Bridging the Digital Divide: Who has the Tools to Shape the Internet?
Today it is common to address the topic of the Digital Divide as a worldwide phenomenon. This is because, according to Castells (2004), the Network Society is shaped by transnational dynamics overcoming geographical barriers and political systems. Following this approach, my paper explores the Digital Divide referring to the existing different levels of inclusion in the Network Society. More concretely I will investigate the questions of how inequalities can be measured and if the Digital Divide can be understood as being only a problem of access to digital technologies. The Internet has been lauded as an open space to which anyone who wants to can contribute. It is also because of the inherent plurality that the Internet has become an important participatory instrument. However, I argue that the Digital Divide is not only a problem of access to the Internet’s contents. Rather, it is also important to explore from where these contents come from. The aim of my paper is to explore the problem of the access to the Internet, mapping the Internet users, but also the origin of its contents, mapping the Internet makers. This latter aspect has been so far under-investigated. If the Internet is made by the same users, the interesting question follows: who has the instruments to make the Internet? My paper explores the Digital Divide via two complementary parts. First, using Norris’ approach of analysis (2001), my paper updates her data analysis on the access to digital technologies, within the framework of more recent theoretical contributions. Second, if the World Wide Web is the way in which Internet’s contents are available, I explore empirical tools for mapping the geographical distribution of Internet domain names, and for locating where the owners of websites are. In conclusion, putting in relation these complementary perspectives of analysis, my paper explores the global Digital Divide focusing on the worldwide existing gap in making the Internet.
Keywords: Digital Divide, Shaping the Internet
PhD candidate, Department of Social and Political Science, European University Institute