Defining the Boundaries of the Digital Divide

Dr. Michel Nguessan
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The term “digital divide” is commonly used to refer to the gap between people in terms of access to computers and digital information. In general, this term brings to mind the idea of a line that separates two spaces. On one side of this line, you have those who enjoy the benefits of the digital age and on the other side you have those who don’t. One easily thinks about rich countries/people versus poor countries/people on each side of the line. This paper tries to show that the divide is not as simplistic as most people tend to see it. It is a very complex issue that is deeply rooted in the economic, political, linguistics, social and cultural orders that prevail at the national and international levels.
The first part of the paper focuses on three points: 1) define the concept of digital divide; 2) discuss access to computers and digital information; 3) discuss why the digital divide is an issue. The second part of the paper discusses the boundaries of the digital divide. In this part identifies different types of dividing lines which include the following dichotomies: the North vs. South Divide; the First World vs. the Third World; the Rich vs. Poor; the Males vs. Females; English speakers vs. non-English speakers. We also discuss other economic, political, ideological and cultural considerations that have a strong impact on access to digital information. The third part of the paper identifies ways to solve the digital divide.
In conclusion, we note that the digital divide is formed by many lines that crisscross one another creating a multitude of ‘divides’, not just one. Consequently, any approach to solve this issue must recognize the multiple divides and give equal importance to all of the different intersecting lines. Since the digital divide is deeply rooted in the prevailing the economic, political, linguistics, social and cultural orders, it would be a mistake to try to bridge the gap without dealing with the root causes that originate from these prevailing orders.

Keywords: Digital divide, boundaries of digital divide, definition of digital divide, digital information, access to computers,information and society, information and communication technology
Stream: Technology in Community
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: Defining the Boundaries of the Digital Divide

Dr. Michel Nguessan

Head of LIbrary & Academic Technology, Governors State University Library, Governors State University

Dr Michel Nguessan is an Assistant Professor of Library Science at Governors State University. Dr. Nguessan is also Head of the Department of Library and Academic technology. He holds academic credentials from the Ivory Coast, France, the USA and Canada, including a Masters in English Linguistics (Ivory Coast), pre-doctoral studies in Language Science (University of Lyon 2, France), a Masters in Software Engineering (University of Quebec), a Masters in Information Science (University of Michigan), and a PhD from the University of Illinois at Urban-Champaign. Prof. Nguessan worked as instructor, translator, software engineer/systems analyst and digital librarian in the USA and Canada. His research interests include: computers in libraries and in education; social aspects of computing; digital libraries, institutional repositories; learning objects and online learning; library systems; metadata and information standards; terminology and digital information retrieval and exchange. His faculty web page is available at:

Ref: T06P0161