
and would have to allow access for competitors to its networks. There has been much
debate on whether excessive regulations will stimulate or choke private investment on the
continent. In a news analysis article published earlier this year, telecommunications
industry consultant Keith Mallinson argues against excessive licensing fees for
broadband expansion projects (Digital Dividend Bounty can Close Digital Divide).
Mallinson said the continent is ripe with plenty of competing service providers that can
drive down costs and rapidly expand networks, with or without incentives, provided the
regulations imposed by the EU don’t make the effort cost prohibitive. The 2005 study of
Internet use in 40 different nations (Across the Digital Divide) recommends policymakers
giving free reign to IT innovators, including reductions to fees and tariffs along with
deregulation. Like the FCC, the EU has stated a goal of universal broadband access
within the next few years. This initiative could prove a daunting task. A commission
charged with studying the issue estimates that it will cost between $295 and $443 billion
to create all the necessary networks. Yet it’s a target that many European leaders seem
committed to reaching. In Finland, for example, universal broadband access will be
implemented by a law that goes into effect next year, making the nation the first to
recognize Internet connectivity as a right for all citizens (Broadband Now).

New technologies boosting connections

Thankfully advances in telecommunications technology are making it easier to reach
rural areas without installing a massive amount of fiber optic cable. Wireless networks
can be delivered through a variety of channels that are cheaper and easier to deploy than
cables (Rural Ops Bridge the Digital Divide). Mallinson calls the mobile networking
industry a rare “bright spot in the current economic gloom.” Among the most promising
of these is the use of “white space,” empty fragments of the spectrum used for broadcast

Plugged In, Yet Disconnected: analyzing the future of Internet use and the digital divide

television that are scattered between frequencies. More of this space has recently become
vacant with the switch from analog to digital television, opening up a new door for
delivering broadband access (First “White Space” Network Launched). These frequencies
often are capable of traveling over a much greater distance than those used for traditional
wireless Internet. They are still regulated by the FCC, however, since improper use can
interfere with existing broadcasts. Up until last year, the FCC outright prohibited use of
these frequencies, only just now opening them up on a case-by-case basis. A concerted,
cooperative effort linking state and federal governments is therefore necessary to put
white space to use as a provider of broadband connections. Such an effort took place this
year in Patrick County, located in a rural section of southwest Virginia. A special task
force that had unsuccessfully worked for years to convince private Internet service
providers to come to the county was able to solidify an experimental license with the
FCC for “white space” frequencies, with a big assist from local Congressman Rick
Boucher. Grants are paying for a service provider, Spectrum Bridge, to utilize the
network for delivering high speed Wi-Fi at no cost to residents. Heading up the initiative
at the local level is Roger Hayden, chairman of the Patrick County Broadband Task
Force. In a recent interview, Hayden said the effort is one of absolute economic necessity
for his community. “High Speed Internet connectivity gives us the tool. Without it we
will be left behind in jobs, education and quality of life,” Hayden said. “If we do nothing
but wait for something to fall into our laps, then we will fail. Living standards have
suffered due to our failure of providing high-speed Internet to all our citizens.” If the
network continues to operate without glitches, it could serve as a model for other rural
communities to implement this often talked about and now practiced option for wider
high-speed access. “The white space wireless I believe is and will be an excellent way to
provide connectivity,” Hayden said. “In the near future if the FCC goes along with the
white space technology spectrum, then we should see a revolutionary change in speed
and connectivity.”

The advances in telecommunications technology aren’t just limited to infrastructure and
connectivity. The hardware needed to access the Internet is becoming faster, cheaper and
more mobile each year. The blending of these two paths of technological progress has
resulted in explosive growth in data networks accessed by smart phones and other small,
mobile devices. These networks and the equipment that taps into their power can be ideal
for rural areas where installing the physical infrastructure is cost-prohibitive. A 2003
report issued by the United Nations, written for the World Summit on the Information
Society, repeatedly emphasizes the potential of wireless Internet to reach the most rural
areas (Closing the Digital Divide: What the United Nations Can Do). The report cites a
pilot program in the medieval town of Zamora, Spain, which connected 68,000 users at
half the cost of dial-up access and many times its speed. In the years since the report,
wireless technology has opened up many new options for Internet access. While smart
phones able to access the Internet are still used by a minority of the U.S. population, they
are becoming increasingly common and more affordable. A 2009 study by the Pew
Internet & American Life Project shows than one-third of Americans have a mobile
phone used for accessing the Internet to seek information and send email. In just 16
months, the daily use of these devices has grown by 73 percent (Wireless Internet Use).
This has pushed network carriers to expand the reach of their services so customers can

Plugged In, Yet Disconnected: analyzing the future of Internet use and the digital divide

remain connected as they travel. It has also led to significant growth in the sale of
netbooks, mini laptops that are easily portable with the capability of accessing the
Internet. While these devises lack the computing capability to run complex software, they
do open up new opportunities for Internet connectivity regardless of location, all for an
affordable price. When Susannah Fox, Pew’s associate director for digital strategy,
testified in Washington for a forum held as part of this year’s One Web Day events, she
stressed the considerable potential for mobile devices to be the future of Internet usage (A
Public Interest Internet Agenda). Fox noted that 56 percent of Americans already utilize
wireless Internet on some device, be it a laptop, mp3 player, game console or cell phone.
“Keep your eye on mobile adoption since ‘always connected’ citizens are likely to be at
the forefront, navigating the new health care delivery system and taking advantage of
opportunities for political participation,” Fox said. “Pew Internet research shows that
mobile could be a game-changer, but only for those who get in the game.” The graphic
below illustrates some of Pew’s findings with regards to wireless Internet, showing
significant growth in the use of mobile devices.

Plugged In, Yet Disconnected: analyzing the future of Internet use and the digital divide

Years before the netbook was marketed commercially to the general public, the concept
was developed to connect children in some of the world’s most remote areas to the
Internet. The non-profit organization One Laptop per Child has placed more than 1
million mobile computers in the hands of children in 31 countries, and much of its
success coincides with their pioneering design of a low-cost, low-powered machine ideal
for mass distribution to impoverished areas. In a recent profile of Mary Lou Jepsen, the
organization’s original chief technology officer (The Pioneering Designer of the First
Cheap Laptop for the Developing World), this design is credited with starting the current
netbook craze. Jepsen is quoted in the article touting the computers as versatile portals to
global knowledge. “The world’s information is digital,” Jepsen said. “The web, the news,
all of that is digital. And now . . . we have ten million books scanned. That was the last
bastion of what was offline; it’s now online and accessible.” The price of these computers
is already below $200 each and poised to go much lower, putting the technology in place
to not only give the entire world broadband access, but also give everyone the tools
needed to leverage the Internet to their advantage. The organization put the state-of-the-
art laptops at the center of its campaign for bridging the digital divide, noting that they
have screens specially designed to remain visible even when used outside in bright
sunlight. The entire device utilizes just 2 watts of power, roughly equivalent to what can
be generated by upper body strength. Perhaps most impressively, the machines can
network with each other, so even if any number of them loses their Internet connections,
the user won’t be kicked offline so long as a nearby computer remains connected.
Nicholas Negroponte, the organization’s executive director, addressed these
developments during a speech at a TED conference in late 2007 (Negroponte on One
Laptop Per Child, Two Years on). Negroponte said these computers — through their
internal networks — could overcome the hazards of remote conditions that once blocked
Internet access for undeveloped countries. “When we drop these laptops into the world,
they’re connected,” he said. “If you’re in a desert, they can talk to each other from up to
two kilometers apart. In a jungle it’s 500 meters away. You don’t call Verizon or Sprint.
You build your own network”

The glaring educational gap
For all the much-deserved praise heaped onto organizations big and small that expand
Internet connectivity and access to computer technology, there is justified criticism that
these efforts only address part of a much more complex equation. One Laptop per Child’s
efforts were initially derided by the likes of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates along with
numerous public officials for focusing on technology only as a resource and not a skill
that needs development (The Pioneering Designer of the First Cheap Laptop for the
Developing World). With enough effort and resources, it is possible to ensure that
everyone has a high speed Internet connection and a computer, but that doesn’t
automatically mean that everyone will utilize the technology to their benefit. Basic
computer literacy is far from universal, particularly among certain socioeconomic groups.

Plugged In, Yet Disconnected: analyzing the future of Internet use and the digital divide

Even those who can operate a computer may lack knowledge in web-based tools and
techniques in conducting business online, sorting through information on the web or
communicating online. Mobile devices, often cited as important tools in bridging the
digital divide, are often extremely difficult to use for those unfamiliar with technology. A
recent study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project shows that only 39 percent of
adults have positive feelings about their mobile devices. The remaining 61 percent have
trouble coping with all the features and options of their mobile devices, including
broadband Internet connections (Pew Highlights Digital Divide on Mobile Devices).

Unproductive use of the Internet may be simple, but effectively leveraging the
technology for personal or professional advancement requires a degree of experience and
expertise that goes way beyond simply having access to a computer and Internet
connection. A 2007 study comparing Internet use among students in high and low
resource schools demonstrates this educational divide (Redefining the Digital Divide).
All the schools in the study gave their students access to computers and the Internet. But
only the high-resource schools matched that access with teachers that integrated the
technology into the classrooms. These innovative teaching strategies, coupled with the
fact that a greater percentage of students in the high-resource schools had Internet access
at home, made for more actively engaged students in the technology. There is ample
evidence that children from disadvantaged economic backgrounds are far less likely to
have access to Internet access at home. In a 2008 article (Bridging the Digital Divide)
several scholars on the issue argue that this results in gaps of IT knowledge regardless of
resources at school. “Digital inclusion is not simply about access to technology, but also
meaningful access, technical skills and information literacy,” the article states. The 2007
Pew Hispanic Center study, while noting a narrowing gap between whites and minorities
in Internet access, makes it a point to demonstrate how many Hispanics are missing out
on the full range of the Internet’s benefits (America’s Digital Divide Narrows). As
opposed to using the Internet to create and shape content, many in this group can only use
it to access information either because they lack the expertise for more hands-on
engagement or because their Internet connection is too slow to support multimedia
interactivity. Pew Associate Director Susannah Fox refers to this as the “digital dimmer
switch,” a new way at looking at the digital divide that acknowledges that many online
are still stuck on Web 1.0.

In their comprehensive survey of previous research into the digital divide, compiled in
2005, Frederick Riggins and Sanjeev Dewan note the relatively little attention given to
inequalities on ability to use Internet technology among those who have access (The
Digital Divide: Current and Future Research Directions). This creates three kinds of gaps:
the individual level where some are disadvantaged compared to others, organizational
level where some companies can’t compete economically, and the global level where
entire nations are handicapped because they lack expertise in utilizing technology. The
authors view the digital divide as encompassing not one but multiple divisions, including
a skills divide, information divide, economic opportunity divide, democratic divide and e-
commerce divide. These gaps, they reason, aren’t automatically solved with wider access.
Programs or websites designed to reach a particular ethnicity or socioeconomic group
may not translate universally, with the unfamiliarity of these interfaces alienating

Plugged In, Yet Disconnected: analyzing the future of Internet use and the digital divide

minority groups and actively discouraging future Internet use. Barriers also arise when
the only Internet access available is through public places such as schools and libraries.
These settings are often not ideal for engaging users on tasks such as e-commerce,
networking and political participation where privacy is an important consideration.
“Providing public access to PCs and the Internet through schools, public libraries, and
community centers is considered one of the most relevant approaches to bridging the
digital divide,” the authors sate. “However, it is not clear how effective this approach is
for actually overcoming many of the barriers for the disconnected.”

A similar conclusion is reached by a 2006 study on the measurements used to quantify
the digital divide (Gaps and Bits: Conceptualizing Measurements for Digital Divides).
This report is sharply critical of policymakers who rely on simplistic measurements such
as Internet penetration, instead arguing that a more comprehensive analysis is needed to
examine how the Internet is used by different families within the context of their unique
political and social environments. The authors of the 2005 study recommend further
research that targets how individuals and businesses use technology, not just whether
they have access (The Digital Divide: Current and Future Research Directions). Also
needing closer examinations are the policy implications of programs attempting to
address the digital divide, and whether they are improving the skill set needed for
productive use of Internet technology.

Individual case studies show that technology without accompanying education produces a
digital divide almost as profound as when the technology was never available in the first
place. Among the most compelling of these cases comes from an article published by
Mark Warschauer (Demystifying the Digital Divide), in which the distinguished
communications scholars describes a program to construct Internet kiosks in extremely
rural areas of India. Some of these kiosks were poorly maintained by technicians, did not
have instructions in Hindi, and/or came with no instructions for use. These ended up
making little impact among the villages, and some were rarely used. But when the kiosks
were regularly serviced and loaded with content created based on an analysis of the
community’s social and economic needs, results improved tremendously. Farmers were
able to learn the updated prices or popular crops so they knew what to grow and harvest,
while villagers could enjoy improved government services by being able to instantly
make complaints and requests using the kiosk. Warschauer also provides a compelling
example of online advanced placement courses established in California to service
students in low-income areas whose schools couldn’t afford to offer the classes. With
most of the students in these areas having little experience in computers, most struggled
and dropped out of the courses. After the program was revised to incorporate face-to-face
instruction on technology, the success rate tripled. Further research indicated that
students were using their Internet connections at school for different purposes based upon
their socioeconomic status. Poor students typically engaged in less challenging computer
exercises that didn’t stimulate their understanding of the technology and were not as good
in preparing for professional use of the Internet. Wealthy students, on the other hand,
used the computers for experiments and critical engagement, foreshadowing a deeper
level of expertise with the technology that will serve them better following graduation.
From this considerable body of research, Warschauer concludes that simply dropping

Plugged In, Yet Disconnected: analyzing the future of Internet use and the digital divide

technology into an impoverished area isn’t nearly enough to bridge the digital divide.
“Realizing this objective involves not only providing computers and Internet links or
shifting to online platforms but also developing relevant content in diverse languages,
promoting literacy and education, and mobilizing community and institutional support
toward achieving community goals,” he states. “Technology then becomes a means, and
often a powerful one, rather than an end in itself.”

The focus on education can’t begin and end with those at the primary or secondary school
level, particularly with so many technologically illiterate adults seeking fulfilling
employment in a digital age. Expanded Internet access must be accompanied by adult-
level training to maximize the technology and lift workers up the knowledge ladder. This
point is emphasized by Dr. Esther Johnson, national director of the federal Job Corps
program. Johnson was recently named a “Champion of Digital Literacy” by the Certiport
Corporation, which annually honors the achievements of individuals whose commitment
and efforts have brought about the adoption of digital literacy standards. In a video
interview conducted in conjunction with the honor, Johnson talks about the absolute
necessity of integrating digital certificate programs within the overall framework of her
agency’s mission (Certiport Champions of Digital Literacy 2009). “We’re in the 21st
century. What worked for the Job Corps program when it started doesn’t work anymore.
We had to bring our young people’s education and training standards up,” Johnson said
said. “It’s so important that they are technologically astute and keep their skills upgraded.
That’s what’s so important. Software is changing all the time and what you learned 5
years ago is not applicable anymore.” Johnson was honored for implementing a rigorous
certification program in computer software and Internet technology as part of the Job
Corps program. Johnson said the stakes are too high, and the job market too much in flux,
to rely solely on old approaches to training. Students not only must grasp the current
software and be able to apply it to professional tasks, they must also develop the capacity
to quickly pick up new kinds of software and adapt to changes in technology even after
their careers are established. “I never imagined that the world of work would change so
much in 20-plus years as a result of technology. When they get out in the workplace,
they’re going to have to use the applications of Microsoft Office,” Johnson said.” Out in
the workplace, where an increasing number of jobs are web-orientated, it’s painfully
evident that a large segment of the population still lacks the skills and training to
effectively maximize Internet resources. Nick Deamons, a web developer for national
marketing firm Engauge, views such knowledge as a social imperative that requires
comprehensive public action in order to keep adults and children alike from being left
behind. “A high disparity of basic computing knowledge already separates American
people into have and have-nots.” Deamons said in a recent interview. “If the main
concern here is equality of knowledge and societal capability, then neglecting to provide
basic services to the have-nots is an essential task for completion. Some would argue that
the dissemination of information across many peoples is something to be regarded as a
cultural necessity for equality.”

In tacking the education question, One Laptop per Child places the focus on well-
designed software that encourages active participation by the user. As the organization
states on its website (, children learn most from doing, as evidenced by

Plugged In, Yet Disconnected: analyzing the future of Internet use and the digital divide

research from noted epistemologists. “Thus OLPC puts an emphasis on software tools for
exploring and expressing, rather than instruction,” the organization states. “Love is a
better master than duty. Using the laptop as the agency for engaging children in
constructing knowledge based upon their personal interests and providing them tools for
sharing and critiquing these constructions will lead them to become learners and
teachers.” Negroponte addressed the issue in more forceful terms during his TED speech,
saying that active engagement by children with their computers constitutes in itself
meaningful instruction (Negropante on One Laptop Per Child, Two Years on). “Kids who
write computer programs understand things differently, and when they debug the
programs they come the closest to learning about learning,” he said “In some sense we’ve
lost that. Kids don’t program enough. If there’s anything I hope this brings back it’s
programming to kids. It’s really important. Using applications is okay but programming
is absolutely fundamental.” However, it’s unclear whether self-directed learning on its
own is enough to help an entire generation of educationally impoverished children catch
up with their counterparts in the developed world. Basic computer literacy, much less
computer programming, needs a starting point and a solid educational foundation in order
for children to be guided by their own curiosity and intuition. In criticizing the
organization’s aims in 2007, then Nigerian education minister Dr. Igwe Aja-Nwachukwu
offered a blistering assessment that nonetheless must be taken to heart for any effort that
tackles the digital divide simply through the lens of Internet and computer access (The
Pioneering Designer of the First Cheap Laptop for the Developing World). “What is the
sense of introducing One Laptop Per Child when they don’t have seats to sit down and
learn,” Aja-Nwachukwu said, “when they don’t have uniforms to go to school in, where
they don’t have facilities?” There are no easy answers to such questions, particularly
since each community has its own set of technological and educational needs that require
personalized solutions. Roger Hayden, who spearheaded the effort to establish a “white
space” network in rural Patrick County, VA, says both the public and private sectors must
play a role in tacking the issue. Neither has the resources or the incentive on its own to
address the many nuances of a complex issue with challenges that differ depending on
community. “Private (companies) and government should work together for the people,”
Hayden said. “My philosophy is to improve one community at a time through
technology. This means to me that one should determine what is the best way to serve
their area. All are different with varying resources.”

Conclusion: a new kind of divide emerges
While it is impossible to predict for sure whether the ongoing trend towards universal
Internet access will continue or grind to a halt in the coming years, data from the last 50
years regarding information technology indicates that this growth will continue. There is
already tremendous resources and human capital committed to building the necessary
telecommunications infrastructure for global Internet access in the most remote areas.
Technology is making it easier than ever to do so, and the work of non-profit
organizations and government entities indicate that this is a cause that transcends
commercial motives. It has become widely recognized that a secure, high-speed Internet
connection is essential, and that fuels projects for universal access as a humanitarian
cause for social good, with ultimate goals that are in everyone’s best interest. Combine

Plugged In, Yet Disconnected: analyzing the future of Internet use and the digital divide

that energy with the ever-growing commercial market for mobile devices — a market
stimulated by advances in wireless technology that make it cheaper to expand a
network’s reach — and you have a potent force for spreading Internet access to even the
most remote corners of the globe. With so much momentum in favor of Internet
connectivity for all, it appears a goal we will see achieved in our lifetimes.

But this achievement, while a laudable first step in equal opportunities through
technology, will not by itself bridge the digital divide. The crucial variable, and the one
for which there is the most uncertainty, is that of education, and whether adequate
resources will be allocated to cultivating expertise in utilizing the Internet. This will take
an integrated approach in public schools to mesh computers with the curriculum. In
nations without well-established school systems, non-profit entities will have to fill the
instructional void and provide guidance as those who have never operated a computer
learn for the first time how to tap into the Internet’s enormous potential for bettering their
lives. With so much attention and resources placed solely on the connectivity issue of the
digital divide, there as of now exists little initiative to bridge the educational divide. The
energy and momentum towards connectivity might transfer over to education once
universal access is reached, but this is by no means a sure thing, and even in a best case
scenario guarantees that a digital divide will exist well into the future unless a massive
investment in technology training and instruction takes place during the next decade.

The digital divide of the future, therefore, will be considerably different in nature than the
digital divide that exists today. People will no longer be automatically handicapped based
on where they live, how much they earn, or what ethnic group they belong to with
regards to technology. The gap will instead be one of knowledge, as those with expertise
and training in technology will be able to reap its benefits from anywhere in the world
while those without the means to learn will find the technology far from helpful on a
practical level. Each new development in the Internet will be enjoyed and leveraged by
only a select group of users, the same group that will shape the new content and be
catered to for new product development. This makes it more imperative than ever that
school systems, charitable projects, and government programs aimed at the less fortunate
all place a heavy focus on training in computers and technology, with special emphasis
placed on how the Internet can be practically applied to everyday tasks. Otherwise only a
select segment of the population will leverage their high speed access into more than just
a distraction, and the digital divide will carry on in a new form with inequalities as
pronounced as its original incarnation.

Plugged In, Yet Disconnected: analyzing the future of Internet use and the digital divide

Plugged In, Yet Disconnected: analyzing the future of Internet use and the digital divide


Foundational research

Riggins, Frederick J. and Dewan, Sanjeev (2005) "The Digital Divide: Current and
       Future Research Directions," Journal of the Association for Information Systems:
       Vol. 6: Iss. 12, Article 13.

       This article examines research regarding who has access to technology and
       inequalities in the ability to use the technology among those who do have access.
       The analysis is completed at the individual, organizational and global level. The
       article ends with suggestions of questions for additional analysis on the topic,
       making it a good overview of previous work that can serve as a platform for
       future research.

Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, Londay, UK (2005). "Inclusion Through
       Innovation: Tackling Social Exclusion Through New Technologies. A Social
       Exclusion Unit Final Report."

       This government report explores how digital inclusion can be used to make public
       services such as education, health and employment more accessible for socially
       excluded groups by utilizing the Internet and new technologies. It highlights the
       considerable benefits of a society not marred by a digital divide, with the potential
       to deliver services more efficiently and effectively.

Fors, Michael (2003). "Closing the Digital Divide: What the United Nations Can Do."
       UN Chronicle, No. 4, 2003, page 31.

       This article, written for the World Summit on the Information Society, discusses
       ways the United Nations and its members can narrow the digital divide, focusing
       on the factors of infrastructure, security, diplomacy and public/private
       partnerships. The article highlights the power of technology for developing
       nations to boost economies, making a strong case on the importance of closing the
       digital divide for international prosperity. It also demonstrates the myriad of
       political and cultural factors that influence the current and future size of the

Plugged In, Yet Disconnected: analyzing the future of Internet use and the digital divide


Guillén, Mauro F.; Suárez, Sandra L. (2005) "Explaining the Global Digital Divide:
       Economic, Political and Sociological Drivers of Cross-National Internet Use."
       Social Forces. Vol. 84, No. 2, Dec. 2005, pages 681-708.

       This paper argues that the cross-national differences in Internet use are the result
       of the economic, regulatory, and sociopolitical characteristics of countries and
       their evolution over time. It predicts that Internet use will increase with world-
       system status, privatization and competition in the telecommunications sector,
       democracy and cosmopolitanism. It draws upon data from 118 countries as
       evidence in support of its hypotheses, with an optimistic view that the eventual
       bridging of the digital divide with boost the global economy and spread
       democracy across the globe.

Warschauer, Mark (2003). "Demystifying the Digital Divide" Scientific American. Vol.
      289, Issue 2, Aug. 2003.

       The paper argues that the key issue of the digital divide is not so much unequal
       access to computers as it is inequality in how computers are used. It points out in
       the disparity of high-speed internet access along socioeconomic lines and
       highlights the range of disparities in different countries. This provides an
       overview to frame analysis on the digital divide and debate on the best possible

Kraemer, Kenneth L.; Ganley, Dale; and Dewan, Sanjeev (2005). "Across the Digital
      Divide: A Cross-Country Multi-Technology Analysis of the Determinants of IT
      Penetration," Journal of the Association for Information Systems: Vol. 6: Iss. 12,
      Article 10.

       This paper studies the level of digital divide among 40 countries from 1985-2001,
       based on data from three distinct generations of IT: mainframes, personal
       computers and the Internet. It contains an empirical investigation of
       socioeconomic factors driving the digital divide. It reaches the conclusion that
       factors that previously may have been expanding the divide with earlier
       technologies are narrowing the gap as Internet penetration grows. This provides a
       good outlook at the future trajectory of the digital divide given expanding Internet
       access, with a lot of solid historical data to serve as a foundation.

Plugged In, Yet Disconnected: analyzing the future of Internet use and the digital divide

Chinn, Menzie D.; Fairlie, Robert W. (2004). "The Determinants of the Global Digital
       Divide: A Cross-Country Analysis of Computer and Internet Penetration."
       Economic Growth Center, Yake University, discussion paper, No. 881

       This paper identifies the causes of cross-country disparities in Internet and
       personal computer use by examining 161 countries over a three-year period,
       looking at a variety of economic and demographic variables. It also evaluated
       infrastructure capabilities for each country. The findings demonstrate what factors
       are most crucial in bridging the digital divide, concluding that public investment
       in human capital, telecommunications infrastructure and regulatory infrastructure
       can all mitigate that technological gap.

Forward-looking research

Valadez, James R. Durán, Richard P. (2007). "Redefining the Digital Divide: Beyond
      Access to Computers and the Internet”. The High School Journal. Feb/March
      2007, pages 31-44

       This study looks at the digital divide in relation to high and low resource schools
       in the U.S. It examines the disparities in those schools as indicative of the larger
       disparities in the U.S, focusing on the usage of computers rather than just access.
       It found that high resource schools had teachers utilizing more creative ways to
       incorporate the Internet into classrooms. The findings provide support for a
       broader definition of the digital divide that includes the social and academic
       impact of different ways the Internet is predominantly utilized by youth.

Jones, Steve; Johnson-Yale, Camille; Millermaier, Sarah; Pérez, Francisco Seoane
       (2009). "U.S. College Students' Internet Use: Race, Gender and Digital Divides."
       Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, Vol 14(2), Jan, 2009. pp. 244-

       This paper presents the results of a study on the impact race and gender had in
       Internet use among U.S. college students. The study conducted a survey of
       college students at 40 institutions of higher education. It’s results show a strong
       point of contrast based on race, although not gender, with regards to Internet use,.
       The paper compares those findings to a survey of the general U.S. population.

Barzilai-Nahon, Karine (2006). "Gaps and Bits: Conceptualizing Measurements for
       Digital Divides." The Information Society, Oct. 2006.

Plugged In, Yet Disconnected: analyzing the future of Internet use and the digital divide

       This paper criticizes policymakers who rely on simplistic measures for the digital
       divide related to general Internet access, instead proposing that a more thoughtful
       analysis and comprehensive data is needed on how the Internet is being used by
       different families. It bases its analysis on the argument that networks and new
       technologies are not neutral artifacts but also political and social spaces.

Jackson, Linda A.; Yong Zhao; Kolenic III, Anthony; Fitzgerald, Hiram E.; Harold,
       Rena; Von Eye, Alexander (2008). "Race, Gender and Information Technology
       Use: The New Digital Divide." CyberPsychology & Behavior. Vol. 11, No. 4,

       This paper presents research examining race and gender differences in the
       intensity and nature of Internet use to determine whether it predicted academic
       performance. It provides plenty of data on usage rates of IT among different
       ethnic groups, showing a gap between whites and minorities. Its findings are that
       length of time using computers and the Internet was a positive predictor of
       academic performance, indicating the importance of the digital divide as a
       socioeconomic issue.

Ono, Hiroshi; Zavodny, Madeline (2008) "Immigrants, English Ability and the Digital
      Divide." Social Forces, Vol. 86, No. 4, June 2008, pages 1455-1479.

       This study examines the extent and causes of inequalities in information
       technology ownership between natives and immigrants in the United States, with
       a particular focus on the role of English ability. The results show a significant gap
       in IT access and use between natives and immigrants, with language spoken at
       home a key factor. Given the rise in U.S. immigration, the adoption of
       technologies by children of non-natives will play a key factor in the depth of the
       digital divide going forward, so this study provides a firm background on why
       such families now languish on the low end of the divide.

Horrigan, John. “Wireless Internet Use,” Pew Internet & American Life Project, July 22,

       This study looks at how many Americans are utilizing wireless devices to access
       the Internet. These mobile devices, including smart phones, laptops and game
       consoles, have shown remarkable growth in recent years and are seen as away to
       bridge the digital divide, both because of their affordability and in the widespread
       broadband networks that have sprouted up to service them.

Plugged In, Yet Disconnected: analyzing the future of Internet use and the digital divide

Recent news articles

Tucker, Patrick (2007). "A New Ruler for the Digital Divide." The Futurist, March-April
       2007, page 16.

       This article proposes a new method for measuring computer literary based on how
       individuals utilize the Internet rather than just have access to the web. It shows
       statistics that demonstrate the narrowing gap between those who actively use the
       Internet and those who don't, but the article also shows that there remains a large
       gap in who has access to high-speed Internet connections at home and not just at
       work or in the classroom. This is a key measuring stick, the article argues, since
       such home access is needed in order to enjoy the full benefits of the Internet and
       fully participate in shaping content online.

McDonald, Alyssa (2009). "The pioneering designer of the first cheap laptop for the
     developing world, she is determined to close the digital divide." The New
     Statesman, May 4, 2009, page 36-37.

       This article profiles Mary Lou Jepsen, the chief technology officer of the non-
       profit organization One Laptop Per Child. The article details her efforts to design
       the cheapest, least power-hungry laptop every produced. Her innovations have
       spurred advances in the computer industry that have led to a number of netbooks
       now becoming commonplace among mainstream markets. The article shows how
       advances in technology will play a crucial role in bridging the digital divide by
       reducing the cost barrier for accessing the Internet.

Fox, Susaannah; Jones, Sydney (2009). "Generations Online 2009.” Pew Internet &
       American Life Project, Jan 28, 2009.

       This study focuses on the generational gaps that exist with respect to Internet and
       computer use. The research looks not only overall use by age group, but also what
       tasks the age groups utilize the Internet to accomplish. The study shows that there
       continues to be a gap, with fewer older Internet users, but that this divide is
       narrowing, with younger generations not necessarily dominating every facet of
       the web.

Stross, Randall (2009). "Broadband Now! So Why Don’t Some Use It." New York Times,

Plugged In, Yet Disconnected: analyzing the future of Internet use and the digital divide


       This article takes data from various studies on Internet use across the globe to
       examine the limits of broadband penetration. It lays out the challenges of
       universal broadband access, questioning whether such a goal is even achievable
       given that some will always resist the Internet. The article also provides a nice
       framework of the initiatives underway on a government level to expand
       broadband access in the near future.

Holahan, Catherine (2007). "America's Digital Divide Narrows." Business Week Online,

       This article takes a look at Latinos and other minorities who are gaining Internet
       access, but still missing out on the full range of benefits for being online. It cites a
       study showing a small disparity in Internet access between whites and minorities.
       That positive development is offset by data showing that minorities are not using
       the web in an interactive way, which is referred to in the article as the "digital
       dimmer switch," between those who use the Internet to create and shape content
       and those who only use it to access information. This article builds off previous
       research on immigration and the digital divide and points the way forward on how
       the next generation of immigrants will or won't utilize new technologies.

Blumenstein, Lynn (2009). "Pew Highlights Digital Divide on Mobile Devices." Library
      Journal, May 15, 2009, page 17.

       This study, culling data from a 2007 survey, focuses on how the digital divide
       relates to the ownership and use of mobile devices. It touches upon the various
       uses of mobile platforms as a delivery route for information from public
       institutions. Its findings show that a majority of adults are still uncomfortable in
       their use of mobile devices, indicating a powerful differentiator among
       technology users.

Mallinson, Keith (2009). "Digital Dividend Bounty Can Close Digital Divide," Wireless
       Week, March, 2009, page 20.

       This analysis looks at the commercial potential of extending mobile broadband
       networks to rural areas thanks to innovations in technology making such coverage
       affordable. The article looks at the economic costs and benefits of the private
       sector versus the public sector leading the way towards providing this access. It
       also looks at the regulatory issues and how they impact the extension of
       broadband services, providing an overview of making those services
       commercially viable and profitable.

Plugged In, Yet Disconnected: analyzing the future of Internet use and the digital divide

Clarke, Alan; Milner, Helen; Killer, Terry; Dixon, Genny (2008). "Bridging the digital
       divide." Adults Learning, Nov. 2008, pages 20-22.

       This article focuses on the wide-ranging impact digital inclusion has on different
       age groups. It emphasizes the importance of technical skills and media literacy in
       order to capitalize on Internet access. The article discusses some of the challenges
       and opportunities with this issue, discussing the gender gaps in technological
       skills and the potential for improved lives through a universal understanding of
       living and working in the digital world.

Richter, M. J. (2008). "Rural Ops Bridge the Digital Divide." Telephony, Sept. 2008,
       page 14-16.

       This article focuses on the establishment of broadband networks in rural areas and
       small towns and the various efforts being undertaken to bridge the digital divide
       through this access. The article looks primarily at small Internet operating
       companies and their new incentives to extend services in sparsely populated areas.
       The article has examples of small towns possessing the same resources with
       regards to access as their big city counterparts, a crucial first step in bridging the
       digital divide.

Cauley, Leslie (2009). "Internet speeds vary across USA, leaving a digital divide." USA
       Today, Aug. 25, 2009, money section.

       This article presents the findings of a Communications Workers of America
       report showing the disparity in download speeds across the U.S. It presents
       dramatic contrasts between different states in broadband access, and contrasts
       those figures with other developed nations. It also analyzes the effect these
       download speeds can have on different uses for the Internet. This data is a key
       factor in the digital divide, with many rural Americans unable to enjoy the full
       benefits of Internet access because of slow connections.

Chee, Foo Yun (2009). "EU seeks to close digital divide with broadband aid." Reuters
       News Service. Sept. 17, 2009.

       This article reports on the EU's efforts to leverage public funds into private

Plugged In, Yet Disconnected: analyzing the future of Internet use and the digital divide

       investment for high-speed broadband networks. The article focuses on the
       importance of a public/private partnership and outlines the rules by which that
       arrangement could operate in order to achieve a goal of 100 percent broadband
       coverage by next year.

Cauley, Leslie (2009). "Rural Americans long to be linked." USA Today, June 8, 2009,
       technology section.

       This article looks at the $7.2 billion included the federal economic stimulus
       package set aside specifically for increasing broadband access and the effect it
       could have on bridging the digital divide in rural areas. It provides information on
       the cost barriers associated with expanding access to areas of low population
       density, along with the economic and educational setbacks that result. It
       highlights the key technological needs in these communities and how they might
       be met by expanded high speed Internet access.

Naone, Erica (2009). "Firs ‘white space network launched." Technology Review, Oct. 22

       This article examines the first wireless network in the U.S. making use of ‘white
       space,” the unused fragments of the frequency spectrum used for broadcast
       television. With the conversion of analog television into digital this year, many
       such frequencies are available, but they are tightly regulated by the Federal
       Communications Commission. For the new network, the FCC granted an
       experimental license to Patrick County, VA, a rural area with previously no
       Internet access. The positive results could set a precedent for similar networks
       across the nation.

Interview transcripts

Hayden, Roger (2009). Chairman of the Patrick County Broadband Task Force.

       This interview talks to the man who spearheaded the creation of the first “white
       space” wireless network, a model cited by many technology publications as
       offering great potential for other rural areas. Hayden talks about the need for
       public/private partnerships in making such initiatives happen. He also stresses the
       absolute necessity of giving rural residents access to high speed Internet to
       prevent them from being handicapped economically and educationally.

Plugged In, Yet Disconnected: analyzing the future of Internet use and the digital divide

Deamons, Nick (2009). Web Developer for Enguage,

       This interview discusses digital literacy with a web developer for Enguage, a
       national marketing firm that specializes in multi-media content and relies upon
       widespread access and use of the Internet to spread its campaigns. Deamons
       speaks about the divide that exists between the technology haves and have-nots
       and suggests that bridging this gap could become a social imperative undertaken
       by the public sector.

Johnson, Esther (2009). Champions of digital literacy.

       This site contains profiles of the Champions of Digital Literacy, an honor
       sponsored by the Certiport corporation that celebrates the achievements of
       individuals whose commitment and efforts have brought about the adoption of
       digital literacy standards in schools, organizations and communities. Among the
       honorees for 2009 in Ester Johnson, and a video interview done in conjunction
       with the award allows her to expound upon the necessity of education and training
       in digital literacy. Johnson has played a leading role in implementing such
       training programs in her role as national director of the federal Job Corps

Bowan, Wally (2009). "Bridging the Rural Digital Divide: FCC Starts Work on National
      Broadband Strategy." Democracy Now, April 8, 2009.

       This transcript of an audio interview looks at the Federal Communication
       Commission's national strategy for bringing broadband access to the Internet into
       every American home. It interviews the executive director of a nonprofit Internet
       service provider on the challenges of offering broadband access to rural areas and
       the role of nonprofits in carrying out the FCC's goal. It examines which projects
       will receive priority government funding and what are the ways to measure

Fox, Susaannah. (2009). "A Public Interest Internet Agenda.” Pew Internet & American
       Life Project, Jan 28, 2009.

       This transcript is taken from a panel discussion in Washington D.C. held as part
       of One Web Day. The discussion focused on the future of Internet use, and Fox,

Plugged In, Yet Disconnected: analyzing the future of Internet use and the digital divide

       Pew’s Associate Director for Digital Strategy, presents data from her organization
       breaking down the percentages of Americans with different levels of access. She
       places special emphasis on the use of mobile devices and their potential to be
       game changers in the way the Internet is designed and utilized.

Negroponte, Nicholas (2007). “One Laptop per Child, Two Years on.” Technology,
Entertainment, Design (TED) conference.

       The driving force behind One Laptop per Child talks about his organization’s
       works delivering more than a million low cost, low energy laptops to some of the
       most remote places in the world. Negroponte talks extensively about the design of
       the devices, along with their potential to engage children and boost digital literacy
       even in areas with very little educational infrastructure.

Information-rich websites

One Laptop Per Child (2009). “A low-cost, connected laptop for the world’s children’s

       This website provides an overview of One Laptop Per Child, a non profit
       organization with a mission to provide a low-cost, low-power laptop to each child,
       allowing for self-empowered learning. It details the organization’s progress in
       bridging the digital divide in rural areas around the world, with information on the
       positive impact of increasing Internet access and teaching the tools to utilize new
       technology. It also includes details on the latest technological innovations that
       make such a mission possible, with updates on the organization's latest efforts.

CNET Networks (2009). Bridge the Digital Divide.

       This website is a clearing-house of information for efforts across the world aimed
       at closing the digital divide. Its information includes recent news, ways to become
       involved in the effort, arguments on the importance of bridging the divide, and
       facts on the issue. It also includes a number of links to various organizations
       working towards bridging the divide, many of which I will reach out to for
       interviews on the progress of that mission and how recent technological
       developments aid in the goal.

Plugged In, Yet Disconnected: analyzing the future of Internet use and the digital divide

Division of Governmental Studies and Services at Washington State University (2009).
       Digital inclusion.

       This website is the home of Washington State University's Center to Bridge the
       Digital Divide. It includes information on recent projects to boost social and civic
       participation through digital networks, illustrating the potential impact of digital
       inclusion in rural areas. It also provides links to a variety of studies that explore
       the future of the digital divide, with results from the accompanying research of
       those projects.

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (2006). Bridging the rural
       digital divide.

       This website provides an overview of the efforts to bridge the rural digital divide
       as undertaken by the United Nations and other international governments and
       organizations. In addition to providing links to updated information and news on
       various projects, it contains examples of government policies for addressing the
       issue. It also details case studies of how the approaches detailed in the site have
       been implemented across the world, providing a strong picture of how the issue of
       the digital divide can be tackled.

Internet World Stats: Uses and Populations Statistics (2009).

       This website provides current and past statistics on the number of Internet users
       across the globe and sorted by continent, as assembled by the Miniwatts
       Marketing Group. The information comes from data published by Nielsen Online,
       the International Telecommunications Union, regulators and other reliable
       sources. The statistics also include IT penetration and user growth by continent,
       offering an excellent snapshot at how many people across the globe are tapping
       into the Internet and what are the current trends on this topic.


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