Beyond Digital Transformation: Digital Divides and Digital Dividends

A special issue of Information (ISSN 2078-2489). This special issue belongs to the section "Information and Communications Technology".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 September 2021) | Viewed by 66904

Special Issue Editor

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues, 

Over the past two decades, the use of digital technologies seems to have accelerated in all aspects of our life. The dynamics of technological transformations is promoting substantially greater computing capacity and consecutive waves of new technologies. As the development of new technologies spreads very rapidly, the digital divide (or digital inclusion) is increasingly becoming a social issue.

In some respects, we have witnessed a revival of the debate about the digital divide two decades after the first one. The literature contains various conceptualizations of the digital divide (DiMaggio and Hargittai, 2001; Katz and Rice, 2002; Mossber et al., 2003). Attitudes, access, skills, types of usage, and location are among the main determinants of the digital divide. The disparity in access consists of changes in the accessibility of the equipment, such as hardware, software, an Internet connection, etc., while the disparity in use consists of changes in skills, literacy, and types of use (Lentz and Oden, 2001; by Dijk and Hacker 2003). It is not sufficient to have the motivation and the skills to use technologies if the required equipment is lacking. Ben Youssef (2004) identified four levels of digital divides. The first focuses on economic and social inequalities linked to access to equipment and infrastructure. The second is attributed to the digital divide in ICT-related uses. Inequalities are manifested through the uses made by individuals and social groups. The third concerns the efficiency of use; for identical equipment rates, some nations and some individuals increase their performance faster than others. The fourth relates to learning modalities in a knowledge-based economy. As information and knowledge become abundant, ICT could be the origin of many inequalities linked to changes in learning processes and therefore to associated performance.

The COVID-19 pandemic has led many countries to lock down their citizens. During the lockdown period, there was a significant change in terms of e-service provision (E-education, E-health, E-commerce, E-governance, etc.) and in terms of Internet use. While an increase in the use of digital technologies was noticed, the debate about e-inclusion and inequalities was raised again. The digital divide was again suggested to be the main problem facing people during this time and into the future. Over 1.58 billion students were affected by school closures due to COVID-19, and half of them do not have access to the Internet and laptops in order to participate in distance learning (UNESCO, 2020). Inequalities in access and use facing workers who need to shift to e-work have not disappeared and seem to be more pronounced. 

Moreover, the ability of people to cope with the pandemic and to participate in social activities is contingent on their e-skills (competency to use digital technologies). While e-skilled people were able to work, maintain a virtual social life, make transactions (e-commerce) online, etc., other non-e-skilled people were locked down without the capacity to work, to interact, and to maintain a social life. The psychological impacts for some people were very significant. The same trends were observed among firms. While some firms were able to maintain their activities despite the lockdown (since they have the infrastructure and the skills), other firms fell behind the digital divide and were unable to maintain their activities. This was particularly true for SMEs.

This Special Issue welcomes theoretical and practical analyses of the different levels of digital divides (access, use, skills…) for different actors (individuals, workers, firms, regions, countries…). It aims to understand the structural/marginal changes in the trend of the digitalization of countries or regions and to characterize the different levels of the digital divides. This Special Issue also welcomes contributions at the methodological level presenting new ways of capturing the divides linked to the intensity of usage of ICT and the diversity of use of the Internet among groups of citizens and economic agents. While most policy-makers think that “digital divides” and related inequalities are growing and will constitute a real threat to their economies, in a post-pandemic era there is a need for researchers to provide well-assessed analysis of such assertions and discuss to what extent these fears are justified. 

To contribute to the ongoing debate on digital transformation and the digital divide, this Special Issue welcomes papers giving evidence of such an “assertion”, refining the definition of the digital divide, and providing an analysis of how technological changes are narrowing the digital divide.

Potential topics may include, but are not limited to:

  • measuring digital divides;
  • the definition of digital divides;
  • digital divides in e-health;
  • digital divides in e-education;
  • e-governance and digital divides;
  • e-skills;
  • digital divides during the COVID-19 pandemic;
  • intensity of internet use;
  • cyber criminality and digital divides;
  • digital innovation in order to narrow digital divides;
  • e-participation and digital divides;
  • fake news and e-skills;
  • artificial intelligence and digital divides;
  • internet of things and digital divides;
  • post-pandemic measures and investment in digital technologies;
  • case studies. 

Prof. Dr. Adel Ben Youssef
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

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Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Information is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1600 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • digitalization
  • digital dividend
  • digital divide
  • information and communication technologies
  • innovation
  • e-skills.

Published Papers (3 papers)

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Research

19 pages, 348 KiB  
Article
ICT Use, Digital Skills and Students’ Academic Performance: Exploring the Digital Divide
by Adel Ben Youssef, Mounir Dahmani and Ludovic Ragni
Information 2022, 13(3), 129; https://doi.org/10.3390/info13030129 - 3 Mar 2022
Cited by 43 | Viewed by 57471
Abstract
Information and communication technologies (ICTs) are an integral part of our environment, and their uses vary across generations and among individuals. Today’s student population is made up of “digital natives” who have grown up under the ubiquitous influence of digital technologies, and for [...] Read more.
Information and communication technologies (ICTs) are an integral part of our environment, and their uses vary across generations and among individuals. Today’s student population is made up of “digital natives” who have grown up under the ubiquitous influence of digital technologies, and for whom the use of ICT is common and whose daily activities are structured around media use. The aim of this study is to examine the impact of ICT use and digital skills on students’ academic performance and to explore the digital divide in France. Data were collected through face-to-face questionnaires administered to 1323 students enrolled in three French universities. Principal component analysis, a non-hierarchical k-means clustering approach and multilevel ordered logistic regression were used for data analysis and provide four main findings: first, poor investment in ICT affects students’ results; second, the ICT training offered by universities has little impact on students’ results; third, student performance improves with the innovative and collaborative use of ICTs; fourth, the acquisition of digital skills increases students’ academic performance. The results show that the digital divide still exists, and this raises questions about the effectiveness of education policies in France. They suggest also that organizational change in universities is essential to enable an exploitation of ICT. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Beyond Digital Transformation: Digital Divides and Digital Dividends)
17 pages, 15575 KiB  
Article
The Digital Dimension of Mobilities: Mapping Spatial Relationships between Corporeal and Digital Displacements in Barcelona
by Fiammetta Brandajs
Information 2021, 12(10), 421; https://doi.org/10.3390/info12100421 - 15 Oct 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 2932
Abstract
This paper explores the ways in which technologies reshape everyday activities, adopting a mobility perspective of the digital environment, which is reframed in terms of the constitutive/substitutive element of corporeal mobility. We propose the construction of a Digital Mobility Index, quantified by measuring [...] Read more.
This paper explores the ways in which technologies reshape everyday activities, adopting a mobility perspective of the digital environment, which is reframed in terms of the constitutive/substitutive element of corporeal mobility. We propose the construction of a Digital Mobility Index, quantified by measuring the usage typology in which the technology is employed to enable mobility. Through a digital perspective on mobilities, it is possible to investigate how embodied practices and experiences of different modes of physical or virtual displacements are facilitated and emerge through technologies. The role of technologies in facilitating the anchoring of mobilities, transporting the tangible and intangible flow of goods, and in mediating social relations through space and time is emphasized through analysis of how digital usage can reproduce models typical of the neoliberal city, the effects of which in terms of spatial (in)justice have been widely discussed in the literature. The polarization inherent to the digital divide has been characterized by a separation between what has been called the “space of flows” (well connected, mobile, and offering more opportunities) and the “space of places” (poorly connected, fixed, and isolated). This digital divide indeed takes many forms, including divisions between classes, urban locations, and national spaces. By mapping “hyper- and hypo-mobilized” territories in Barcelona, this paper examines two main dimensions of digital inequality, on the one hand identifying the usage of the technological and digital in terms of the capacity to reach services and places, and on the other, measuring the territorial demographic and economic propensity to access to ICT as a predictive insight into the geographies of the social gap which emerge at municipal level. This approach complements conventional data sources such as municipal statistics and the digital divide enquiry conducted in Barcelona into the underlying digital capacities of the city and the digital skills of the population. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Beyond Digital Transformation: Digital Divides and Digital Dividends)
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13 pages, 3082 KiB  
Article
The Latent Digital Divide and Its Drivers in E-Learning among Bangladeshi Students during the COVID-19 Pandemic
by Md Badiuzzaman, Md. Rafiquzzaman, Md Insiat Islam Rabby and Mohammad Mustaneer Rahman
Information 2021, 12(8), 287; https://doi.org/10.3390/info12080287 - 21 Jul 2021
Cited by 15 | Viewed by 4899
Abstract
The devastating COVID-19 pandemic forced academia to go virtual. Educational institutions around the world have stressed online learning programs in the aftermath of the pandemic. However, because of insufficient access to Information Communication Technology (ICT), a substantial number of students failed to harness [...] Read more.
The devastating COVID-19 pandemic forced academia to go virtual. Educational institutions around the world have stressed online learning programs in the aftermath of the pandemic. However, because of insufficient access to Information Communication Technology (ICT), a substantial number of students failed to harness the opportunity of online learning. This study explores the latent digital divide exhibited during the COVID-19 pandemic while online learning activities are emphasised among students of Bangladesh. It also investigates the digital divide exposure and the significant underlying drivers of the divide. In order to accomplish this, a cross-sectional survey was employed to collect quantitative data, mixed with open-ended questions were utilised to gather qualitative information from the student community. The findings revealed that despite the majority of students having physical access to ICT, only 32.5% of students could attend online classes seamlessly. In total, 34.1% reported data prices as the critical barrier, while 39.8% identified poor network infrastructure as the significant barrier preventing them from participating in online learning activities. Although most students possess physical access to various devices and the Internet, they face the first-level digital divide due to the quality of access and price of cellular Internet. Consequently, they fail to take advantage of physical access, resulting in the third-level digital divide (utility gap), which submerges them into a digital divide cycle. The primary objective of this study is to explore the underlying issues of the digital divide among Bangladeshi students. This will assist relevant stakeholders (e.g., the Bangladesh government, educational institutions, and researchers) to gain necessary insights and theoretical understanding of underlying limitations and emergent directions to arrange adequate support for underprivileged students to undertake essential online learning activities. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Beyond Digital Transformation: Digital Divides and Digital Dividends)
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