Dynamics of the digital divide

Author/editor: Radoll, P, Hunter, B
Year published: 2017
Issue no.: 120


The digital divide between Indigenous and other Australians describes the unequal access to information and communications technology (ICT) between these groups. Historically, researchers have focused on acquiring new technology, but we argue that it is important to understand all the dynamics of digital usage, including the loss of access to ICT within a household. For long-lived technology such as internet access, it is particularly important to acknowledge that retention of access to the technology needs to be considered. This paper builds on earlier work by exploring the rates of diffusion of ICT for Indigenous Australians using data from the Australian Census Longitudinal Dataset 2006-2011. This dataset allows a longitudinal analysis of changes in internet usage and apparent flows into and out of internet usage for Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australian households. This paper identifies and analyses the important observation that retention of internet access is almost as difficult as acquiring internet access for many Indigenous households (especially in remote areas). While earlier work analyses the digital divide in terms of 'diffusion' or adoption of ICT, this paper shows that retention of internet access is equally important in driving the digital divide. This observation could reflect 'antidiffusion' processes: factors that drive the loss of access to ICT over time. The dynamics of the digital divide have important and ongoing implications for the digital divide and addressing broader socioeconomic disadvantages experienced by Indigenous Australians. Antidiffusion is largely a phenomenon observed among Indigenous people. By analysing loss of access to ICT among both Indigenous and other Australians, we identify several factors that are associated with diffusion and antidiffusion of technology (e.g. household resources, employment, education, the age composition of households). The paper concludes with a discussion of an agenda for future research and potential implications for current policy settings.

Keywords: information and communications technology, digital divide, diffusion, antidiffusion, internet access

ISBN: 978-1-925286-19-9

ISSN: 1442 3871

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