MET:Digital Divide

From UBC Wiki

This page originally authored by Jennifer Ozturkeri (2007).
This page has been revised by Micah Williams (2008), John Stringer (2008), Valeria Gallo Stampino (2008), Barrie Carter (2008), Yu Tian (2008), and Dale Addis (2009), Cindy Leach Plunkett and Leonora Zefi (2010), Daniel Grafton (2014), Dennis Vanderspek (2015), and Che Katz (2017).

General Definition

The digital divide refers to disparities that exist among individuals and among groups with regards to their access to and ability to effectively use information and communication technologies (ICTs hereafter). The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) define the divide as "the gap between individuals, households, business and geographic areas at different socio-economic levels with regards to their opportunities to access information and communication technologies and to their use for a wide variety of countries’” (Gutierrez & Gamboa 2008). It is important to understand that the digital divide is extremely complex and dynamic.

Developing Definitions and Multiple Divides

Since the digital divide was first applied to computer access in the 1990s, global patterns of ICT use have shifted considerably in terms of hardware availability, network distribution, and usage patterns of emergent technologies among specific groups. In 2015, the "digital divide" has sub-divided into disparities of access, accessibility, knowledge, connectivity, empowerment, and others. In addition to the fundamental problem of technological availability, a short list would include

  • The disability divide
  • The age divide
  • The gender divide
  • The creator-consumer divide
  • The cultural capital divide
  • The connectivity divide (broadband access in Canada, for example, is among the most expensive in the world, influencing connectivity by income group)
  • The participatory divide

In addition to these "new," or perhaps only newly highlighted, divides, there is also a re-emergence of patterns of socioeconomic disparity in Internet and computer/mobile device use. This is in contrast to the democratizing effect widely predicted in the nascent period of the Internet in the mid-1990s. For a dramatization of this aspect of the digital divide, see the video below:

Contributing Factors

Lack of education combined with a low income compounds the issue and increases the likelihood of digital divide. Further significant factors include physical location such as rural vs. urban, geographical remoteness and whether the individuals are located in a developed or developing country. When we look at the more advanced ICTs we see that they are even more limited in their distribution to the poor, under-educated and older population (Gutierrez & Gamboa 2008). There are ICT have and have-nots globally, nationally and locally (Bracey Sutton, 2008).

Infrastructure/Physical Location

There is a significant difference between developing and developed countries in terms of the quality, capacity and coverage of information and communications infrastructure and networking capacity. This disparity exists not only among, but also within, regions and countries, and even within cities and local communities. Just as the world resources are not divided equally among nations, there is a large gap among communities in terms of the use of connected technology. While many of the more developed western countries have the necessary infrastructure to allow the widespread use of World Wide Web, the under-developed, remote regions of the globe live in a far less connected world.


The intellectual digital divide refers to the capability to deploy computer and web technology, to acquire and manage information and to create new knowledge. Having access to technology does not always guarantee its use to access information and make use of learned knowledge.


While many of the developed nations have the necessary infrastructure to support the World Wide Web many of the poorest citizens in those countries are not able to afford technological access in their home. In Canada and the United States for example, large demographic groups such as First Nations, African Americans and single parent households are well behind the “average” rate of technological access.


There are a number of terms used by academics to define our current global economic climate, including global village, information society, digital society, wired society, and post-industrial society. Despite these diverse interpretations, there is consensus that a fundamental economic restructuring has eliminated the need for certain jobs, created new types of jobs, relocated jobs from the developed world to the developing world, and fundamentally changed the way businesses are organized (Selwyn, Gorard, & Furlong, 2006). In this dynamic economic context, adults are likely to change careers multiple times throughout their lives. Thus, adults not only need to learn how to use specific technologies, but also need to be able to constantly adapt to new technologies (Selwyn, Gorard, & Furlong, 2006). In "The Economics of Production Systems" Gilles Duranton argues that the recent rapid rate of technological development is directly related to a rise in wage inequalities (Duranton, 2002). This new information economy is biased against older adults who completed their formal schooling before the commercial rise of the Internet in the mid 1990s. Today, adults lacking ICT skills face significant barriers when reintegrating into the work force.


Language is a very real barrier. English, despite being the fourth most common language globally, dominates the virtual world because of the linguistic lock-in of English during the period in which Internet transfer and hypertext protocols were being devised. People who are fluent in English therefore have an advantage in terms of Internet usage. According to OECD, in July 2000, more than 94% of links to pages on secure servers (almost 2.9 million links) were in English. The only other languages to account for more than 1% of detected links to secure servers were German (31 785 links) and French (30 954 links), although Spanish (26 512 links) and Japanese (22 852 links) came close.

The Global Digital Divide

Measuring the Global Digital Divide

The ICT Development Index (IDI)

The ICT Development Index (IDI) is a composite index developed in 2008 by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). ITU is the United Nations agency for information and communication technologies [1]. The IDI is represented as a value between 0-10 [2].

The Purpose of the IDI

The IDI is valuable because it can be used to measure:

  • changes in a country’s ICT development from year to year
  • a country’s ICT development in relation to other countries
  • The global digital divide

Calculating the IDI

The IDI combines 11 indicators into one measure. These 11 indicators are divided into three stages in the evolution towards an information society (International Telecommunications Union, 2013) [3]. Because the IDI is a composite index, it purports to present a clearer picture of ICT development, as well as a roadmap for future implementation of ICT.

The Three Stages of ICT Development Framework: Access, Use, Skills [4]

Stage 1: Access

The access sub-index analyzes whether the infrastructure for an information society is in place and if people have access to this infrastructure. The indicators are:

  • number of fixed-telephone subscriptions per 100 inhabitants
  • number of mobile-cellular telephone subscriptions per 100 inhabitants
  • international Internet bandwith (bit/s) per 100 users
  • percentage of households with a computer
  • percentage of households with Internet access

Stage 2: Use

The usage sub-index measures the intensity to which people are are using the Internet. The indicators are:

  • percentage of individuals using the Internet
  • fixed )wired)-broadband subscriptions per 100 inhabitants
  • wireless-broadband subscriptions per 100 inhabitants

Stage 3: Skills

Data for the ICT skills of a population is difficult to obtain. The IDI therefore considered three proxy factors:

  • adult literacy rate
  • secondary gross enrollment ration
  • tertiary gross enrolment ration

A simplified version of this framework is visually represented on page 37 of ITU's Measuring the Information Society 2013 document: ICT Development Framework

Over time, ITU plans on maintaining the three stages of development towards an information society (i.e., access, use, and skills). The specific indicators within the three stages, however, may change over time. For example, the number of fixed-telephone subscriptions is losing importance, and will likely soon be omitted [5].

Why were these particular indicators selected?

  • All 11 indicators need to fit within the access, use, and skills framework
  • All 11 indicators need to be be measurable in both developing and developed countries
  • Data for all 11 indicators needs to be available for a large number of countries [6].

Insights from ITU's 2013 Measuring the Information Society Report:

  • The 2012 IDI shows that there are major disparities among countries in terms of their access to and use of ICT. In 2012, the country with the highest IDI value was the Republic of Korea (8.57) and the country with the lowest IDI value was Niger (0.99). The range between the highest value and lowest value was 7.58 in 2012. This range was exactly the same in 2011 [7].
  • Of 157 countries, nearly all countries increased their IDI from 2011 to 2012. ICT levels are growing throughout both the developed and the developing world
  • IDI values are growing faster in the developing world than in the developing world. The average increase of IDI value in the developing world from 2011 to 2012 was 5.8%, whereas the average increase of IDI value in the developed world in the same time period was 3.5% [8]. While this statistic challenges the notion that the global digital divide is widening, it also reflects that markets in the developed world have become saturated and there is more room for growth in the developing world.
  • Of the 157 countries included in the IDI study, 39 have been designated as Least Connected Countries (LCCs). These 39 LCCs comprise 2.4 Billion people. Typically, ICT in these countries is limited to voice and low-speed data services. Access to the Internet in LCCs is limited, rarely high speed, very expensive, and used by a small percentage of the population. In Myanmar, Eritrea, and NIger, less than 2% of the population are online. Figure 2.9 on page 42 shows the location of LCCs on the world map: Figure 2.9. Least Connected Countries, 2012
  • While a country’s IDI typically correlates with GNI (Gross National Income), it is by no means a direct correlation. The country with the highest IDI in the world is the Republic of Korea, while the Republic of Korea has only the 26th highest GNI.. Estonia’s IDI (43rd rank GNI) is comparable to Canada’s IDI (21st ranked GNI). Both the Republic of Korea and Estonia have made ICTs a national priority and have formulated strong policies to drive both ICT growth and uptake [9]. Meanwhile, some countries have high GNI’s but their IDI lags behind: United Aran Emirates and Brunei Darulssalam are notable examples. Chart 2.5 on page 43 shows the relation between IDI and GNI per capita: Chart 2.5: IDI and GNI per capita
  • 17 of the top 30 ranked countries are members of the European Union [10] The top IDI countries are characterized by strong infrastructure, computers with Internet access in the large majority of households, and independent regulatory authorities who supervise telecommunication markets.
  • Developing countries have been making the most progress in the access sub-index. The divide between developed and developing nations is largest in terms of use.

A complete listing of nations by 2012 and 2011 IDI rank can be viewed on page 24 of ITU's Measuring the Information Society document: Table 2.2: ICT Development Index (IDI), 2011 and 2012

Limitations of IDI at Measuring Digital Divide

While the IDI can reveal disparities among countries, it does not give insight into disparities within countries. There are also concerns regarding data collection. Much of the data is based on number of subscriptions. Consideration is being given to replacing subscription based data with survey based data. This is especially important with regards to mobile phone subscriptions. ITU estimates that there are 6.8 billion mobile phone subscriptions worldwide, and that in the 2013 index, 93 of 157 countries will have more cell phone subscriptions than people [11].

Why Bridge the Global Digital Divide?

In "ICTs as Enablers of Deveopment: A Microsoft White Paper", It is argued that ICTs can spur economic development in the developing world and increase the effectiveness of social development initiatives in the developing world (Microsoft, 2004) [12].

How can ICTs spur economic development in the developing world?

It is widely believed that ICTs can spur economic growth and increase the effectiveness of development initiatives.

  • ICTs improve knowledge management. Many challenges in the developing world are rooted in barriers to information. ICTs afford the ability to “collect, manage, store, retrieve, and distribute knowledge” (Microsoft, 2004, p. 03).
  • ICTs improve efficiency. ICTs can increase the efficiency of governments, non-governmental organizations, and private enterprises.
  • ICTs afford global networking. Through ICTs, enterprises of all sizes can obtain unprecedented access to resources, distribution mechanisms, and customers, thereby making them more competitive in the global marketplace (Microsoft, 2004, p. 04).

How can ICTs aid social development in developing world?

  • ICTs can improve health care services in the developing world. This is especially true in remote areas. ICTs have been successfully used to link physicians with patients in remote areas. ICTs afford remote consultations and diagnosis and real time collaboration between health-care professionals in different parts of the world. Furthermore, ICTS improve responses to epidemics, data collection, and the administration of health care in general. ICTs have played a central role in the fight against HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria (Microsoft, 2004, p. 05).
  • ICTs can improve education in the developing world. While ICTs could never replace a face to face teacher, ICTs can provide students in the developing world with access to curricula, distance education in remote areas, and life long training opportunities. Furthermore, ICTs make educational administration more efficient.
  • ICTs can improve environmental sustainability. ICTs facilitate coordinate efforts to ecological threats and provide agencies and enable agencies to tap into global data networks which enables policymakers to make more informed decisions (Microsoft, 2004, p. 06).

United Nations Resolution – Human Rights and Internet Access

On 27th June 2016 the United Nations (UN) declared under Article 19 [13] of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that everyone has the right to “the promotion, protection and enjoyment of human rights on the Internet” (UN, 2016). The resolution also stated the importance of "applying a comprehensive human rights-based approach when providing and expanding access to the internet and for the internet to be open, accessible and nurtured" (UN, 2016) [14]. This resolution overrides and builds on various previous resolutions (including resolutions: 20/8 5 July 2012, 26/13 26 June 2014, 12/16 2 October 2009, 28/16 24 March 2015, 23/2 13 June 2013, 31/7 of 23 March 2016, 68/167 of 18 December 2013, 69/166 of 18 December 2014, 70/184 of 22 December 2015, and 70/125 of 16 December 2015 (UN, 2016) for more information on the history of UN resolutions [15]). Article 19 was accepted despite opposition by a small, but influential group of countries including Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, India and South Africa who opposed the resolution on the basis of language which did not agree with their national position. Article 19, however, is non-binding and lacks enforcement mechanisms and is therefore considered a ‘soft’ law.

The UN Article also recognises the importance of integration of universal access to internet into the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) [16] when it says, ‘we welcome the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and recognising that the spread of information and communications technology and global interconnectedness has great potential to accelerate human progress, to bridge the digital divide and to develop knowledge societies’ [17]. The SDGs have already committed to improving internet quality, sustainability, and accessibility which is considered an important first step in recognising internet access as a basic human right. Article 19 also explicitly recognises the importance of access to the internet for marginalised groups such as women and girls, and people with disabilities.

A number of countries around the world have already declared the internet a basic human right including Sweden, Costa Rica, Finland, France, Greece, Spain, Estonia and Canada. In 2016, Kerala, a State of India was the first developing region to recognise the internet as a basic human right (Badu, 2017) [18].

A study conducted in 2014 by the Center for International Governance found that 83.0% of respondents in 24 countries believe that web access is a basic human right although, as of 2014 only about 40% of the world’s population is connected to the internet (Marceus, 2017) [19]. According to the World Bank, in developing countries a 10.0% increase in Internet access adds an average of 1.3-2.5% to the gross domestic product (Marceus, 2017). Furthermore, in the future, services in the areas of health and education, disaster relief and governance will increasingly be delivered through the internet. In least developed countries about one in every 10 people have access to the Internet with men having greater access than women, and those in the higher socio-economic group having greatest access (Sandle, 2016). Nevertheless, it is forecast that by 2030 only around 50.0% of the global population will be online (Marceus, 2017) [20].

Stop Motion Submission by Che Katz for ETEC 510 65B ‘Is Internet Access a Basic Human Right’ can be found here.

Diverse non-governmental approaches to bridging global digital divide

Grameen Bank in Bangladesh (the micro-lending model)

The Grameen Bank seeks to bridge the digital divide in Bangladesh through micro-lending. The Grameen Bank was founded in 1983 by Professor Muhammad Yunus as a system to lend small amounts of money to poor women who lacked the collateral to obtain loans from traditional banks so that these women could earn modney through self-employment. Lenders are held accountable to the Grameen Bank through a combination of peer support and peer pressure. Lenders are organized as groups of five friends. To receive future loans, groups must ensure all group members meet their loan repayment deadlines (Singhal, Svenkerud, Malaviya, Rogers, & Krishna, 2005, p. 428) [21].

In 1997, Grameen began a project to put one mobile phone in each of Bangladesh’s 68 000 villages. The basic premise of the scheme is the phone would be rented by a poor lady in the village, who would then be gainfully employed as the village “phone lady”. Users, mostly farmers, would pay the phone lady small amounts of money to use the phone. By April 2004, there were 54 000 village phones servicing 65 million people in Bangladesh. In addition to providing phone access to rural villages, this initiative had the added effect of raising the social standing of the poor "phone ladies" in Bangladesh. Phones afforded villagers the ability to:

  • check the market price of produce and schedule medical appointments, thereby cutting the time and cost needed to make trips into the city
  • keep in touch with overseas relatives and migrant workers
  • speak to experts on the subject of livestock and poultry diseases, thereby encouraging more villagers to raise poultry and livestock (Singhal, Svenkerud, Malaviya, Rogers, & Krishna, 2005, p. 430) [22]

Grameen's Village Internet Program (VIP) followed a similar structure as the telephone initiative. Lenders, mostly women, established cyber kiosks for profit. Kiosks were paid for by micro-loans, and run by village women. The owners of the kiosk used profits from the cyber-kiosks to repay loans. Kiosks are beneficial because Internet access affords access to:

  • agricultural market information
  • distance and virtual education
  • computer based employment (e.g., data entry). (Singhal, Svenkerud, Malaviya, Rogers, & Krishna, 2005, p. 431)

One Laptop Per Child

One Laptop Per Child’s mission is to empower the world’s poorest children through education by providing each and every one with a rugged, low-cost- lower powered laptop. OLPC's model is based on the following principles:

  1. Focuses exclusively on children 6-12 years.
  2. Kids are allowed to take the laptops home.
  3. All kids in a particular school receive laptops at same time.
  4. Kids are given access to the Internet.
  5. Software is open source so that the computer can be updated for free. [23]

While OLPC can be praised for developing a rugged, energy efficient laptop that is relatively cheap and environmentally friendly, this model has come under heavy criticism because:

  • in practice OLPC has favoured the rapid deployment of technology at the expense of properly training educators how to effectively use the laptops for educational purposes
  • it is an economically unsustainable model, especially when compared to communal learning centre models
  • the money spent on laptops could be spent on more proven social development projects
  • the cost of ownership is passed along to the student
  • many students face adverse conditions at home that are not conducive to owning an expensive laptop
  • although the per laptop environmental footprint is smaller than commercial laptops, the sheer number of laptops required make this initiative environmentally irresponsible [24]

RIA (the communal learning centre model)

The RIA seeks to bridge the global digital divide through the introduction of Learning and Innovation Networks in digitally excluded communities in the developing world. Learning and Innovation Networks are open long hours and comprise computers with Internet access, digital curriculum, computer educators, and learners. The program begins from the premises that it is not economically feasible to provide personal electronic devices to the 5 billion digitally excluded people on the planet and that digital training is as important as access. In his August 2011 Ted talk "Let's Bridge the Digital Divide", RIA founder Alfred Molinari states that the 1650 computers have reached 140 000 users, and have yielded 34 000 digitally trained grads. Molinari’s position is that the RIA is a more effective model than OLPC because one computer can teach many people, training and social interaction are built into the model, families are not burdened with the expenses of maintaining a computer, and far less waste is produced. [25] [26]

Close the Gap (the refurbished computer model)

The basic principle of Close the Gap is that many computers that have become obsolete in the developed world can still serve a valuable purpose in the developing world. Close the Gap collects used computers from businesses, wipes and restores these computers, and with the help of Dutch airline KLM, flies these computers to developing countries. Close the Gap relies on local service partners to maintain and deploy computers to schools, universities, training centres, medical centres, and non-profit organizations. In 2010, Close the Gap was recognized as an official United Nations NGO with clear evidence towards impacting the Millennium Development Goals [27].

The Imara Project and MIT OCW (free and open courseware model)

Imara is an organization of the the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL). Imara is involved in a number of initiatives that aim to bridge the digital divide locally and globally. MIT OCW [28] is a large-scale, Web-based electronic publishing initiative funded jointly by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation [29], the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation [30], MIT, and the Ab Initio software company [31]. By publishing 1,550 courses online, MIT helps to contribute to the opencourseware concept which is "a free and open digital publication of high quality educational materials, organized as courses."[32] The Imara Project has worked with universities in areas with limited bandwidth, such as Aligarh Muslim University in Aligargh, India and the Lahore University of Management Sciences in Lahore, Pakistan. Imara posits that providing meaningful access to MIT OCW courses will "give talented students without the technological resources they need a chance to reach their full educational potential" [33] .

Technological Determinism and the Digital Divide

Despite their noble cause, some of the initiatives to breach the Digital Divide, have also suffered some criticisms. The main complaint against some of these initiatives is that they put too much emphasis in the blind introduction of technology in Third World countries without questioning the way technology is shaped by values. Instead, it is as if the introduction of the technology will inevitably bring a positive outcome to any particular individual or community.

It can be argued that behind the rationale for many of these education initiatives lies the doctrine of Technological Determinism, in which the invention and rapid adoption of technologies is supposed to ensure progress. Developed during the 18th century, this belief that technology determine the course of social progress became a dogma by the end of the 19th century (Smith, 1994). Along with the spread of this line of thought came a number of critics who opposed the idea. A strong critic to this doctrine was Lewis Mumford (1934), who wrote:

“Western society has accepted as unquestionable a technological imperative that is quite as arbitrary as the most primitive taboo: not merely the duty to foster invention and constantly to create technological novelties, but equally the duty to surrender to these novelties unconditionally, just because they are offered, without respect to their human consequences.”

Following a similar line of thought, scholars have recently looked with skepticism at some attempts to bridge the 'Digital Divide' for implying a reductionist view of technology. In his article titled “Let Them Eat Laptops: The Limits of Technicism “[34](2007), Brian Winston critiques the One Laptop Per Child Program for supporting the vision that technology per se will inevitably alleviate the myriad of problems facing Third World countries. Alvaro De Miranda (2005)[35] has also identified the fallacy behind technological determinism, and raised his concern about “the implicit assumption that technology provides the only feasible solution to complex social problems”, and that “ information and communication technologies possess quasi-magical powers to provide solutions to the world's greatest social en economic problems such as poverty, disease, illiteracy, race and gender discrimination and environmental pollution”.

Being aware of the fallacy behind Technological Determinism can offer some perspective to analyze the specific technology needs of a given population and to think critically about the impact of implementing certain technologies in specific contexts.

The Canadian Digital Divide

Measuring the Canadian Digital Divide

Canada currently ranks 20th on the ICT Development Index. [36] This is relatively poor considering Canada's GNI Per Capita ranks 13th in the world [37].

According to a recent IPSOS Reid study “The Digital Divide Remains Wide” in Canada, it was “predicted to disappear, but our research shows that while the gap is narrowing slightly, the divide is very real” (IPSOS Reid, 2007). In their study they found that the older generation was lagging significantly behind, 61% of Canadians 55+ has access to the Internet, in contrast to 88% of adults 18-54; older adults also spend 35% less time online per week than their younger counterparts (IPSOS Reid, 2007). In addition to the IPSOS Reid survey, StatsCan conducted a 2007 Canadian Internet Usage Survey and also found that there is still a digital divide in Canada.

They found that this divide reflects income, level of education and age (Rynor, 2008). Results of the survey showed that Canadians living in urban areas are more likely to have and use the Internet (76%) over their rural counterparts (65%). Men on average logged on more frequently and for more extended periods of time than women (Rynor, 2008). Those Canadians with an income greater than $95,000 had a higher usage level (91%) than those Canadians with an income less than $24,000 (47%). Lastly, when looking at education levels, 84% of users with at least some post secondary are using the Internet, where only 58% of users with less education are connected (Rynor, 2008).

The Canadian Aboriginal population faces unique combined challenges with the digital divide. There is a learning divide and a socio-economic divide that compound the digital divide. Although the Aboriginal community has a variety of projects that are funded by the Office of Learning Technologies (OLT), they only fund approximately “6% of the 1152 Aboriginal communities in Canada” (Downing, 2002). The high school drop-out rate for Aboriginal youth on remote reserves is high, access to adult and continuing education is limited and difficult socio-economic conditions are prolific.

Among the top issues identified by the report were the connectivity and access to the Internet. There is less access, use and training of ICTs amongst Aboriginal people in general. Other impediments to their use of ICTs include: lack of public access, small number of homes with Internet connection, low culturally relevant content and lack of computer skills (Downing, 2002). Less than 7% of Aboriginal communities in Manitoba, Nunavut, BC and Saskatchewan had access to high speed Internet services. In some Aboriginal communities, telephone service is also not a reality or it is of very poor quality, making dial-up connection to the Internet impossible (Downing 2002). This complete lack of connectivity in some communities limits the use of ICTs and learning technologies and reflects the digital divide facing this Aboriginal population. The digital divide exists within the Canadian high school system as well, based on the same factors of gender, rural-urban area, and socio-economic status. Rural, female and students whose parents have a low level of education are less likely to have PCs at home, spend less time on the PC and report lower skill competency with PCs (Looker & Thiessen, 2003). Given the cost of Internet access and support in rural areas, school boards in these areas are not always able to afford similar levels of ICT as the urban boards. Rural schools seem to be disadvantaged in various ways. Rural schools are less likely to have a well trained specialist and less educational software; they use fewer types of specialized software in different subjects. Rural schools are also less likely to have different types of technical training for teachers. The results suggest that lower priority is given to ICT use and support in the school in rural as compared to urban schools (Looker & Thiessen, 2003). As ICT resources become more prolific, this gap between remote rural areas and urban areas will become further pronounced if not countered.

Find below some interesting maps detailing Mobile and HSPA in Canada. It is interesting to note the very large remote and rural areas without coverage:

HSPA Coverage for Western Canada

File:HSPA West.jpg

HSPA Coverage for Eastern Canada

File:HSPA East.jpg

Bell Canada Western Canada Coverage

File:Bell CanWest.gif

Bell Canada Eastern Canada Coverage

File:Bell CanEast.gif

Telus Canadian Coverage



A 2007 Canadian Statistics survey on Canadian Internet usage [38] and a 2005 Aboriginal Digital Divide article [39] indicate a Digital Divide among Canadians. Internet use statistics on age, geographic area, house-hold income and ethnicity/ origin of birth could assist educators in evaluating the Digital Divide to determine the extent they can utilize the Internet within their courses. Here are some statistics on Canadians who have accessed the Internet within the 12 month period prior to the 2007 Canadian Internet Usage Survey. (Percentage values were determined from asking 26,500 Canadians about there Internet Usage [40].)


Population percent to access the Internet

  • 73 % of Canadians older than 16.
  • 42 % of Aboriginal Canadians have access to broadband internet.[41]


  • 93 % of Canadians 34 years and under.
  • 80 % of Canadians between 35 and 54 years.
  • 61 % of Canadians between 55 and 64 years.
  • 29 % of Canadians 65 years and over.

File:2007Internetusage age.JPG


  • 76 % of Urban living Canadians.
  • 65 % of Rural living Canadians.

Household Income

  • 91 % of Canadians from households making more than $ 95,000 a year.
  • 47 % of Canadians from households making less than $ 24,000 a year.


  • 74 % of Males
  • 73 % of Females

Level of Education

  • 43 % of Canadians with less than high school education
  • 77 % of Canadians with high school or college education
  • 93 % of Canadians with university degree

File:2007Internetusage education.JPG

---SchoolNet K-12 in Rural and Remote Areas---

Because of the rapid growth of the Internet during the 1990s in Canada, Industry Canada led a nationwide campaign to promote public access to the Internet by way of its “Connecting Canadians” (Shade & Dechief, 2005, p. 131) initiative as a means of ensuring that every Canadian, regardless of region, was connected to the Internet and as a means of improving the digital divide, which threatened to weaken social solidarity. In turn, in 1994, Canada’s SchoolNet K –12 online education program was established. The intention was to ensure that every public school across Canada was connected to the Internet. However, notwithstanding the capital investment and the international acclaims at the time, no evaluation on the efficacy of Canada’s SchoolNet has ever been conducted to date (Shade & Dechief, 2005, pp. 131-132).

Indeed, in the beginning, SchoolNet was hailed as an international model, for this connective medium was intended to keep Canada ahead of other industrialized nations when it came to connecting its people to the Internet, linking educators to online teacher news, and teaching materials, information, and resources (Shade & Dechief, 2005, p. 133).

Currently, SchoolNet has other projects – Computers for Schools, DirecPC, Network to Savings,, and the First Nations SchoolNet (FNSN) – to which every Canadian public school can link. Indeed, these projects are intended to help serve the needs of residents in rural or even remote regions of Canada and to meet the distinct needs of First Nations students (Shade & Dechief, 2005, pp. 133-134).

However, to date, despite the claim that SchoolNet has helped improve social equity across Canada by way of computer distribution, Internet access, and technical support, we still need to question whether connectivity is actually stable and truly effective everywhere in Canada (Shade & Dechief, 2005, p. 137).

After all, the digital divide is not merely a chasm that needs “heroic efforts to bridge,” (Shade & Dechief, 2005, p. 137), but rather, as Warshauer (2002) states, “a gradation based on different degrees of access to information technology” (Shade & Dechief, 2005, p. 137). Here, Warshauer writes that the very structure of the digital divide overstates the value of connectivity to the non-inclusion of other elements that allow individuals to use information and communication technologies for purposeful ends (Shade & Dechief, 2005, p. 137).

In other words, Canada’s connectivity promotes competitiveness rather than the social extents of access; that is, if social connectedness is indeed a goal of SchoolNet, for example, then, this strategy of measuring connectivity is ineffective. Here, the private sector would clearly win, for the schools and the provinces would compete for the highest ratio of computers to students and for the fastest Internet connections. Simply having powerful computers and high-speed Internet is of no use unless such technologies are used effectively. As such, rather than applying quantitative measures to determine effectiveness, measuring digital inequalities (Shade & Dechief, 2005, p. 137) would be a more effective way of meeting the needs of people in all regions including rural and remote areas.

Why Bridge the Canadian Digital Divide?

Reframing the discussion: the cost of maintaining legacy services in a digital world

In “What are the consequences of being disconnected in a Broadband-Connected World?”, John B. Horrigan argues that government policy-makers should reframe the discussion surrounding the digital divide to focus on the extra burden created for taxpayers when a small minority of the population are digitally excluded. Specifically, Horrigan argues that the costs of supporting legacy systems currently needed to meet the needs of a dwindling minority remain huge (Horrigan, 2011) [42].

The Canadian government is currently facing a crisis pertaining to maintaining door-to-door mail delivery systems, and has recently introduced a plan to phase out door-to-door mail delivery service by 2019. Supporters of the move contend that door-to-door mail delivery is a relic of an earlier era and that the Internet is quickly making mail delivery obsolete. Critics, however, claim that moving door-to-door mail delivery will have negative effects on seniors and the disabled (McKenna, 2013) [43].

Bridging the Gap in Canada

Canadian Government Initiatives to Bridge the Digital Divide Gap


Stemming from Canada’s objective to become the most connected nation in the world by the year 2000, the government introduced its Connecting Canadians agenda in 1998. Featuring six action areas, the Canada On-Line component involves public access to the Internet. CAP[44] was an initiative developed to help provide Canadians with affordable access to the Internet and the skills to use it effectively. Public locations, such as schools, libraries and community centres, provide local sites for individual access. Initially, CAP was to connect 1,500 rural and remote communities. Under the Connecting Canadians agenda, CAP was designated to establish access sites in 5,000 rural communities and up to 5,000 sites in urban communities by March 31, 2001. CAP is made available on a partnership basis. Partners can include: provincial and territorial governments, community groups, social agencies, libraries, schools, volunteer groups and the business community.

The objectives of the CAP program were to:

1. Provide Canada’s rural and urban communities with better and more affordable access to the Information Highway and to raise awareness about its potential for creating jobs and growth.

2. Stimulate the development of new electronic learning tools and services by and for communities.

3. Provide Internet training facilities for local entrepreneurs, employees, educators, students and others interested in improving their information and networking skills; and

4. Stimulate the electronic delivery of government and other services and obtain feedback from citizens about how they would like these presented. [45]

In April 2012, CBC news reported that the federal government was cutting funding for the Community Access Program. The position of Industry Canada is that the Community Access Program has achieved its objectives. Margaux Stastny, the Director of Communications for Industry Canada, stated that "the vast majority of Canadians are now connected to the Internet at home, while many more have access through their mobile devices" and that the service was no longer required. This position is controversial. According to Statistics Canada's 2010 Internet Use Survey, only 79% of Canadian households have access to the Internet. 97% of Canadian households in the top income quartile have access to the Internet, while only 54% of Canadian households in the bottom income quartile have access to the Internet [46].

Ontario Government Initiatives to Bridge the Digital Divide Gap

The Ontario government is aggressively attempting to bridge the digital divide within this province by initiating programs to bring broadband to Rural and Northern Ontario. Below are links to 2 websites detailing their efforts:

Digital Ontario Website Link [47]

Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Link [48]

The Second Digital Divide

In an article by Gary J Natriello he argues that if the digital divide is broken, another looms just on the horizon: 'The Use Divide.' If and when computers do arrive to those who do not currently have access, there is still the question of whether or not the school will have the expertise to install, maintain, and make use of them. This could have a significant strain, creating a new 'use divide' as opposed to the now 'digital divide'. Eventually, it will be how the school uses the technology and if teachers can effectively incorporate it into their teaching.

Natriello argues that this is not the first time new technology has been introduced to schools that has caused a divide, and that if were are going to overcome this new divide, we have to look to the past. Even though the introduction of digital technology to the classroom presents a new era, it does not change the fundamental social processes that determine the impact of a good education.

My rationale for adding this entry is that the OLPC program informs us that their initiative will help bridge the ever widening digital divide. However, from what I have read, there is not much information on how it will tackle "the use divide." Training will be provided for teachers on how to use this new technology, but what does this training involve? Does the training involve the cultural/linguistic differences of the different cultures and societies where OLPC is being introduced?


Web Pages

Socio-demographic Factors Influencing Use of the Internet

Industry Canada's Community Access Program

Digital Ontario

Ontario Government's Rural Connections Broadband Program

Research into the Digital Divide in Canada

We Can Help Bridge the Digital Divide

Broadband BC: Bridging the Digital Divide


The Digital Divide and how do Canadian communities keep up

The Digital Divide in BC

CBC - Canada, Falling Behind on Internet Speed, Affodability


The Public Interest Advocacy Centre (2000) The dual digital divide; The Information Highway in Canada. [49]

The Digital Divide in Canada

How to Measure the Digital Divide?

Stop Motion Video

Submission by Charisse Cruz for ETEC 510 65A on the Gender Digital Divide can be found here.


Albirini, Abdulkafi. (2008). The Internet in developing countries: A medium of economic, cultural and political domination. International Journal of Education and Development Using ICT, 4(1). Retrieved December 5, 2008 from International Journal of Education and Development Using ICT website:

Badu, R., (2017, March 18) Kerala to declare access to Internet a human right, first for an Indian state. Hindustan Times. website:

Barrantes, Roxana (2008). Digital poverty: An analytical framework. Peru: Instituto de Estudios Peruanos. Retrieved November 13, 2008 from Dialogo Regional sobre Sociedad de la Infomacion (DIRSI) web site:

Becky Rynor, C. N. (2008, June 12). StatsCan warns of 'digital divide'. Retrieved January 24, 2009, from Global TV:

Benton Foundation (1998). Defining the Technology Gap. Retrieved January 15, 2008 from [50]

Bracey Sutton, Bonnie. (2008, August 17th). The Digital Divide/Digital Equity. Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education (SITE). Retrieved December 3, 2008, from

De Miranda, A. (2005). Technological Determinism and Ideology: Questioning the “Information Society” and the “Digital Divide”. World Summit of the Information Society, Tunes 2005. Retrieved January 14, 2008, from

Close The Gap. (2014, 02 24). What we do. Retrieved 02 24, 2014, from Close The Gap:

CBC News. (2012, 04 07). Ottawa cuts CAP public web access funding. Retrieved 02 23, 2014, from CBC News:

Dickinson, Bruce. (2007, December 24). The $100 Laptop and the Digital Divide. Technovelopment Tools Using Emerging Technologies in Hands-On Local Development. Retrieved December 3, 2008, from

Digital Divide (n.d.). DIGITAL DIVIDE: What It Is and Why It Matters. Retrieved January 14, 2008 from [51]

Downing, Rupert (2002). Bridging Aboriginal Digital and Learning Divides. Ottawa: Government of Canada. Retrieved October 24, 2008 from Service Canada web site:

Duranton, G. (2002). The Economics of Production Systems: Segmentation and Skill-Biased Change. London: London School of Economics.

eSchool (2005). Study: 'Digital divide' affects school success Kids with home computers more likely to graduate. Retrieved January 15, 2008 from [52]

For, Alexander. (2008). A policy and planning framework on information and communication technology for basic education in the Philippines. International Journal of Education and Development Using ICT, 4(3). Retrieved December 5, 2008 from International Journal of Education and Development Using ICT website:

Geist, Michael. (2008). Net neutrality and the digital divide top Internet issues of 2008. National Union of Public and General Employees. Retrieved December 5, 2008 from National Union of Public and General Employees website:

Gutierrez R., L. H., Gamboa N., L. F., (2008, June). Digital Divide among Low Income People in Colombia, Mexico and Peru. Paper presented at the ITS Biennial Conference, Montreal, Canada. Retrieved November 3, 2008 from Dialogo Regional sobre Sociedad de la Infomacion (DIRSI) web site:

Hayes, E. ( in press ). Reconceptualizing adult basic education and the digital divide. in Belzer, A. & Beder, H.. Defining and improving quality in adult basic education: Issues and challenges, ( ). New York: Lawrence Erlbaum. Retrieved October 24, 2008 from Academic ADL Co-Lab web site:

Horrigan, J. B. (2011). What are the Consequences of Being Disconnected in a Broadband-Connected World? Daedalus , 140, 17-31d.

Howell, C., West, D. M., (2016, November) The internet as a human right, cited in Techtank. website

Hsieh, Hsiow-Ling and Chen, Pi-Chi (2004). An explorative study of the digital divide in education: another look at Taiwan. World Transactions on Engineering and Technology, 3(2). Retrieved October 24, 2008 from Monash University web site:

Huebler, Friedrich. (2007, December 3). EFA Global Monitoring Project 2008. International Education Statistics. Retrieved December 5, 2008, from

Industry Canada (2009, March 12) Community Access Project (CAP) What is CAP? Retrieved February 28, 2010, from

International Telecommunication Union. (2014, 02 24). About ITU. Retrieved 02 24, 2014, from International Telecommunication Union:

International Communications Union . (2013). Measuring the Information society. Telecommunications Development Bureau, ICT Statistics and Data Division. Geneva, Switzerland: International Telecommunications Union.

International Telecommunication Union (ITU) United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. (2007). World Information Society 2007 Report Beyond WSIS. Geneva. Retrieved November 13, 2008 from International Telecommunication Union web site:

Knowledge @ Wharton. (2008, June). Bridging the Global Digital Divide, One Laptop at a Time. Retrieved December 3, 2008, from Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania:

Long, Phillip D.. (2002). Moore’s Law and the Conundrum of Human Learning. EDUCAUSE review. Retrieved October 24, 2008 from Educause web site:

Looker, Dianne and Thiessen, Victor. (2003). The digital divide in Canadian schools: factors affecting student access to and use of information and technology. Ottawa: Statistics Canada. Retrieved October 24, 2008 from Statistics Canada web site:

Marceus, P., (2017, December 8) Has internet Access Become a Basic Human Right? Euromonitor International

McKenna, B. (2013, 12 11). Canada Post phasing out home mail delivery, raising rates. The Globe and Mail. Retrieved from

Microsoft. (2004, 12 01). ICT and Development: ITU. Retrieved 02 28, 2014, from ITU:

Mitra, S., Dangwal, R., Thadani, L. (2008). Effects of remoteness on the quality of education: A case study from North Indian schools. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 24(2), 168-180. Retrieved November 11, 2008 from Australasian Society for Computers in Learning in Tertiary Education web site:

Molinari, A. (2012, 02). Aleph Molinari: Let's bridge the digital divide. [Video file]. Retrieved from

Moore, Gordon E.. (1965). Cramming more components onto integrated circuits. Electronics, 38(8) Retrieved October 24, 2008 from Intel web site:

Mumford, L. (1934). Technics and Civilization, New York : Harcourt Brace & Co..

Natriello, G. (2001). Bridging the Second Digital Divide: What can sociologists of education contribute? Sociology of Education, 74, 260-266.

Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, Understanding the digital divide, January 27, 2008, retrieved from

Partnership For 21st Century Skills. (2008). 21st Century Skills, Education & Competitiveness A Resource And Policy Guide. Arizona. Retrieved November 20, 2008 from Partnership For 21st Century Skills web site:

Potashnik, Michael. (2008). The International Gap in Technology – The Digital Divide in Education, Education and Technology and Technology in the Balance. State University. Retrieved December 3, 2008, from

Public Interest Advocacy Centre (2000) The dual digital divide; The Information Highway in Canada. Retrieved February 28, 2010, from

Pulleyblank, William R.. (2005). Moore’s Law, Education and Innovation. IBM Consulting Services, PKAL LI Seminar 2005. Retrieved October 24, 2008 from PKAL web site:

Right to internet access Wikepedia (last accessed 2018, 24 January)

Russell, Pipe. "Development Index Examines Advances in 152 Countries."Journal of E-Governance 35.2 (2012): 63-70. from

Rynor, Becky. (2008, June). StatsCan warns of ‘digital divide’. Leader-Post, Canwest News Service. Retrieved December 5, 2008, from

Sandle, T., (2016, July 22) UN thinks interent access is a human right, Business Insider

Saxton, Jim. (2001). Information Technology and the New Economy. Washington D.C.: Join Economic Committee United States Congress. Retrieved October 24, 2008 from United States House of Representatives web site:

Sciadas, G. (2002). The Digital Divide in Canada. Ottawa: Statistics Canada. Retrieved October 24, 2008 from Statistics Canada web site:

Sciadas, G. (2002). Unveiling the Digital Divide. Ottawa: Statistics Canada. Retrieved October 24, 2008 from Statistics Canada web site:

Siemens, George. (2008, January). Learning and Knowing in Networks: Changing roles for Educators and Designers. Paper presented to ITFORUM for Discussion. Retrieved November 11, 2008 from The University of Georgia, College of Education, Educational Psychology and Instructional Technology web site:

Selwyn, N., Gorard, S., & Furlong, J. (2006). Adult Learning in the Digital Age: Information Technology and the Learning Society. Vancouver: Routledge.

Shade, L. R, & Dechief, D. Y. (2005). Canada’s schoolnet: Wiring up schools? In A. A. C. Chellman (Ed.), Global perspectives on e-learning: Rhetoric and reality (pp. 131-144). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.

Singhal, A., Svenkerud, P. J., Malaviya, P., Rogers, E. M., & Krishna, V. (2005). Chapter 27. Bridging digital divides. Lessons learned from the IT initiatives of the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh. In O. Hemer, & T. Tufte, Media, Communication and Social Change: Rethinking Communication for Development (pp. 427-433). Buenos Aires, Argentina: Publicaciones Cooperativas.

Slotta, J. (2007, April 21). Aboriginal Digital Divide. Retrieved January 24, 2009, from encoure:

Smith, Merritt R. (1994). "Technological Determinism in American Culture." in Does Technology Drive History? Merritt Roe Smith and Leo Marx (Editors) . Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Retrieved January 14, 2008, from

Smyth, Gerard. (2005). Wireless Technologies Bridging the Digital Divide in Education. Ireland: Intel Information Technology. Retrieved October 24, 2008 from mLearn web site: Statistics Canada (2008, June 12)Canadian Internet Use Survey: The Daily. Retrieved January 24, 2009, from

Statistics Canada (2008, December 17) Socio-demographic factors influencing use of the Internet; Differences in internet use between urban and rural Canadians. Retrieved on March 7, 2010 from

Statistics Canada. (2008, June 12) Canadian Internet Use Survey; The Daily. Retrieved January 24, 2009, from Stastistics Canada:

United Nations. (2007) The Millenium Development Goals Report 2007. New York. Retrieved November 18, 2008 from United Nations web site:

United Nations (2016,1 January) Sustainable Development Goals. website

United Nations (2016, 27 June) Article 19: Human Rights Council Retrieved from

U.S. Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications Infrastructure Administration, A Nation Online: How Americans Are Expanding Their Use Of The Internet, February, 2002, based on findings from the September 2001 U.S. Census Bureau's Current Population Survey.

Willingham, T. M. (2014, 02 27). Aleph Molinari: Bridging the Digital Divide with Learning and Innovation Networks. Retrieved 02 27, 2014, from Learning is for Everyone:

Wiston, B. (2007). Let Them Eat Laptops: The Limits of Technicism. International Journal of Communication 1. 170-176 Retrieved January 14, 2008, from

World Bank. (2014, 02 28). World Development Indicators. Retrieved 03 01, 2014, from The World Bank: