The digital divide exists in some form or another, according to a comprehensive 10-year study by The AMD Global Consumer Advisory Board (GCAB), which examined the Internet gaps among the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, Japan, Korea, China, and Mexico.
These countries represented roughly 68 percent of the global Internet population in 2002, when only 10 percent of the world’s population connected to the Internet.
While the digital divide is narrowing in the U.S. and in other countries, specific aspects of the gaps are widening or are stalled in other connected regions. The report provides compiled analysis of the factors that need to be present for penetration to thrive, such as socio-economic status (income and education), gender, life stage, and geography.
“The various digital divides are affected by characteristics of a country, such as its developmental level, as well as by characteristics of an individual, such as his or her socio-economic status, age and gender,” said co-author of the report, Barry Wellman, GCAB member and sociology professor at the University of Toronto. “Therefore, the multiple divides vary markedly between countries, communities and individuals.”
- While many consider the U.S. a global technology leader, it significantly lags behind other developed countries in several important aspects of Internet access and use.
- Income has been the most important factor in gaining Internet access, with only 18 percent of households earning less than $30,000 connected, compared to 28 percent of the general population.
- Women and men went online almost equally.
- Younger Americans (12-to-35) had the highest usage at 80 percent, while only one-third of those over age 65 were online,
- American Blacks and Hispanics had lower usage rates than whites and Asians.
- Those living in rural areas and central cities had substantially lower access rates than suburbanites.
- Income is an important distinction among users vs. non-users, as high-earners get closer to saturation.
- Men lead women in usage, but the gap is narrowing.
- The overwhelming majority (89 percent) of those aged 16-to-24 were connected in 2002, compared to 14 percent of those over age 65.
- According to the 2002 UK Online Report, the most affluent areas — London, and the East and South East of England — are also the most wired.
- The biggest gaps were evident among education (86 percent of the college-educated were online in 2000, compared to 8 percent of high school-educated) and gender (53 percent of men and 36 percent of women were users).
- Only 5 percent of German senior citizens were online in 2002.
- Half of users accessed exclusively at home, while 34 percent have connections at home and work.
- Roughly twice as many Italians own mobile phones than use the Internet, according to 2000 and 2001 data.
- Males dominated home and public place Internet usage, and females have a 10 percentage point higher access rate in public than at home.
- Northern Italy leads the south by 16 percentage points, both in PC ownership and Internet access.
- Japan leads the world in mobile Internet access at 63 percent of users.
- The income divide shrank to less than 20 percentage points, and the non-college-educated Japanese lag behind their more educated counterparts.
- More than two-thirds of Japanese men are online, along with 56 percent of women.
- Those in their twenties were 30 times more likely to connect to the Internet than those in their seventies.
- According to the report, South Korea is the world leader in broadband connections, and Seoul is the most wired city in the country.
- Internet usage experienced a nine-fold increase from 1998 to 2002.
- The gap between users with a college degree and users with high school education is 40 percentage points.
- Men lead usage, as do younger Koreans.
- Education made a greater impact on usage than income, as 28 percent of Chinese surfers are lower-income students using university computer labs.
- Women are closing the gender gap — 41 percent of users are female.
- People over age 50 accounted for only 3.7 percent of all Internet users, while roughly two-thirds of users were under 35.
- Poverty, illiteracy and the underdevelopment of the telecommunications infrastructure are big contributors to the low Internet adoption rate.
- Mexico has the second highest penetration of Web-enabled phones after Chile in Latin America.
- The country has a greater age divide than gender divide.
- The report states that 45 percent of Mexican households had at least one member with exposure to the Internet.
“The distribution of Internet users is extremely uneven around the world. Not all people are experiencing the benefits of the Internet, such as access to friends, jobs and information,” said Wellman. “We found that although the Internet’s reach has grown exponentially in about the last ten years, increasing from just under a million users in 1993 to more than 600 million in 2002, only about 10 percent of the world’s population is online. Additionally, almost 90 percent of the world’s Internet users are from what are considered to be developed countries, with nearly a third of those users from the United States.”