Is It Only About Internet Access? An Empirical Test of a Multi-dimensional Digital Divide

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Abstract

Scholars from different disciplines have recently studied a phenomenon called “the digital divide”. Since many of the new government information technology initiatives are based on Internet technologies and require the use of the Internet by citizens, understanding the digital divide (and consequently, the potential demand) is important for e-government scholars. For some researchers, the divide is not a problem and Internet access is the only relevant determinant of Internet use (access divide). For other researchers, the divide is rooted in more fundamental social differences and opportunities (multi-dimensional divide). Using data from the Piedmont region in Italy, this paper tests these two competing views of the digital divide. Overall, the models based on a multi-dimensional view have greater explanatory power and provide evidence about the relevance of multiple factors affecting both Internet access and Internet use. For instance, females use the Internet for a smaller number of activities than males. Individuals with more formal education and who can speak English use the Internet more. Finally, individuals with more experience using a PC and the Internet itself also use the Internet to perform a broader range of activities.