Differences in material access to the internet are also important

by Alexander van Deursen

For a long time, it was a common assumption among policymakers that the problem of the digital divide would be solved if everyone in a country had an internet connection (haves versus have-nots). Scientific findings from 2005, however, indicated that the gap in terms of internet skills and type of use is growing, and so should be the focus of the debate in the realm of digital inclusion. Because having a connection to the internet (physical access) is now common, the attention of policymakers is indeed mainly on improving internet skills (and partly motivation). Important, but this does not mean that the problem of disproportionate physical access to the Internet has just been solved.

A recent study by Alexander van Deursen and Jan van Dijk indicates that the digital gap with regard to physical access also remains a problem in the Netherlands. By looking beyond just having a connection to the internet, but also looking at differences in hardware and software used, the study finds that the diversity in use of internet devices and peripherals, and the costs incurred for hardware, software and subscriptions, are important is the development of internet skills, for a diverse use of the internet and for achieving positive outcomes. In short, the fact that almost everyone in the Netherlands has an internet connection does not mean that everyone has the equipment to develop skills and to benefit from the connection.

Read the article published in New Media and Society.