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Quantifying the Second-Level Digital Divide on Sub-National Level

Authors: Vladimir Korovkin, Albert Park, Evgeny Kaganer


Digital divide, the gap in the access to the world of digital technologies and the socio-economic opportunities that they create is an important phenomenon of the XXI century. This gap may exist between countries, regions within a country or socio-demographic groups, creating the classes of “digital have and have nots”. While the 1st-level divide (the difference in opportunities to access the digital networks) was demonstrated to diminish with time, the issues of 2nd level divide (the difference in skills and usage of digital systems) and 3rd level divide (the difference in effects obtained from digital technology) may grow. The paper offers a systemic review of literature on the measurement of the digital divide, noting the certain conceptual stagnation due to the lack of effective instruments that would capture the complex nature of the phenomenon. As a result, many important concepts do not receive the empiric exploration they deserve. As a solution the paper suggests a composite Digital Life Index, that studies separately the digital supply and demand across seven independent dimensions providing for 14 subindices. The Index is based on Internet-borne data, a distinction from traditional research approaches that rely on official statistics or surveys. The application of the model to the study of the digital divide between Russian regions and between cities in China have brought promising results. The paper advances the existing methodological literature on the 2nd level digital divide and can also inform practical decision-making regarding the strategies of national and regional digital development.

Keywords: Digital transformation, second-level digital divide, composite index, digital policy.

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