Researchers develop new mapping of digital divide

Researchers have attempted to provide a new method of perceiving the internet’s digital divide, finding four tiers rather than two, with at least one surprise result.

It is considered vital that developed countries invest in information communication technologies (ICT) in the developing world in order to encourage sustainable economic development and create new markets for international commerce.

However, according to Steven White at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth, although a general understanding exists with regards to which countries have more access than others, there is little in the way of empirical data that shows the difference between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots,’ beyond measures of gross domestic product (GDP) per capita and its effect on the spread of ICT across a nation, they argue.

With this in mind White and colleagues at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth developed a contemporary map of the global digital divide, which they have claimed gives a clearer picture of how much investment is needed by each country in order to close the divide.

The researchers used a model-based cluster analysis to determine groups of countries based on three variables, namely PCs per 100 population, internet usage per 100 population and internet bandwidth per person.

The resultant findings showed that there were three distinct groups or tiers, rather than a simplistic rich/poor dichotomy.

It comes as no surprise then that in the first tier the category is mostly filled with nations that would be considered developed nations.

For example Denmark is at the top of the first tier, with other Scandinavian countries well placed.  The UK is also very well placed, occupying a sub group just below Denmark, however it is the US which ranks surprisingly low.

There are 18 countries which outperform the US according to the researcher’s criteria, coming behind Jamaica, San Marino, Slovakia and others.

Also in the top tier are, Antiqua, Estonia, Hungary, Aruba, Barbados, Brunei, Chile, Latvia, Lithuania, Qatar, Slovenia and the United Arab Emirates, which supposedly contradicts the notion that GDP per capita is the main predictor of internet access.

Columbia and Uruguay are placed at the top of the second tier, while Brazil Russia and China are at the bottom of the category.

The mapping method also shows that the gap between the pinnacle of tier one and the bottom of tier four is considerable, with 63 times more access per capita to PCs, 42 times more internet users per capita and a bandwidth improvement of 25,000 times from top to bottom on average.

The findings were published in the International Journal of Business Informatio Systems. More info can be found on White’s website.