Evidence on Bridging the Divide: Public Plans’ Impact on Reducing the Digital Divide in Rural Areas
The digital divide refers to the gap between individuals, households, businesses and geographic areas at different socioeconomic levels with regard to both their opportunities to access information and communication technologies (ICTs) (OECD 2001; Jordana 2001; Wikitel 2011). This gap is not only due to the lack of access but also due to the lack of training and skills to benefi t from them (Jordana 2001; Warshauer 2002). The differences in ICT diffusion patterns have been studied in the digital divide literature (Dwivedi et al. 2008; Choudrie et al. 2010). The majority of studies from this literature have used a sociological approach based on individual and social determinants of Internet adoption such as income, age, education and cultural background (Hargittai 1999; Norris 2001). On one hand, there have been some attempts made to explain the ICT adoption differences using political and institutional factors such as political regimes (Milner 2006) and political risk (Andonova 2004). On the other hand, public policy typologies have been developed to study broadband diffusion from the telecommunications policy literature (Umino 2002; Wallsten 2005; Jordana and Sancho 2003; Frieden 2005; Cava-Ferreruela and Alabau-Muñoz 2006; Lattemann et al. 2009). However, there is very little existing research that has addressed the impact of public policies designed to analyze the impact of policy on the broadband digital divide gap (Gulati and Yates 2012). The majority of cross-country analyses in previous articles do not take into account the internal variability within the countries and regions. At the same time, some case studies about regions seem to be methodological proposals rather than empirical analyses (Dwivedi et al. 2008). On the other hand, existing empirical analyses about broadband policy impact have not provided conclusive results about the effects of public intervention on broadband diffusion in rural areas (Wallsten 2005; Jeanjean 2010).