With the increased digitisation of society comes an increased concern about who is left behind. From societal causes to the impact of everyday actions, The Digital Disconnect explores the relationship between digital and social inequalities, and the lived consequences of digitisation. Ellen J. Helsper goes beyond questions of digital divides and who is connected. She asks why and how social and digital inequalities are linked and shows the tangible outcomes of socio-digital inequalities in everyday lives. The book: • Introduces the key theories and concepts needed to understand both ‘traditional’ and digital inequalities research. • Investigates a range of socio-digital inequalities, from digital access and skills, to civic participation, social engagement, and everyday content creation and consumption. • Brings research to life with a range of qualitative vignettes, drawing out the personal experiences that lay at the heart of global socio-digital inequalities. The Digital Disconnect is an expert exploration of contemporary theory, research and practice in socio-digital inequalities. It is also an urgent and impassioned call to broaden horizons, expand theoretical and methodological toolkits, and work collectively to help achieve a fairer digital future for all. Ellen J. Helsper is Professor of Digital Inequalities at the Department of Media and Communications at London School of Economics and Political Science.
Chapter 3: Economic Inequalities in Digital Societies
Economic Inequalities in Digital Societies
‘Countries cannot hope to compete in the global marketplace of ideas if their business communities and broader populations are not online.’
Without access there is no digital engagement. This means a lack of access, or abysmal digital infrastructure, is the most basic form of digital disconnect. There was a period when access was seen as a luxury good. For example, Michael Powell compared broadband-related inequalities to a ‘Mercedes-Benz divide’ during his first press conference as chairman of the US Federal Communications Committee (cited in Cooper, 2010). He argued that it would be a nice, though not essential, to have toy for those who could afford it. This attitude would ...