Abstract - The Information Society 22(5)

Gaps and Bits: Conceptualizing Measurements for Digital Divide/s

Karine Barzilai-Nahon

Three arguments are raised in this paper with regard to the indices used to measure the digital divide. First, I criticize policymakers who rely on simplistic measures of the digital divide, at the expense of a thoughtful analysis of: (i) the purpose of the tool, (ii) the level of observation, and (iii) the method of approaching the data. Second, I argue that networks and associated technologies are not neutral artifacts but are political and social spaces. Accordingly, we need to factor in the contextual factors in our measurements of the digital divide. Third, there are two general types of indices are generally used for the measurement of the digital divide(s): focused monotopical indices and comprehensive indices. Monotopical indices are more widely available, while comprehensive ones are rare. I argue that policymakers need to promote comprehensive indices over monotopical indices. Finally, I present a conceptual definition of the digital divide and a framework for developing a comprehensive index to measure it.


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