Digital Inequalities in the Global South [1st ed.] 9783030327057, 9783030327064

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Digital Inequalities in the Global South [1st ed.]
 9783030327057, 9783030327064

Table of contents :
Front Matter ....Pages i-xvii
Introduction (Massimo Ragnedda, Anna Gladkova)....Pages 1-16
Understanding Digital Inequalities in the Global South (Massimo Ragnedda, Anna Gladkova)....Pages 17-30
Front Matter ....Pages 31-31
Impacts of the Digital Divide on the E-government Portals of Nepal (Bhanu Bhakta Acharya)....Pages 33-57
A Widening Digital Divide and Its Impacts on Existing Social Inequalities and Democracy in Pakistan (Sadia Jamil)....Pages 59-78
Widening the Wedge: Digital Inequalities and Social Media in India (Padma Rani, Manjushree G. Naik, Binod C. Agrawal)....Pages 79-101
ICTs, Power Prejudice and Empowerment: Digital Exclusion of the Poor in Rural Bangladesh (Mohammad Sahid Ullah)....Pages 103-133
Front Matter ....Pages 135-135
Weaponization of Access, Communication Inequalities as a Form of Control: Case of Israel/Palestine (Hanna M. Kreitem)....Pages 137-157
Digital Inequalities in CIS Countries: Updated Approach to the Analysis of Situation (Olga Smirnova)....Pages 159-176
A Comparison of High-Skill and Low-Skill Internet Users in Northeast Anatolia, Turkey (Duygu Özsoy, Glenn Muschert)....Pages 177-195
Front Matter ....Pages 197-197
Digital Infrastructure Enabling Platforms for Health Information and Education in the Global South (Danica Radovanović, Georges Vivien Houngbonon, Erwan Le Quentrec, Ghislain Maurice Norbert Isabwe, Josef Noll)....Pages 199-222
Moving Beyond the Rhetoric: Who Really Benefits from Investments in Digital Infrastructure in Low-Income and Low-Literacy Communities in Malawi? (Edister Samson Jamu, Tiwonge Davis Manda, Gowokani Chijere Chirwa)....Pages 223-246
Digital Inequality and Language Diversity: An Ethiopic Case Study (Isabelle A. Zaugg)....Pages 247-267
The End of the Public Sphere: Social Media, Civic Virtue, and the Democratic Divide (Last Moyo)....Pages 269-285
Front Matter ....Pages 287-287
The Digital Divide: Observations from the South About a Failed Dialog with the North (Cristian Berrío-Zapata)....Pages 289-318
Social Inequality, Technological Inequality and Educational Heterogeneity in the Light of the Conectar Igualdad OLPC Programme (Salta, Argentina, 2015–2017) (Alejandra García Vargas, Laura Golovanevsky, María Rosa Chachagua)....Pages 319-346
Afro-Creole Nationalism and the Maintenance of the Digital Divide: The Case of Jamaica (Nova Gordon-Bell)....Pages 347-362
Back Matter ....Pages 363-372

Citation preview

GLOBAL TRANSFORMATIONS IN MEDIA AND COMMUNICATION RESEARCH A PALGRAVE AND IAMCR SERIES

Digital Inequalities in the Global South Edited by Massimo Ragnedda Anna Gladkova

IAMCR AIECS AIERI

Global Transformations in Media and Communication Research - A Palgrave and IAMCR Series Series Editors Marjan de Bruin HARP, Mona Campus The University of the West Indies Mona, Jamaica Claudia Padovani SPGI University of Padova Padova, Italy

The International Association for Media and Communications Research (IAMCR) has been, for over 50 years, a focal point and unique platform for academic debate and discussion on a variety of topics and issues generated by its many thematic Sections and Working groups (see http://iamcr.org/) This new series specifically links to the intellectual capital of the IAMCR and offers more systematic and comprehensive opportunities for the publication of key research and debates. It will provide a forum for collective knowledge production and exchange through trans-disciplinary contributions. In the current phase of globalizing processes and increasing interactions, the series will provide a space to rethink those very categories of space and place, time and geography through which communication studies has evolved, thus contributing to identifying and refining concepts, theories and methods with which to explore the diverse realities of communication in a changing world. Its central aim is to provide a platform for knowledge exchange from different geo-cultural contexts. Books in the series will contribute diverse and plural perspectives on communication developments including from outside the Anglo-speaking world which is much needed in today’s globalized world in order to make sense of the complexities and intercultural challenges communication studies are facing. More information about this series at http://www.palgrave.com/gp/series/15018

Massimo Ragnedda  •  Anna Gladkova Editors

Digital Inequalities in the Global South

Editors Massimo Ragnedda Northumbria University Newcastle upon Tyne, UK

Anna Gladkova Faculty of Journalism Lomonosov Moscow State University Moscow, Russia

Global Transformations in Media and Communication Research - A Palgrave and IAMCR Series ISBN 978-3-030-32705-7    ISBN 978-3-030-32706-4 (eBook) https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-32706-4 © The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020 This work is subject to copyright. All rights are solely and exclusively licensed by the Publisher, whether the whole or part of the material is concerned, specifically the rights of translation, reprinting, reuse of illustrations, recitation, broadcasting, reproduction on microfilms or in any other physical way, and transmission or information storage and retrieval, electronic adaptation, computer software, or by similar or dissimilar methodology now known or hereafter developed. The use of general descriptive names, registered names, trademarks, service marks, etc. in this publication does not imply, even in the absence of a specific statement, that such names are exempt from the relevant protective laws and regulations and therefore free for general use. The publisher, the authors and the editors are safe to assume that the advice and information in this book are believed to be true and accurate at the date of publication. Neither the publisher nor the authors or the editors give a warranty, expressed or implied, with respect to the material contained herein or for any errors or omissions that may have been made. The publisher remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations. Cover illustration: KTSDESIGN/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY/gettyimages Cover design: eStudioCalamar This Palgrave Macmillan imprint is published by the registered company Springer Nature Switzerland AG. The registered company address is: Gewerbestrasse 11, 6330 Cham, Switzerland

Contents

1 Introduction  1 Massimo Ragnedda and Anna Gladkova 2 Understanding Digital Inequalities in the Global South 17 Massimo Ragnedda and Anna Gladkova Section I  Digital Inequalities in South Asia  31 3 Impacts of the Digital Divide on the E-government Portals of Nepal 33 Bhanu Bhakta Acharya 4 A Widening Digital Divide and Its Impacts on Existing Social Inequalities and Democracy in Pakistan 59 Sadia Jamil 5 Widening the Wedge: Digital Inequalities and Social Media in India 79 Padma Rani, Manjushree G. Naik, and Binod C. Agrawal 6 ICTs, Power Prejudice and Empowerment: Digital Exclusion of the Poor in Rural Bangladesh103 Mohammad Sahid Ullah v

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Contents

Section II  Digital Inequalities in Central and Western Asia 135 7 Weaponization of Access, Communication Inequalities as a Form of Control: Case of Israel/Palestine137 Hanna M. Kreitem 8 Digital Inequalities in CIS Countries: Updated Approach to the Analysis of Situation159 Olga Smirnova 9 A Comparison of High-Skill and Low-Skill Internet Users in Northeast Anatolia, Turkey177 Duygu Özsoy and Glenn Muschert Section III  Digital Inequalities in Africa 197 10 Digital Infrastructure Enabling Platforms for Health Information and Education in the Global South199 Danica Radovanović, Georges Vivien Houngbonon, Erwan Le Quentrec, Ghislain Maurice Norbert Isabwe, and Josef Noll 11 Moving Beyond the Rhetoric: Who Really Benefits from Investments in Digital Infrastructure in Low-Income and Low-­Literacy Communities in Malawi?223 Edister Samson Jamu, Tiwonge Davis Manda, and Gowokani Chijere Chirwa 12 Digital Inequality and Language Diversity: An Ethiopic Case Study247 Isabelle A. Zaugg 13 The End of the Public Sphere: Social Media, Civic Virtue, and the Democratic Divide269 Last Moyo

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Section IV  Digital Inequalities in South America 287 14 The Digital Divide: Observations from the South About a Failed Dialog with the North289 Cristian Berrío-Zapata 15 Social Inequality, Technological Inequality and Educational Heterogeneity in the Light of the Conectar Igualdad OLPC Programme (Salta, Argentina, 2015–2017)319 Alejandra García Vargas, Laura Golovanevsky, and María Rosa Chachagua 16 Afro-Creole Nationalism and the Maintenance of the Digital Divide: The Case of Jamaica347 Nova Gordon-Bell Afterword: Knowledge—Whose Knowledge?363 Bruce Mutsvairo Index369

Notes on Contributors

Bhanu Bhakta Acharya  a scholar on e-government programs and policies, immigrants’ information and communication technology (ICT) use, and the digital divide, is affiliated to the University of Ottawa, Canada. Author of five books on communication and journalism, Acharya has published several research articles in scholarly journals, attended international conferences, and advocated for capacity-building of communication professionals, including journalists, with regard to employing professional standards and ethical practices. His primary research interests include digital divide, diaspora communication, e-government, journalism, and media ethics. Binod C. Agrawal  Mentor, Media Research Centre, Manipal Institute of Communication, Manipal Academy of Higher Education, Manipal, India. Cristian Berrío-Zapata  is a professor at the Faculty of Archivology and coordinator of the postgraduation of Information Science at the Institute of Applied Social Sciences (ICSA), Universidade Federal do Pará (UFPA), Brazil. He holds a degree in Psychology and a major in Technology Management and Competitiveness, master’s degree in Administration, and PhD in Information Science. He researches information and communication technology (ICT) from a critical perspective, including power and discourse in the areas of digital divide, technology appropriation, and information asymmetries. His research projects are the critical perspective on information science, gender digital divide, digital divide in universities, and epidemics as information phenomena. ix

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María  Rosa  Chachagua CONICET (Sciences and Technologies National Council) Postdoctoral fellow. PHD in Communication and Media (Universidad Nacional de la Plata). Researcher in the Centro de Investigaciones Interdisciplinarias sobre Tecnologías y Desarrollo Social (Universidad de Jujuy y CONICET) and in Universidad Nacional de Salta. Gowokani Chijere Chirwa  is a Lecturer in Economics at the University of Malawi—Chancellor College. Currently, he is pursuing PhD in economics at the University of York, UK. Anna Gladkova  is PhD in Journalism, Leading Researcher and Director of International Affairs Office at the Faculty of Journalism, Lomonosov Moscow State University, Russia. Her research interests include ethnic media, digital inequalities and digital divides. She is co-vice chair of the Digital Divide Working Group (IAMCR), IAMCR Ambassador in Russia and member of the IAMCR International Council. Laura Golovanevsky  PhD in Economics (Universidad de Buenos Aires), Master in Social Sciences (Universidad Nacional de Jujuy), Postdoctoral Programme in Social Sciences (Universidad Nacional de Córdoba). Professor in Universidad Nacional de Jujuy. Researcher in CONICET (Sciences and Technologies National Council). Director of the Centro de Estudios para el Desarrollo Económico con Equidad (CESDE-School of Economics, Universidad de Jujuy) and researcher in the Centro de Investigaciones Interdisciplinarias sobre Tecnologías y Desarrollo Social (Universidad de Jujuy y CONICET). Secretary of Postgraduate Studies (School of Economics, Universidad de Jujuy). Nova  Gordon-Bell is a lecturer in media and communication and Coordinator of Graduate Studies at the Caribbean School of Media and Communication (CARIMAC), University of the West Indies at Mona, Jamaica. Dr. Gordon-Bell’s extensive professional experience in the public and private sector spans public information, journalism, advertising and publishing. She has served on the board of directors of several public bodies and as consultant in media and communication for non-governmental organizations involved in community activism, climate resilience and service. Georges  Vivien  Houngbonon is an economic researcher at Orange Labs. His research employs econometrics techniques and individual-level data to answer questions related to the economics of digital technologies,

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the economics of development, and industrial organization. He holds a PhD from the Paris School of Economics, and postdoctoral positions at the Toulouse School of Economics and Ecole Centrale of Paris. Ghislain Maurice Norbert Isabwe  is the CEO of Future Competence International Ltd (Rwanda), an associate professor at the University of Agder (Norway) and a visiting professor at Makerere University (Uganda). He is a specialist in Human Computer Interaction and eLearning. He focuses on human-centred design and development of technologyenhanced learning. He holds a PhD in ICT from the University of Agder. Sadia  Jamil  has completed her PhD in Journalism at the University of Queensland (UQ), Australia. She holds postgraduate degrees in the disciplines of Media Management (University of Stirling, Scotland) and Mass Communication (University of Karachi). To date, she is the recipient of a number of awards and scholarships including the University of Queensland’s Centennial Award (2010), UQ’s International Postgraduate Research Support Award (2010), the Norwegian UNESCO Commissions’ conference grants (2015–2019), Union Insurance’s Cairo Air Crash Journalists Victim Memorial Gold Medal (2007) and Daily Jang’s and the News’ Sardar Ali Sabri Memorial Gold Medal (2007). She is affiliated with the International Association of Media and Communication Research (IAMCR) and acting as the Co Vice Chair of IAMCR’s Journalism Research and Education Section. Her research work includes studies into journalism, new media and urban development, safety of journalists and impunity, freedom of expression, and press freedom. Jamil’s forthcoming edited book entitled Combating Threats to Media Freedom and Journalists’ Safety is due to be released in 2020 by IGI Global. Edister  Samson  Jamu  is a Lecturer in Psychology, with a bias toward organizational and social psychology, at the University of Malawi— Chancellor College. His research interests focus on talent management, higher education, and social inclusion among others. Hanna M. Kreitem  is a PhD researcher in Media and Communication, and Digital Sociology with research interests in effects of Internet and technology on societies including digital inequalities related to emerging technologies as well as inequalities perpetuated as a form of oppression. His research now looks at Internet artificial limitations and their relation to tangible outcomes of Internet use, and working

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on research projects related to weaponization of access, and the blockchain disadvantaged. With background in Computer Science and Business Administration, and knowledge in digital rights activism in different regions of the world, Hanna possesses distinctive understanding of how technology and technology companies work, and reflects this in his works. Erwan  Le Quentrec is a manager in the Sociology and Economics Department at Orange Labs (SENSE). He leads a team of specialized researchers on the role and impacts of ICT in different fields: education and vocational training, work, health, customer relationship management. Also, he leads collaborative innovation in the education sector for Africa, AMEA region. He holds a PhD in Economics from the University of Bourgogne. Tiwonge Davis Manda  is a Senior Lecturer in Computer Science at the University of Malawi—Chancellor College. His research mainly focuses on the design, implementation and maintenance of digital infrastructure, together with related political and socioeconomic implications. Last Moyo  holds a PhD in Media and Communication Studies from the University of Wales (UK). His teaching and research interests are in digital media, political economy, critical theory, peace journalism, and development communication. His teaching and research experience spans Africa, Europe, and Asia, where he taught a broad range of media and communications subjects at various universities. Glenn  Muschert is Professor of Sociology in the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences at Khalifa University (Abu Dhabi, UAE). His research focuses on digital inequalities, sustainable development, and the solution of social problems. Bruce  Mutsvairo  is Professor of Journalism at Auburn University in the USA. Manjushree  G. Naik Research Associate, Media Research Centre, Manipal Institute of Communication, Manipal Academy of Higher Education, Manipal, India. Josef Noll  is a professor at the University of Oslo and Visionary at the Basic Internet Foundation. He envisions a world with free access to basic information (#Basic4all). He is a specialist for wireless networks and security. He is a

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co-founder and steering board member of the Center for Wireless Innovation Norway and Mobile Monday Norway, the Norway section of the worldwide community for nerds and professionals in mobile services. Duygu  Özsoy is Assistant Professor of Communications in the Department of Radio, Television and Cinema at Atatürk University (Erzurum, Turkey). Her research focuses on Internet studies and digital technologies, particularly as applied to Turkey’s non-Western modernization process and transformation through globalization. Danica Radovanović  is a digital inclusion advisor and senior researcher at the Basic Internet Foundation. She is a PhD Chevening Scholar, Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford, and a doctorate graduate from the Faculty of Technical Sciences, Novi Sad. Her work focuses on social media, digital inclusion and digital literacy skills programs, and Internet governance and strategies. Massimo  Ragnedda is Senior Lecturer in Mass Communication at Northumbria University, UK, where he conducts research on the digital divide and social media. He is co-vice chair of the Digital Divide Working Group (IAMCR). Padma Rani  Professor and Director, Manipal Institute of Communication, Manipal Academy of Higher Education, Manipal, India. Olga Smirnova  Associate Professor, Head of Periodical Press, Faculty of Journalism, Lomonosov Moscow State University. Mohammad  Sahid  Ullah is a professor in the Department of Communication and Journalism at the University of Chittagong, Bangladesh. He has more than 50 academic publications and book chapters on new media and public engagement, journalism education, media laws, communication and social change, political economy, and empowerment. His work has been published in the International Communication Gazette, South Asia Research, Asia-Pacific Media Educator, Journalism Studies, Journal of Science Communication, and Media Asia. Ullah was the best paper winner in the first World Journalism Education Congress (WJEC) in 2007, worked as SAGE-Tejeswar Singh Memorial Fellow and visiting scholar at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, and Jonkoping University, Sweden. Ullah holds a PhD from the School of Media and Arts, University of Queensland, Australia and served Co and Vice Chairs of the Law Section of the International

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Association for Media and Communication Research (IAMCR) for a decade (2006–2015). Alejandra García Vargas  PHD in Communication Studies (Universidad Nacional de Córdoba). Researcher and professor in Universidad Nacional de Jujuy and Universidad Nacional de Salta. Codirector of the Centro de Estudios para el Desarrollo Económico con Equidad (School of Economics, Universidad de Jujuy) and researcher at Centro de Investigaciones Interdisciplinarias sobre Tecnologías y Desarrollo Social (Universidad de Jujuy y CONICET). Secretary of Gender and Human Rights Academic Area (School of Social Sciences, Universidad de Jujuy). Chair of the National Board in Communication Public Policy Politics and Media Laws at the Red de Carreras de Comunicación de Argentina (REDCOM) and researcher in Comunicación, Política y Ciudadanía Working Group at Consejo Latinoamericano de Ciencias Sociales (CLACSO). Isabelle  A.  Zaugg  is a communication scholar and filmmaker whose research interests revolve around language and culture, media, and digital technologies in the global public sphere. Her research investigates the relationship between gaps in support for digitally disadvantaged languages and patterns of mass extinction of language diversity, with a primary focus on the Ethiopian and Eritrean languages that utilize the Ethiopic script. Her research addresses the extent to which the Ethiopic script and its languages are supported in the digital sphere, including tracing the history of its inclusion in Unicode. Zaugg has proposed policy, governance, and advocacy solutions to better support digitally disadvantaged languages, in turn supporting their long-term survival. Zaugg is a lecturer at Columbia University in the City of New  York, where she was a Mellon-Sawyer Postdoctoral Fellow from 2017 to 2019, helping to lead the Sawyer Seminar in “Global Language Justice” at Columbia University’s Institute for Comparative Literature and Society (ICLS). She holds a PhD in Communication and an MA in Film & Video from American University in Washington, DC, and a BA in Art-Semiotics from Brown University.

List of Figures

Fig. 7.1

Fig. 7.2

Fig. Fig. Fig. Fig.

10.1 10.2 11.1 11.2

Fig. Fig. Fig. Fig.

11.3 15.1 15.2 15.3

Geopolitical areas of the West Bank. (Based on the UN Office of Humanitarian Affairs in Occupied Palestinian Territory map available at: https://unispal.un.org/ UNISPAL.NSF/0/6B9EABA6D3EA5CE2852578 410058A8C6)142 Percentage of households with telephone lines in Israel/ Palestine in 1983. (Based on data from Salomon, I., and Razin, E. (1988) The Geography of Telecommunications Systems: The Case of Israel’s Telephone System) 144 Example of a health message 214 Extract from the educational video on cysticercosis 215 Location of Malawi 231 Mobile-cellular telephone subscriptions per 100 inhabitants. (Source: ITU 2019) 237 Mobile money transactions—fourth quarter 2018 240 Villa Mitre secondary school (Salta city) 331 Case study rural schools’ location in Salta (Argentina) 332 Percentage of computer-owning-households according to the household’s family income per capita quintile (taking into account the income of each province). NWA region. 2011. NWA region: it includes the provinces of Catamarca, Jujuy, Salta, Santiago del Estero and Tucumán. (Source: Our own elaboration based on microdata of ENTIC and EAHU (INDEC)) 340

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List of Figures

Fig. 15.4 Percentage of computer-owning households according to the household’s family income per capita quintile (taking into account the income of the jurisdiction). NWA region. 2017. (Source: Our own elaboration based on microdata of MAUTIC and EPH (INDEC)) 341 Fig. 15.5 Percentage of households with Internet access (fixed or mobile) according to the household’s family income per capita quintile (taking into account the income of the jurisdiction). NWA region. 2011. (Source: Our own elaboration based on microdata of ENTIC and EAHU (INDEC))342 Fig. 15.6 Percentage of households with Internet access according to the household’s family income per capita quintile (taking into account the income of the jurisdiction). NWA region. 2017. (Source: Our own elaboration based on microdata of MAUTIC and EPH (INDEC)) 343

List of Tables

Table 3.1 Table 3.2 Table 5.1 Table 5.2 Table 5.3 Table 5.4 Table 5.5 Table 5.6 Table 6.1 Table 9.1 Table 10.1 Table 11.1 Table 11.2 Table 11.3 Table 11.4 Table 11.5 Table 12.1 Table 13.1

Nepal: E-government indicators 40 Coding details of ministry-level websites 44 Frequency of use of Facebook and other SNS 89 Frequency of use of social media for business 90 Influence of social media in interaction 91 Usage of social media for political activities 92 Influence of social media on voting decision 93 Usage of social media to support social/civic issues 94 Visitors/service seekers in the UDCs 127 Characteristics of the sample of Internet users in Northeast Anatolia (n = 8)182 Key development outcomes in selected Sub-Saharan African countries201 A tool for applying a Digital Human Capital framework to digital inclusion initiatives 228 Households’ access of ICT equipment/services, access, and usage of ICT services survey, 2014 234 Individuals’ access of ICT equipment/services, access, and usage of ICT services survey, 2014 235 Percentage contribution to total volume of mobile money transactions by type 239 Percentage contribution to total value of mobile money transactions by type 239 Digital support, digital use, and digital vitality of Ethiopian and Ethiopic-based Eritrean languages 258 Insults, threats, and potential hate speech on bloggers 277

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CHAPTER 1

Introduction Massimo Ragnedda and Anna Gladkova

Digital Inequalities in the Global South focuses on the rising digital inequalities in countries from geographical areas that are insufficiently covered and underrepresented. While in the so-called Global South (Mahler 2015) access to the Internet has risen tremendously in the last years (shrinking the first level of the digital divide), new inequalities are emerging between those who have access to broadband Internet and those who do not, between gender, between different socioeconomic backgrounds, and between users with different levels of education. Going beyond the first level of the digital divide, new forms of inequalities also emerged in relation to different digital skills, digital competencies, and different motivations in using information communication technologies (ICTs). Both limited access to and use of the Internet affect citizens’ existential opportunities (van Dijk 2005) and negatively influence the process of social inclusion (Warshauer 2004), thus contributing to offline disadvantages (Chen 2013). Finally, new forms of digital inequalities are related M. Ragnedda (*) Northumbria University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK e-mail: [email protected] A. Gladkova Faculty of Journalism, Lomonosov Moscow State University, Moscow, Russia © The Author(s) 2020 M. Ragnedda, A. Gladkova (eds.), Digital Inequalities in the Global South, Global Transformations in Media and Communication Research - A Palgrave and IAMCR Series, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-32706-4_1

1

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to the so-called third level of the digital divide (Ragnedda 2017), namely, the different capacity/ability to fully exploit the Internet and to transform its use into tangible outcomes. The third level of the digital divide, therefore, ‘relate to gaps in individuals’ capacity to translate their internet access and use into favorable offline outcomes’ (Van Deursen and Helsper 2015: 30). Such inequalities in the social benefits of using the Internet are growing everywhere but especially in the Global South. This book, therefore, fits into the lively debate, opened by the advent of ICTs, on inequalities in access (first level of the digital divide), uses (second level of the digital divide), and outcomes generated online and valuable in the social realm (third level of the digital divide). Digital Inequalities in the Global South focuses on social, cultural, and economic consequences of digital inequalities where the majority of the world’s people now live (Asia, Africa, and Latin America). These communities are at a distinct disadvantage when digital technologies are introduced (Boas et al. 2005), specifically in terms of participation and types of digital engagement. Since more and more activities and public services moved online, those who are excluded tend to miss the opportunities offered by the advent of the Internet. The main idea in this book, therefore, is to underline, with specific case studies, how marginalized communities are now attempting to participate in the information age, despite high costs and the lack of relevant content and technological support. How are these barriers preventing (or limiting) disadvantaged communities from using computers and the Internet? Is the Global South still at risk of being left behind? How has the Global South changed in the last years? How is the Global South facing these challenges? The rapid progress of the digital technologies’ infrastructure is crucial for countries seeking to combat poverty and exclusion and guarantee basic services. The development of ICTs opens new opportunities to attain higher levels of progress and growth and may help in creating an environment that fosters innovation, nurtures science, empowers active citizens, and spurs business growth and has become a priority for developing countries. However, these advantages are often overemphasized and seem the reflection of the Western gaze in relation to peripheral societies. The Global South is caught in a growing paradox. On the one hand, rapid technological advancement is fostering economic prosperity, creating greater communication and information possibilities, and helping in fighting for democracy. On the other hand, not everybody is enjoying the possibilities offered by digital technologies, and digital inequalities are

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increasingly hindering economic and social development, exacerbating already existing inequalities. There is, therefore, a need to go beyond this techno-evangelist and Western-centered approach that sees the development of ICTs as the main leading force able to drive economic, cultural, and social development by adopting a critical approach that underlines also the disadvantages that digital inequalities are bringing to the Global South. The book presents a wide range of case studies of digital inequalities that are accessibly presented in ways that will be illuminating for students and experienced researchers alike. We have split the book into four main sections that acknowledge not only the geographical diversities but also the necessity of ordering the chapters into sections according to these diversities. In the first section of this book, namely, ‘Digital Inequalities in South Asia’, four different chapters discuss the phenomenon of digital inequalities, focusing on four different countries: Nepal, India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. In the second section of this volume, we have included three chapters under a section called ‘Digital Inequalities in Central and Western Asia’. These chapters underlined the rising digital inequalities in Palestine, South East Turkey, and Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries. In the third section of this book, we give voice to four countries in Africa, namely, Malawi, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, and an overview of sub-­ Saharan Africa. In the fourth and final section of this book, called ‘Digital Inequalities in South America’, we have included three chapters from South America, namely, Jamaica, Argentina, and a transnational analysis of Colombia, Chile, Mexico, and Brazil. More specifically, the book starts with an introductory theoretical chapter clarifying the importance of studying digital inequalities in the Global South, written by Massimo Ragnedda and Anna Gladkova. The core idea is that social inequalities are strongly intertwined with digital inequalities. The chapter briefly introduces the concept of digital inequalities and their evolution over the years. This chapter also orients the reader to the theoretical grounding provided by social theorists and explains how this can be applied to a variety of settings in comparative international perspectives. Finally, the chapter provides the reader with a view on the project as a whole by surveying some of the dynamics that shape and influence digital inequalities. The first section on ‘Digital Inequalities in South Asia’ opens with a chapter that focuses on the ‘Impacts of the Digital Divide on E-government

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Portals of Nepal’. This chapter, written by Bhanu Bhakta Acharya, sheds light on the Nepal context, underlining how this country is a landlocked and the least-developed country in South Asia with a population of 29 million (Karan et al. 2018). Although reliable global statistics are hard to come by, particularly for the Global South, according to Internet Live Stats (2016), less than 20% of the population in Nepal has access to the Internet. The capital city and other major urban areas have a higher concentration of Internet facilities, with 3G and 4G Internet services, but most of the rural areas rely on limited access to the Internet with slow 2G Internet using the global system for mobile communications (GSM) and code-division multiple access (CDMA) technologies (Nepal Telecommunications Authority 2018). Most Internet users have access to the Internet through mobile devices and primarily use it for social networking and interactions (ibid.). This book chapter argues that the digital divide negatively affects Nepal in terms of economic growth, development, and the E-government delivery of services and, consequently, efforts of government service delivery through digital platforms are inadequate and ineffective. The first part of this book chapter will present an overview on the state of the digital divide in Nepal, primarily focusing on available services and opportunities on digital platforms, and users’ access to these services. The second part will present a critical assessment of the 22 websites of the Federal Government Ministries by using Layne and Lee’s (2001) four-stage model of E-government development, in terms of providing services and opportunities to its users. The second chapter of this section focuses on ‘A Widening Digital Divide and Its Impacts on Existing Social Inequalities and Democracy in Pakistan’. Sadia Jamil highlights how the ICT sector is widely recognized as an engine for the overall socioeconomic development of countries worldwide. Governments in many countries of the world, especially in the Global South, are trying to expand their ICTs infrastructures and reduce digital inequalities for fostering social inclusion and civic participation, thereby to strengthen democracy and economic growth. In the case of Pakistan, concentrated efforts have been made for the proliferation of ICT infrastructure by the government during the past decade. Consequently, in terms of Internet users, ‘Pakistan is the fourth-­ largest country in Asia—behind Indonesia, India and China’ (Hussain 2017). However, according to a global digital report this year, only 22% of the Pakistani population uses the Internet, which indicates a very slow Internet penetration in the country. The matter of concern is not only the slow Internet penetration in

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Pakistan but also the various political, sociocultural, and other constraints that hinder the public’s access and their usage of the Internet. The Government of Pakistan often restricts Internet access or limits the provision of Internet services in certain areas of the country, curbing the public’s right to freedom of expression and access to information. Furthermore, this chapter shows how women’s access to the Internet and mobile phones is often restricted or monitored by male family members, resulting in their inability to effectively represent their issues online and participate in the democratic process. And, in the majority of rural areas, both men and women neither have access to the Internet and mobile phone nor are they literate and/or skilled enough to use these technologies. Moreover, people with disabilities are also not capable to use the Internet due to a lack of provision of special needs equipment such as keyboards, screens, and accessibility aids for sensory impairments. In Pakistan, there is no standardized access and usage of the Internet and that is widening the digital divide. If this divide is not addressed, there are risks that the Internet will aggravate the marginalization of communities and social inequalities. Therefore, bridging the digital divide is essential for giving voice to the marginalized communities and promoting civic participation, thereby strengthening democracy in the country. The third chapter in this first section is written by Padma Rani, Binod C. Agrawal, and Manjushree G. Naik. In this chapter, titled ‘Widening the Wedge: Digital Inequalities and Social Media in India’, the authors argue that social inequalities are increasing after the rapid penetration, acceptance, and use of various digital media in India. Social media especially have added another dimension of social stratification to sociopolitical and economic areas due to the rapid spread of digital media. According to Weber, social stratification is an interplay of class, status, and group dynamics. Some researchers like Kuttan and Peters 2003 (cited in Ragnedda 2017) have suggested that technological repercussions may increase social inequality. The authors stress this point by underlining how the technological world is a reflection of the social world and will lead to an increase in social inequality in Indian society, regardless of the fact that the penetration of the Internet in India has been growing rapidly. The acceleration in Internet users in India is also supported by the Digital India initiative of the Government of India to empower every citizen with access to digital services, knowledge, and information to increase accountability, transparency, and ease of transaction, benefiting all sections of society.

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Finally, the last chapter in this first section, written by Mohammad Sahid Ullah, focuses on how the use and implementation of ICTs have contributed to deep-seated economic and social change across the globe. ‘ICTs, Power Prejudice and Empowerment: Digital Exclusion of the Poor in Rural Bangladesh’ shows how this kind of optimistic estimation, however, has not been able to prove its potential as a medium of change due to the asymmetrical power relations that exist in countries of the South. Despite the drawback, governments in South Asian nations undertook different ICT projects to make their country digitalized by 2020. This study examines power dynamics in rural Bangladesh, scrutinizing how people accumulate, conceptualize, and perceive the use of and relationships between social, economic, and political power and their impact on the access of digital resources across the country. The Union Digital Center (UDC), an ICT project implemented by local government units in Bangladesh, is the subject of inquiry. With 55 in-depth interviews from center users, non-users, and center entrepreneurs of six UDCs from across Bangladesh, this chapter shows that influential elites still enjoy privileged access to rural resources whilst deriving additional benefits from the UDCs, whereas poorer groups have severe limitations to their access to digital services and are actually further deprived rather than empowered by community access to digital technology. Engaging with David Harvey’s concept ‘accumulation by dispossession’, this chapter unpacks the particular power dynamics, local hierarchies, and the politics of exclusion and inclusion along with the context-dependent nature of UDCs in community empowerment. Drawing on the study’s findings, Mohammad Sahid Ullah argues that the empowerment of rural communities is conditioned by local power hierarchies and that existing social structures need to be addressed prior to the scaling up of ICTs in development initiatives. The field data show that ICTs have the potential to enable people to participate actively in rural Bangladesh and access some government services more easily, but the overall use of the facilities by the rural poor is alarmingly low. The second part focuses on ‘Digital Inequalities in Central and Western Asia’. The opening chapter of this section is titled ‘Weaponization of Access, Communication Inequalities as a Form of Control: Case of Israel/ Palestine’ and focuses on the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory. Using secondary data to deduce results, it concludes with the identification of what practices are taken deliberately to maintain digital inequalities. Hanna Kreitem, in this chapter, looks at practices related to limiting access

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to technology and Internet in areas under occupation as a form of control, digital inequalities are induced and maintained by occupying forces to strengthen the occupation and control resistance. The data that are used in this chapter include reports and news items on practices related to technology and infrastructure, as well as studies and statistics on digital inclusion in different areas of Palestine. Israel has controlled telecommunication infrastructure in historical Palestine after inheriting the first phone infrastructure from the British mandate with its end and the establishment of Israel in 1948, and in 1967, with the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, Israel furthered its control to the infrastructure that was available there then. Over the years, Israel has extended telecommunication infrastructure over the whole area of historical Palestine, controlling also what frequencies can be used in Palestinian territory by Palestinian telecommunication providers. This chapter looks at differences and commonalities in practices taken that affect digital inequalities among the different regions, and within Israel, and compare them with indicators related to the digital divide at its three levels: access, skills, and use. The second chapter in this section focuses on ‘Digital Inequalities in CIS Countries: Updated Approach to the Analysis of Situation’. Olga Smirnova points out that the spread of digital technologies around the world places a lot of influence on social bounds and processes. This fact becomes important when it comes to the analysis of access inequality in the networked society. Smirnova underlines the existence of limitations that influence the quality of access. Some of these limitations are the consequences of rash technology development. The others are artificial, obliged, even imposed. The limitation that can influence the level and quality of Internet coverage is often connected with the motivation, aim, and outcome of its usage. Researchers are calling attention to the fact that so-called artificial limitations are mostly connected with the level and conditions of living, environment, cultural peculiarities, need in defense of societal norms, and so on. In fact, differences in access to information and computers between people are connected with personal characteristics, such as the level of income, education, profession, sex, nationality, and so on (van Dijk 2013: 29). In this context, all the characteristics bonded with national and ethno-cultural peculiarities are supposed to be really important. This chapter analyzes some data from open resources, related to the problem of the digital divide, and defines the main areas of comparative study of these data with economic, social, and cultural

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characteristics in CIS.  The CIS countries are interesting to investigate because, on the one hand, they all had a similar basic position for development based on the Soviet infrastructure. On the other hand, they have had different characteristics in socioeconomic and, more important, in cultural points that had placed a lot of influence on peculiarities and the way of development of these countries after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Finally, in this section, Duygu Özsoy and Glenn Muschert examine the attitudes, online engagement, motivation, and range of online activities among people with different digital skill levels and try to understand the reasons for these differences. The study was conducted in the Northeastern Anatolia region, which is one of Turkey’s most disadvantaged regions in terms of Internet access, use, and digital skills. ‘A Comparison of High-­ Skill and Low-Skill Internet Users in the Eastern Anatolia Region of Turkey’, by using a sample of 400 Internet users from the Northeastern Anatolia region in Turkey, examined the variety of digital skills (operational, formal, informational, and strategic) using performance test measures developed by van Deursen. Then, the authors also examined how the overall skill level of Internet use differs according to demographic characteristics (sex, age, education level, and monthly household income). While 32.3% of the participants (N = 129) failed all aspects of the skill test, 26.0% (N = 104) were successful in only one type of skill, 15.3% (N = 61) were successful in two skills, 15.8% were successful in three skills (N = 63), and 10.8% (N = 43) were successful in all four types of skills. The chapter shows how age, gender, education, and household income significantly predict the Internet skills level. The chapter explains why some people digitally engage more/less than others do and whether they are able to translate it into real benefits in everyday life. It shows how, although demographic factors explain the individualistic aspect of the matter, we also need to understand this relationship within the sociocultural context. The third section of this book focuses on digital inequalities in Africa. The first chapter in this section, written by Danica Radovanovic, Georges Vivien Houngbonon, Erwan Le Quentrec, Ghislain Maurice Norbert Isabwe, and Josef Noll, attempts to redefine digital inequalities in sub-­ Saharan Africa. ‘Digital Infrastructure Enabling Platforms for Health Information and Education in the Global South’ identifies a need for establishing the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for relevant social development criteria (such as literacies) and implementing them into sustainable infrastructures. This chapter merges the lenses of the technological infrastructure of the digital divide and addresses the need

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for the third wave of digital inequalities—through the online use parameters and metrics—KPIs to reduce the gender and digital literacy skills inequality. Authors point out how in sub-Saharan Africa the mobile network has far greater coverage than basic social infrastructures. While most areas are equipped with mobile telephony, many still lack the basic Internet access to schools and hospitals. In those areas where these infrastructures are available, nurses, doctors, and teachers are far from meeting the demand for health and education services. Several initiatives rely on digital technologies to overcome these challenges. This chapter documents how they are improving the provision of health and education in sub-Saharan Africa, by looking at several examples from Côte d’Ivoire to Madagascar, from Niger to Senegal and Tanzania. The second chapter in this section is written by Edister S.  Jamu, Tiwonge Manda, and Gowokani Chirwa. ‘Moving Beyond the Rhetoric: Who Really Benefits from Investments in Digital Infrastructure in Low Income and Low Literacy Community in Malawi?’ focuses on Malawi as a case since, as a less developed country, communities in Malawi experience telling forms of social and economic exclusion. These exclusions provide a better platform for a thorough understanding of the marginalizing nature of digital technologies. The chapter relies on the Digital Human Capital Theory (Bach et al. 2013) as a sensitizing lens. The theory, which combines and expands the concepts of human capital and knowledge economy, calls for a more rigorous and grounded response to the digital divide, making sure that communities have quality access and that they also possess the tools and skills to use the Internet for social change. The authors discuss the status of Malawi’s digital divide by scoping the country’s digital landscape in terms of digital investment and utilize multiple rounds of data from the Malawi Demographic Health Survey, Integrated Household Surveys, and Afrobarometer Surveys. Countries in the Global South, such as Malawi, which have low income levels and low digital/ICT literacy levels, need to go beyond the rhetoric of simply providing access and begin to focus on the quality and type of online engagement in assessing the contribution of digital infrastructure investment. This entails recognizing that discussion of the digital divide is a complex issue when the quality of Internet use is considered and that the real digital divide involves a schism in the intensity and nature of ICT use. The context is, therefore, a critical element to the discussion since the quantity and quality of Internet usage takes place within distinct communities, which experience distinct forms of social and economic exclusion—exclusions that exacerbate the digital divide. This

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chapter, in sum, contributes to a thorough understanding of who really benefits from investments in digital infrastructure in Malawi, a low income and low literacy country in Africa. A specific case study is the one analyzed by Isabelle A. Zaugg in the third chapter of this section. ‘Digital Inequality and Language Diversity: An Ethiopic Case Study’ analyzes that the issue of digital support for linguistic diversity particularly affects the Global South, home to the highest rates of language diversity. Digital technologies were initially developed in English-speaking contexts, and while an increasing number of languages are digitally supported, this process is largely market-driven, excluding smaller and poorer language communities. The lack of digital support for the vast majority of the world’s languages means that speakers of these languages struggle to use and fully benefit from digital technologies. In turn, as Zaugg pointed out, language communities often resort to using other more dominant or ‘prestigious’ languages for digital communication, ultimately resulting in ‘digital extinction’ or the impossibility of raising youth, who are particularly dependent upon digital communication, fluent in their mother-tongue. As such, digital technologies appear to be contributing to linguists’ prediction of a 50–90% rate of language extinction this century. Language extinction, in turn, results in communities’ loss of identity and culture and the inter-­ generational transfer of knowledge that could help to solve humanity’s challenges. This chapter, therefore, investigates the role of digital design and governance in including or excluding languages from the digital sphere, by looking at this issue through the instrumental case study of Ethiopic, an alphabet/script that supports the national language of Ethiopia, among others at risk of digital extinction. The author uses a mixed-methods approach rooted in the field of Communication, in-depth interviews with Ethiopic digital pioneers, archival research, and observation and interviews within the digital governance institutions Unicode and ISO. This chapter is built upon a theoretical framework that relies in many respects on Langdon Winner’s theory about the sociopolitical impact of technological design; Winner proposes that technologies, through their design, make some actions possible and others impossible, thus privileging some actors over others. This chapter makes a unique contribution by presenting this cross-disciplinary topic in terms, which policymakers, language advocates, digital designers, and scholars in a diverse range of fields can understand and apply. Finally, Last Moyo in his ‘The End of the Public Sphere: Social Media, Civic Virtue, and the Democratic Divide’ argues that contrary to the popular belief from cyber optimists, the

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upsurge and use of social media in Africa’s poor economies have failed to produce a robust and vibrant public sphere, as we know it (Habermas 1981). Indeed, social media have extended free expression and pluralized communicative spaces in poor societies but the twin deficits of the democratic divide and social divide have effectively undermined the emergence of a public sphere characterized by a rational and critical argument. The democratic divide is about ‘those who do, and do not use the panoply of digital resources to engage, mobilize and participate in public life’ (Norris 2001: 13). While there are always legitimate concerns about those who are unable to use digital platforms for political participation, focus must now move to those who use such platforms given their high penetration even in poor countries. The central questions in the chapter are the following: (1) To what extent is media literacy a factor in the exacerbation of the democratic divide among the users? (2) Has the proliferation of social media spaces augmented access and free expression but failed to deliver a public sphere among users in poor countries? (3) Has social media produced anarchic public spheres that are characterized by the end of critical conversations due to access by an (un) reading public? To be literate does not just mean the ability to read and write but also to be ‘present and active in the struggle to re-establish a voice, history and future’ (Giroux 2011: 65). Last Moyo uses Zimbabwe’s burgeoning Twitter sphere where so many now enjoy access, yet the benefits of critical engagement reminiscent of the public sphere appear to be in doubt if not totally absent. In short, this chapter asks, has the democratization of access to the public sphere through digital technologies been undermined by the intractable problem of the democratic divide and the literacy divide? However, it must be noted that in a country where the Internet penetration rate is so low, Twitter is essentially elite political engagement (as a result of the economic/education divide). The last section of this book focuses on ‘Digital Inequalities in South America’. This last section opens with a chapter written by Cristian Berrío-­ Zapata who analyzes how the digital integration discourse, as opposed to the digital divide narrative, collaborated to reshape the digital inequalities in the Global South. ‘The Digital Divide: Observations from the South About a Failed Dialog with the North’ revisited the few bibliometric studies produced about the digital divide that attempted to empirically identify the discourse associated with digital integration and clarified the intentions behind the massive mobilization that this idea produced during the year 2000 decade. Results are interpreted using the

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Center-­Periphery model and the Theory of Dependence to understand how the urgency for a digital integration expressed a vision of totality under the post-Fordist order, transforming it into distributed capitalism (Zuboff 2010) and a sousveillance—surveillance game (Mann et al. 2002); a techno-deterministic and hedonic narrative that became the ‘final solution’ to the inequalities between the North and the South and within the South. Which role did digital technologies play for basic needs in the Global South such as health and education, production activities such as agriculture, job opportunities, and economic growth, and political processes such as activism, civic participation, and conflict prevention? The chapter examines several examples in Latin American countries such as Brazil, Colombia, Chile, and Mexico. Have marginalized communities taken advantage of these opportunities in the South? Who benefits from the development of digital technologies? How this will have an effect on Sustainable Development for the South? This chapter gave a succinct view of this debate in Latin America. Alejandra García Vargas, Laura Golovanevsky, and María Rosa Chachagua, in the following chapter, investigate the role the development of digital technologies plays in education and what has been done so far and what could be done in the near future to bridge digital inequalities in the Global South. ‘Social Inequality, Technological Inequality and Educational Heterogeneity in the Light of the Conectar Igualdad OLPC Program (Salta, Argentina)’ bridges both questions in order to answer them via quantitative and qualitative data produced in a research project conducted in a specific context and according to a specific educative policy: the Conectar Igualdad Programme (CIP) as a social policy applied in an urban and a rural secondary school located in Salta (Argentina). In this way, this case study allows us to generate evidence on digital-inequality issues facing adolescent citizens among marginalized communities and promotes evidence-­informed policy change for the improvement of the access, the use, and the implementation of ICTs for educational, social, and cultural development (van Dijk 2005). Both in Latin America and in Argentina, inequality is a historical and severe structural condition (Kessler 2010). In turn, the social uses of technology constitute an important field of debate in the area and the technological equity conditions during childhood and adolescence are part of most of the political and educational agendas of the countries that are part of Latin America (Becerra 2015; Reygadas 2008; Rivoir 2009). The concern is repeated, as well, in the public discussions at local and national levels (Morales 2015). In that context, this chapter is set to describe the

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situation in Argentina in the same way it is introduced when questions are asked on the basis of the analysis of the implementation of the CIP both in a rural and an urban secondary school from the province of Salta (Benitez Larghi and Winocur 2016). The authors of this chapter posed important questions, and they invite us to reflect upon them. What features does inequality acquire when questions are asked on the grounds of educational policies aimed at digital equity? To what extent is technological inequity part of wide and historical geographies of social inclusion/ exclusion? How do digital inequalities relate to the public education system and to what extent do they impact the living conditions of the youth in diverse Latin American contexts? What is the role of the dissemination and gap-reduction public policies in the historically most disadvantaged areas? Alejandra García Vargas, Laura Golovanevsky, and María Rosa Chachagua believe that answers to these questions are to be found in specific educational and social contexts. Such contexts are composed, among other elements, by the materiality of the technologies that allow the production, circulation, and recognition of symbolic forms, which are relatively stabilized through various technical means. Their analysis indicates that technological dissemination policies developed in Argentina, especially the CIP, seem to have had a relevant impact on the educational system, accompanying a general ICTs’ broadcast process. They conclude by underlining how the availability of a specific device incipiently reduces the structural fragmentation between incipiently connected and disconnected people, while it solves neither the connectivity issue nor those issues derived from digital literacy processes and the social uses of such technologies. Finally, Nova Gordon-Bell wrote a chapter titled ‘Afro-Creole Nationalism and the Maintenance of the Digital Divide. The Case of Jamaica’. The English-speaking Caribbean is nearly saturated with access to mobile telephony and Internet access is dramatically increasing but the promised economic and social transformations are not yet in evidence. Calls for regional policy-makers to implement informed and appropriate processes of technology transfer, acquisition, and deployment continue to challenge conventional perspectives that unproblematically link development to the acquisition of technological innovations from the North. Without policies that take into account global economic and political systems and local arrangements that work in tandem with these systems, the transfer of digital technologies to developing societies exacerbates inequality and dispossession. With specific reference to Jamaica, this chapter examines the work of Caribbean researchers and theorists to identify

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where their perspectives on Jamaica’s pervasive phenomenon of inequality intersect and provide insight into the factors restricting the country’s ability to benefit from digital technologies. To this end, the chapter applies conceptual frameworks provided by the post-colonial theory and, in particular, Hintzen’s articulation of the concept of Afro-Creole Nationalism (1997) to the analysis of Jamaica’s complex institutional landscape. The chapter maps the transition from colonial domination into new—more efficient—systems of economic exploitation that restrict the island’s ability to benefit from its vast cultural resources and the opportunities digital technologies provide for these resources. The chapter demonstrates how the homogenizing concept of nationalism facilitates continued exploitation of the island’s predominantly black Creole-speaking population, legitimizes internal inequalities, and affirms the ‘natural leadership’ of a local Anglophone Afro-Creole middle-­class oligarchy. This is central to understanding the ideological and discursive contribution the island’s institutions make to Jamaica’s pervasive system of inequality. While the primary lens for analysis is drawn from post-colonial theory, this chapter engages the contributions of other regional researchers—development theorists, social and political scientists, communication researchers, and so on—for the empirical evidence and illustration they provide of the link between the island’s history of inequity and the modern workings of AfroCreole nationalism. Researchers repeatedly identify policy change as necessary to break the cycle of inequality and economic stagnation that underwrites inequality in Jamaica. Dunn (2009), a leading researcher on ICTs and telecommunication in the region, persists in advocacy for policy changes that recognize the initiative and essential entrepreneurial skills of the marginalized majority and work to facilitate this indigenous energy. The chapter concludes that the decolonization of scholarship in the region is central to countering, which Sankatsing describes as envelopment. Envelopment masquerades as development and locates our societies as ‘trailer societies’. Without the five discursive requirements for development—context, culture, evolution, internal social dynamism, and history—our institutions for knowledge generation will not be able to respond meaningfully to the conditions of our existence. Finally, we want to reiterate how this book questions the assumptions of development and progress that underlie the discourse on digital technologies as a panacea for solving poverty and shrinking inequalities. Authors contributing to this edited collection have investigated how different axes of power and privilege—income, ethnicity, age, gender—are intertwined with digital inequalities. Digital Inequalities in the Global

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South presents in a single volume some of the most important case studies from the Global South, with authors from all over the Global South. The distinctive focus for this volume is the engagement with digital inequalities, articulating what explicitly different countries in the Global South are offering (if any) in contrasting this current phenomenon. The final aim of this book is to stimulate innovative ways to study digital and social inequalities in developing countries by stressing how these inequalities, if not addressed, slow the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Our goal is to connect this collection with a critical review of inequalities that may interact with and have some impact on the 2030 agenda and SDGs, and to engage with the wider country-­ level indicators trying to assess progress made to SDG ICT targets.

References Bach, A., Shaffer, G., & Wolfson, T. (2013). Digital Human Capital: Developing a Framework for Understanding the Economic Impact of Digital Exclusion in Low-Income Communities. Journal of Information Policy, 3, 247–266. Becerra, M. (2015). De la concentración a la convergencia. Políticas de medios en Argentina y América Latina. Buenos Aires: Paidós. Benitez Larghi, S., & Winocur, R. (2016). Inclusión digital. Una mirada crítica sobre la evaluación del Modelo Uno a Uno en Latinoamérica. Buenos Aires: Teseo. Boas, T., Dunning, T., & Bussell, J. (2005). Will the Digital Revolution Revelutionalize Development? Drawing Together the Debate. Studies in Comparative International Development, 40(2), 95–110. Chen, W. (2013). The Implications of Social Capital for the Digital Divides in America. The Information Society, 29(1): 13–25. Retrieved https://ojs.library. queensu.ca/index.php/surveillance-and-society/article/view/3344/3306. July 2019. Dunn, H. (2009). Teleworking the mobile Caribbean: Enabling remote work among the marginalized in Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago. Information Technologies and International Development, 5(2), 52–66. Giroux, H. (2011). Critical Pedagogy. New York: Bloomsbury. Habermas, J. (1981). The Theory of Communicative Action. Vol. 1: Reason and the Realization of Society. Boston: Beacon Press. Hintzen, P. C. (1997). Reproducing domination, identity and legitimacy constructs in the West Indies. Social Identities: Journal for the Study of Race, Nation and Culture, 3(1), 47–76. Hussain, O. (2017). Pakistan Is One of Asia’s Fast Growing Internet-Markets. Available at https://www.techinasia.com/pakistan-digital-landscape-2016 Karan, P., Zuberi, M., Proud, R., & Rose, L. E. (2018). Nepal. The Encyclopaedia Britannica. Available at https://www.britannica.com/place/Nepal

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Kessler, G. (2010). Exclusión social y desigualdad ¿nociones útiles para pensar la estructura social Argentina? Laboratorio Revista de Estudios sobre Cambio Estructural y Desigualdad Social, 24. Layne, K., & Lee, J. (2001) Developing fully functional E-government: A four stage model. Government Information Quarterly, 18(2), 122–136. Mahler, A. G. (2015). The Global South in the Belly of the Beast: Viewing African American Civil Rights Through a Tricontinental Lens. Latin American Research Review, 50(1), 95–116. Mann, S., Nolan, J., & Wellman, B. (2002). Sousveillance: Inventing and Using Wearable Computing Devices for Data Collection in Surveillance Environments. Surveillance & Society, 1(3), 331–355. Morales, S. (2015). La apropiación tecno-mediática: acciones y desafíos de las políticas públicas en educación. In Lago Martínez, S. (coord.), De tecnologías digitales, educación formal y políticas públicas. Aportes al debate (pp.  27–52). Buenos Aires: Teseo. Nepal Telecommunications Authority. (2018). MIS Report (16 December 2017–14 January 2018). Available at https://nta.gov.np/wp-content/uploads/ 2018/04/poush-2074.pdf Norris, P. (2001). Digital Divide: Civic Engagement, Information Poverty and the Internet in Democratic Societies. New York: Cambridge University Press. Ragnedda, M. (2017). The Third Digital Divide: A Weberian Approach to Digital Inequalities. London: Routledge. Reygadas, L. (2008). La apropiación. Destejiendo las redes de la desigualdad. México: Anthropos. Rivoir, A. (2009). Las políticas para la Sociedad de la Información y el Conocimiento en América Latina. Desde una mirada tecnologicista a un enfoque para el complejo. In The XXVII Congress of the Latin American Association of Sociology and VIII Conference of Sociology of the University of Buenos Aires. Asociación Latinoamericana de Sociología, Buenos Aires. Van Deursen, A., & Helsper, E. (2015). The Third-Level Digital Divide: Who Benefits Most from Being Online? In Communication and Information Technologies Annual (pp. 29–52). Bingley: Emerald. van Dijk, J. (2005). The Deepening Divide: Inequality in the Information Society. Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications. van Dijk, J. (2013). A Theory of Digital Divide. In M. Ragnedda & G. W. Muschert (Eds.), The Digital Divide. The Internet and Social Inequality in International Perspective. Oxford, Routledge. Warshauer, M. (2004). Technology and Social Inclusion: Rethinking the Digital Divide. London: The MIT Press. Zuboff, S. (2010). Creating Value in the Age of Distributed Capitalism. McKinsey Quarterly, 4: 45–55. Retrieved from https://www.hbs.edu/ faculty/Publication%20Files/McKinsey%20PDF_5e1ef901-e9bc-4ea9bacc-6f5c18fb342f.pdf. July 2019.

CHAPTER 2

Understanding Digital Inequalities in the Global South Massimo Ragnedda and Anna Gladkova

Introduction Inequalities should be approached not as a one-sided phenomenon but rather as a multilayer and multifaceted one, embracing many different kinds of divisions and divides. It is evident that although democratic constitutions across the world clearly articulate everyone’s right to equality (equal opportunities for development, participation in the life of the society, self-expression, equal rights, freedoms, access abilities, equal treatment, etc.), some people are still held back against others because of their gender, ethnicity, social status, class, wealth, income, location and many other factors. This is reflected, for instance, in economic inequalities (different income, pay and wealth people may possess), social inequalities (different opportunities, goods and life chances for different social groups),

M. Ragnedda (*) Northumbria University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK e-mail: [email protected] A. Gladkova Faculty of Journalism, Lomonosov Moscow State University, Moscow, Russia © The Author(s) 2020 M. Ragnedda, A. Gladkova (eds.), Digital Inequalities in the Global South, Global Transformations in Media and Communication Research - A Palgrave and IAMCR Series, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-32706-4_2

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cultural inequalities (different culture tastes, practices and participation), inequalities in media that can create exclusion and endanger social cohesion and, of course, in digital inequalities that are an inevitable challenge of the modern digitalized and globalized world. Many forms of inequality evolved over time. Some of them have survived the transition from the traditional to the digital regime (e.g. ownership concentration, control of a very few companies over large numbers of customers, gender gaps and knowledge gaps), and some have diminished or decreased in importance along the way (access to information and voice). Scholars argue that in the digital regime, some types of inequality are aggravated (e.g. power shared by an extremely small number of actors worldwide), while some are new (algorithmic filtering and selection, big data, surveillance and social scoring) (Trappel 2019). In this book, we address digital inequalities as part of a bigger phenomenon of inequalities and discuss how digital inequalities in the Global South contribute to creating and/or reducing other types of inequalities. Furthermore, we examine the role digital technologies, the Internet and information and communications technologies (ICTs) play in existing digital divides in the Global South, which, in turn, are also subject to thoughtful reconsideration today (moving on from pure access problems to inequalities in benefits and life chances in the digitized world).

Mapping the Three Levels of the Digital Divide The phenomenon of digital inequalities has received extensive coverage in academic literature across the world by now. Works by van Dijk (2005, 2006), Castells (2001, 2009), Norris (2001), Hargittai (2002), Sparks (2013), Ragnedda and Muschert (2013), Ragnedda (2017, 2018), van Deursen and van Dijk (2018), Nieminen (2016) and many others discuss the problem of unequal access to the Internet and digital technologies in different parts and regions of the world. A divide between ‘information poor’ and ‘information rich’ people (e.g. Feather 2004), those who are included in the process of global technological development and those excluded from it due to the uneven access to ICTs and uneven infrastructure development has been the central point in academic discussion at the initial stage of digital divide studies (e.g. Hoffman and Novak 1998; Katz and Aspden 1997). Research of that period focused on the physical and material access problem, examining the number of Internet users in different countries and regions of the world, Internet penetration rates

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(broadband and mobile), average cost of Internet access, connection speed and other measurable indicators. These inequalities in accessing the Internet marked the first level of the digital divide that focused primarily on access/ICT availability issues and did not go that deeply into analyzing how these technological inequalities may affect social inequalities. As time passed, the analysis of digital inequalities was noticeably developed and enriched by embracing social divides into an ongoing discussion on digital divides. The focus of research became broader: scholars started to approach the digital divide as a complex, multilayer and cross-disciplinary phenomenon that was analyzed through the prism of sociology, political and economic studies, anthropology, media and communication studies, gender studies and other areas of research (e.g. Compaine 2001; Vartanova 2018), without being limited just to the access problem. A new line of research, known today as the second level of the digital divide, attempted to give reasoning to why people do or do not use technologies provided that they have access to them. Among many reasons why this may not happen, sociodemographic factors (age, gender, ethnicity, etc.), level of income or education, lack of motivation or need to use the technologies were listed (e.g. Hargittai and Hinnant 2008; Hilbert 2011; Van Dijk and Hacker 2003; Wei 2012; Yang and Grabe 2011; Zillien and Hargittai 2009). Following up on this, several empirical and theoretical approaches have been developed and discussed. Scholars (e.g. Acharya 2017; Dahlberg 2015; Ragnedda 2017, 2018; Vartanova and Gladkova 2019; van Deursen and van Dijk 2018) approached the digital divide as both a technological (i.e. presence or lack of access to the Internet and ICTs, together with digital skills to use these technologies) and a social problem. They discussed correlations between age (e.g. Israelashvili et  al. 2012; Zherebin and Makhrova 2015), gender (e.g. Smirnova 2009; Davaki 2018) factors, the level of education (e.g. Alam et al. 2009; Avila 2009), income (e.g. Barrantes and Galperin 2008) and personal motivation of users (e.g. van Dijk 2013) on the one hand and the level of access to ICTs as well as the level of digital skills to use them for professional and personal reasons on the other (e.g. Compaine 2001; Nieminen 2016; Park 2017; Wessels 2013). Finally, recently a number of scholars (e.g. Ragnedda 2018; van Deursen and Helsper 2015; van Deursen and van Dijk 2018) have been analyzing the third level of the digital divide, namely, the relation between the use of digital technologies and the benefits (also defined as ‘tangible outcomes’) such use can provide to people. The third level of the digital divide is related to uneven capacities to capitalize on the access and use of

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ICTs and transform it into tangible and concrete outcomes. Ideally, such an analysis should focus on externally observable outcomes obtained through the use of ICTs (e.g. better job, better salary and new friendships). Furthermore, inequalities in benefits include different capacities and possibilities to reinvest digital resources into the social realm, improving one’s class position, enhancing self-esteem by using ICTs, improving an individual’s life chances and so on (Ragnedda 2018), which also stresses the social character of the digital divide problem that is being empathized today. Interestingly, despite the fact that this multilevel approach to the study of digital inequalities has been widely used by scholars in the West since the early 2000s (e.g. Attewell 2001; DiMaggio and Hargittai 2001; Gunkel 2003; Hargittai 2002; van Dijk 2005, 2006; Warschauer 2002, 2004; Ragnedda 2017, 2018; Ragnedda and Kreitem 2018; Ragnedda et al. 2019; van Deursen and van Dijk 2014, 2018), it has not so far been used for the study of the digital divide in the Global South. So far, the works using this approach focused primarily on the first or second levels of the digital divide and do not provide broader, three-level coverage of digital inequalities in the underdeveloped areas of the world. However, this three-level approach may provide a multifaceted coverage of digital inequalities in the Global South that is not limited to the study of the access problem only, as in most previous studies on the digital divide in these areas of the world, but it looks also at the other aspects of digital inequalities, such as inequalities in using, in competences/skills and in the benefits users may gain from ICTs.

Digital Inequalities in the Global Context A typical feature of current studies of digital inequalities is the attention to the representation of the digital divide in various national contexts. Scholars argue that different levels of socioeconomic development may lead to inequalities in access to and skills in using ICTs across the world (e.g. Ragnedda and Muschert 2013; Nieminen 2016; Rainie 2016; Vartanova and Gladkova 2019). In this vein, continuing the discussion about the ‘Global digital divide’ (e.g. Norris 2001; Attewell 2001), scholars underline inequalities between the Global North and the Global South (e.g. Servaes and Carpentier 2006), and developed and developing countries (e.g. Norris 2001; Ragnedda and Muschert 2013), as well as between particular countries of the same region of the world based on

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social, demographic, cultural, economic, political and geographic factors typical for these countries (e.g. Smirnova 2017a, b; Deviatko 2013; Fuchs and Novak 2008; Ragnedda and Kreitem 2018). Current publications on the digital divide across the world can be roughly divided into several thematic blocks by a geographical principle— research focusing on highly developed regions (including European countries and the U.S.); on Arab and Middle Eastern nations (including Egypt, Iran and Israel); on BRICS countries (including Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), sometimes also defined as ‘Emerging States’ (e.g. Jaffrelot 2009) together with a number of other countries; and on areas that have been under-studied in regard to the digital divide problem (including East and Central Asia, Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa). In each group of these country-based studies, digital inequalities are usually approached as a complex, multidimensional phenomenon, embracing technological, cultural, economic, social and other dimensions and not being limited to just computer/ICT access. Scholars show how the remaining digital gap is affecting communication across cultural and ethnic groups and how digital inequalities in access and skills (e.g. Norris 2001; Attewell 2001; Hargittai 2002; van Dijk 2013) are developing into social inequalities (e.g. van Deursen and van Dijk 2014; Ragnedda 2017; Vartanova 2018) across the globe. It is clear, at the same time, that some countries have received more extensive coverage in academic literature in regard to the digital divide issues, particularly European countries and the U.S., while some countries where the digital divide is still a serious problem (some African countries, Latin America, Commonwealth of Independent States or CIS countries and other areas) have been less frequently addressed in academic discussion worldwide. When discussing digital divide issues in European countries and in the U.S., scholars pay attention not only to the problem of allowing universal access to computers and Internet connections, which is still an unachieved goal (e.g. van Dijk 2008), but also to the factors that circle around and oftentimes go together with the access issue. Among such factors are gaps in digital literacy, online skills and behavior of users, practices of Internet use and the benefits thereof, various policies aimed at overcoming digital inequalities (e.g. Bauer 2016; Hargittai and Dobransky 2017; Trappel 2019) and many other issues. Scholars show that despite overall high number of Internet penetration, Internet audience numbers, connection speed, digital literacy and digital opportunity indexes and so on in Europe and in the U.S., inequalities in the availability and use of technological

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means are still present there, especially if we compare some Western and Eastern European countries or Northern and Southern regions. In addition to that, scholars argue that the ability to acquire, process and transmit information has become central to individual happiness, success and social mobility (Warf 2017), thus stressing the third level of the digital divide and its manifestations in American and European societies. Technological inequalities may, in the course of time, lead to social inequalities across Europe and the U.S. (e.g. Ragnedda and Muschert 2013), as well as inequalities of representation of various cultural and social groups in the new digital environment (e.g. Balčytienė and Juraitė 2019), which can be a potential threat for democratic societies. In this case, cross-national case studies (e.g. Boje et  al. 2006; Azzolini and Schizzerotto 2017; Ragnedda and Kreitem 2018; Cruz-Jesus et al. 2018) allow to compare several countries in the European space in regard to all three levels of the digital divide and reveal similarities and differences between them. Moving on from European nations and the U.S. to the ‘Emerging States’, which are fast becoming important players on the international stage (Jaffrelot 2009), scholars show how the historical path of ‘Emerging States’ (first and foremost BRICS countries), accompanied by major social and political transformations, territorial shifts and changes of political regimes, as well as the growing presence of these countries in the global economy, politics, culture and communication, defined as ‘the rise of “rest”’ (Amsden 2001), make them an interesting case to study also in regard to digital inequalities. Given the unique historical path of the ‘Emerging States’ development, their political, social and cultural legacy and national specifics, vast territories, high population numbers, frequent disparities in infrastructure availability and other factors, scholars often tend to approach these regions differently, using instead of a ‘Western’ perspective a more regional/country-focused one (e.g. Nordenstreng et  al. 2002; Vartanova 2012). Scholars show how social, political, economic, technological and cultural transformations ‘Emerging States’ evolved in twenty and twenty-first centuries influenced access to ICTs and their overall availability in these countries (e.g. Vartanova 2012), as well as the impact these major events had upon the Internet penetration and digital literacy of users (e.g. Cruz-Jesus et al. 2018). Furthermore, research on ‘Emerging States’ examine changes enabled and intensified by the overall spread of ICTs in the world, including the rise of the digital divide

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and digital exclusion (e.g. Lin et al. 2018), which are still serious issues in BRICS and other countries of the ‘Emerging States’ group. A separate, important group of countries that has been in the spotlight of digital divide scholars includes countries of the post-Soviet space. Publications on Russia (e.g. Vartanova 2002; Deviatko 2013; Gladkova et al. 2019), Baltic countries (e.g. Kalvet 2005; Feijoo et al. 2006), Eastern Europe (e.g. Ragnedda and Kreitem 2018), Transcaucasia (e.g. Pearce 2012), Central Asia (e.g. Smirnova 2017a, b; Menkhoff et al. 2011) and other regions show how digital technologies have been developing in these areas before and after the Soviet Union break up. An important accent in these publications is often made on the role of ICTs and digital technologies for the development of the Information Society in areas under discussion, and on the way social inequalities are intertwined with remaining technological inequalities in the post-Soviet landscape. Research on the digital divide in Arab and Middle Eastern nations has addressed a number of issues that are not limited to a simple dichotomy of having or lacking access to the Internet and digital technologies either. Emphasizing the prevailing gaps between countries within the Arab world (e.g. Fatma 2014), scholars widely discuss the role of the Internet and ICTs in ongoing political processes and elections in the region (e.g. Lev-On 2013; Xavier and Campbell 2014), current challenges and prospects of e-Government initiatives implementation in developing countries of the Arab world as compared to successful stories of the developed regions (e.g. Forti et  al. 2014), the way Internet and digital technologies can positively influence the educational system in Arab countries (e.g. Fatma 2014) and many other issues. A number of attempts have also been made to measure the digital divide in Arab countries, particularly related to the urban/rural gap between citizens, including, for example, a study on Egypt (e.g. Badran 2014a), and to discuss how ICT can contribute to gender equality and women empowerment in the Arab world (e.g. Badran 2014b). The areas that have been relatively under-studied in regard to the digital divide problem include African countries, Latin America, some East and Central Asian nations and so on. Although the digital gap across various social, economic, cultural, ethnic and linguistic groups in these areas is nowadays still visible, particularly compared to Europe or the U.S., the number of studies examining current digital inequalities there is, at the same time, lower. If we look at publications on these countries, the central points for discussion in most cases would be related to the first or second

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levels of the digital divide, that is, access and digital competences/Internet use issues (e.g. Gray et al. 2016). Still, countries of those regions (many of them belonging to the Global South group) are certainly not homogeneous. In this vein, scholars discuss how current socioeconomic and political conditions, in particular, countries of Africa, Latin America and Asia, tend to reinforce or decrease digital inequalities there (e.g. Mutsvairo and Ragnedda 2019), how different policy measures help in overcoming digital gaps in the Global South (e.g. Abraham 2018) and how the use of the Internet can have a positive effect upon the political engagement of users, broader social inclusion (Ragnedda and Ruiu 2017) and other factors attributed to the third level of the digital divide (e.g. Ragnedda 2017; Watermeyer and Goggin 2018). All in all, regardless of differences in approaches, the theoretical paradigms of studies, data and sources used, national specifics and other factors, all scholars more or less agree that today limiting the digital divide to the dichotomic differences between those who have access and those who are excluded from the digital realm is insufficient to understand the social, economic and cultural consequences of digital inequalities (e.g. DiMaggio et  al. 2001). Digital inequalities represent a complex phenomenon that cannot be analyzed only from a single angle (access). Other factors such as inequalities in using ICTs and inequalities in the rewards and social benefits users earn from accessing the Internet contribute to an overall understanding of the digital divide and should be, therefore, considered as well when speaking of digital gaps in the society today. We should also keep in mind that the impact of geopolitical, social, cultural factors, specifics of state regulation and media policy, and ethnic, linguistic and cultural profiles of the societies upon the digital and social divides in different regions of the world (as well as the digital skills of citizens to actually use these technologies) is not the same. Global South countries-based studies allow for a deeper understanding of the digital inequalities problem, in general, and its representation in certain national contexts, in particular. These countries, more than others, show how the disparities in the social realm are mirrored and reproduced in the digital realm, which, in turn, can also have an impact upon the benefits people are gaining through Internet access.

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Conclusion Digital inequalities remain a vital topic at the center of not only academic discussion but also policymakers’ concerns. In fact, inequalities in the way citizens access and use the Internet are clearly related to inequalities in tangible outcomes and social rewards, further reinforcing social inequalities. Social and digital inequalities are strongly interconnected and tend to reinforce each other. This sounds particularly true for the Global South, where inequalities in accessing and using the Internet are more evident than in the Global North, where the first level of the digital divide has been almost bridged. In more advanced countries in the world, almost everyone is able to access and use the Internet, although inequalities in terms of uses and benefits citizens get by using the Internet are still present there. In the Global South, however, strong forms of inequalities still exist in terms of technological access. These inequalities in accessing and using the Internet are related to the main axis of social inequalities such as gender, income, education and age. Those who are in privileged positions in societies are also those, thanks to higher income or social position, who are using the Internet, getting more skills and rewards, consequently improving their life chances. Therefore, those already marginalized are those who suffer the most from the advent of technologies. However, a lot is being done to address these forms of inequalities. Policymakers in several areas of the world, following suggestions coming from academia, are attempting to bridge the digital divide by investing in digital inclusion programs. More specifically, there are plenty of examples (and the following chapters will prove this statement) of governments in the Global South that are investing in infrastructure (thus eliminating the first level of the digital divide) and in digital literacy and digital skills (thus reducing the second level of the digital divide). However, there is still much that needs to be done to reduce social inequalities caused by digital disparities between countries and regions of the world.

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Vartanova, E. (2002). The Digital Divide and the Changing Political/Media Environment of Post-Socialist Europe. Gazette: The International Journal for Communication Studies, 64(5), 449–465. Vartanova, E. (2012). The Russian Media Model in the Context of Post-Soviet Dynamics. In D.  C. Hallin & P.  Mancini (Eds.), Comparing Media Systems Beyond the Western World. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Vartanova, E. (2018). Kontseptualisatsiya tsifrovogo neravenstva: osnovnye etapy [Conceptualizing Digital Divide: Main Stages]. MediaAlmanah, 5, 8–12. Vartanova, E., & Gladkova, A. (2019). New Forms of the Digital Divide. In J. Trappel (Ed.), Digital Media Inequalities: Policies Against Divides, Distrust and Discrimination. Göteborg: Nordicom. Warf, B. (2017). Digital Divides in the Twenty-First Century United States. In Geographies of Digital Culture (pp. 115–130). Berlin: Springer. Warschauer, M. (2002). Reconceptualising the Digital Divide. First Monday, 7(7). Retrieved from http://www.firstmonday.org/issues/issue7_7/warschauer/ Warschauer, M. (2004). Technology and Social Inclusion: Rethinking the Digital Divide. London: The MIT Press. Watermeyer, B., & Goggin, G. (2018). Digital Citizenship in the Global South: ‘Cool Stuff for Other People?’. In B. Watermeyer, J. McKenzie, & L. Swartz (Eds.), The Palgrave Handbook of Disability and Citizenship in the Global South. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan. Wei, L. (2012). Number Matters: The Multimodality of Internet Use as an Indicator of the Digital Inequalities. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 17(3), 303–318. Wessels, B. (2013). The Reproduction and Reconfiguration of Inequality: Differentiation and Class, Status and Power in the Dynamics of Digital Divides. In M, Ragnedda, & G. Muschert (Eds.), The Digital Divide: The Internet and Social Inequality in International Perspective. Routledge. Xavier, R. F., & Campbell, D. F. J. (2014). The Effects of Cyberdemocracy on the Middle East: Egypt and Iran. In E.  G. Carayannis, D.  F. J.  Campbell, & M. P. Efthymiopoulos (Eds.), Cyber-Development, Cyber-Democracy and Cyber-­ Defense. Challenges, Opportunities and Implications for Theory, Policy and Practice (pp. 147–173). New York/Heidelberg/Dordrecht/London: Springer. Yang, J.-A., & Grabe, M. E. (2011). Knowledge Acquisition Gaps: A Comparison of Print Versus Online News Sources. New Media & Society, 13(8), 1211–1227. Zherebin, V., & Makhrova, O. (2015). Tsifrovoi raskol mezhdu pokeleniyami [Digital Divide Between Generations]. Finansy, ekonomika, strategiya, 4, 5–9. Zillien, N., & Hargittai, E. (2009). Digital Distinction: Status-Specific Types of Internet Usage. Social Science Quarterly, 90(2), 274–91.

SECTION I

Digital Inequalities in South Asia

CHAPTER 3

Impacts of the Digital Divide on the E-government Portals of Nepal Bhanu Bhakta Acharya

Introduction Each of the 193 United Nations (UN) member countries across the globe has been working to transform the traditional modes of service delivery (e.g. physical office, mail delivery, and telephone service) into the digital modes to provide effective and efficient services and create more opportunities for citizens and service recipients (UN Survey 2018). Nepal, one of the UN member states, is working to develop an effective e-government platform—an online portal on which government services are available to be used by the general public—to offer timely, cost-­ effective, and transparent government service delivery through online channels. Nepal is a landlocked developing country that is sandwiched between India and China. Nepal has an area of 147,181 square kilometers and a population of twenty-nine million (Karan et  al. 2018). Since 2015, the country has employed a federal structure with three levels of governance: B. B. Acharya (*) University of Ottawa, Ottawa, ON, Canada e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2020 M. Ragnedda, A. Gladkova (eds.), Digital Inequalities in the Global South, Global Transformations in Media and Communication Research - A Palgrave and IAMCR Series, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-32706-4_3

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federal, provincial, and local. In addition to the central federal government, Nepal has 7 provincial governments and 753 local government units comprising 6 metropolitan cities, 11 sub-metropolitan cities, 276 city municipalities, and 460 rural municipalities (THT Online 2018). Over the last three decades, Nepal has experienced a tumultuous history of political instability (Karan et al. 2018). During that time, Nepal restored multiparty democracy with a constitutional monarchy in 1990, ended a decade-long armed conflict between the government and the Maoists in 2006, endured the direct rule of former King Gyanendra from 2004 to 2006, transitioned from the constitutional monarchy to a federal republic nation in 2008, and constituted a stable government with a twothirds majority in the parliament in 2015 (Shakya 2017). Despite these political ups and downs, the information and communication technology (ICT) sector developed rapidly throughout this transition by expanding mobile phone networks and Internet services across the country (Regmi 2017; Shakya 2017). Specifically, the Nepal Telecommunications Company Limited, a government agency, was transferred as a public company— Nepal Telecom in 2004. In the same year, a private telephone company, Spice Nepal, was also founded and renamed as “Ncell” in 2012. Both of these companies poured huge investments into telephone infrastructure development, resulting in a massive competition between them with regard to service offerings and nationwide coverage (Regmi 2017; Shakya 2017). Currently, these companies are working to establish and expand 4G cellular networks across the country. One of the major priorities of major Nepalese political parties during the 2017 parliamentary election campaign was to transform Nepal into a digital nation by building several smart cities, making free Wi-Fi available across cities, developing digital infrastructure, and delivering government services and opportunities online (Bhattarai 2017, 2018). Previously, general ICT policies (i.e. E-Government Master Plan 2006; IT Policy 2000, 2010; National Information and Communication Technology Policy 2015) were issued by government agencies but the ICT sector, as a whole, was not introduced as a significant contributor to the national economy. To transform election promises of becoming a digital nation into reality, the current government, with a two-thirds majority in the parliament, launched the “Digital Nepal” program in 2018, which aims to deliver government services through the Internet, maintain transparency and efficiency in service delivery, explore innovative ways to address social challenges (such as illiteracy), and contribute in the national economy (Dixit

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2018; Digital Nepal 2018). Although all national, provincial, and local government bodies have been gradually moving toward e-government platforms, the digital divide has seriously challenged the e-government service delivery owing to poor infrastructure (including poorly developed government websites), people’s ability to access and use government services available online (Basyal and Seo 2016; Regmi 2017; Shakya 2017). Regmi (2017) maintains that Nepal’s e-government policy is more ambitious than its reality of poor infrastructure, users’ inability (due to low income and other factors) to purchase the ICT devices, and the available opportunities on e-government websites. Most e-government studies on Nepal are focused on hardware-related infrastructure, such as electricity, Internet network, speed and coverage, ICT, and users’ ability to access these hardware tools (see Basyal and Seo 2016; Regmi 2017; Rupakhetee and Heshmati 2011; Shakya 2017; UN Survey 2018). This study, however, focuses on the viability of Nepal’s e-government portals to deliver quality service, which involves providing updated information, offering relevant documents, facilitating interactivity features, financial transactional activities, data sharing, information privacy, integrated service delivery, customized web environment, and one-stop shop, among others. To the best of my knowledge, there are very limited studies (see, for instance, Basyal and Seo 2016; Regmi 2017; Shakya 2017) available related to the ability of government agencies to deliver services they offer to the public through digital platforms. In the context of the government’s ambitious “Digital Nepal” program without having strong digital infrastructure (see Shakya 2017), this study is important to help stakeholders (including the general public, government agencies, and policy makers) realize that access to poorly developed government websites is neither effectively able to deliver government services nor motivate the general public to improve their ICT skills in accessing and using e-government services. In this chapter, the researcher argues that the efforts of Nepal’s government in service delivery through digital platforms are seriously inadequate and underdeveloped and that Nepal’s e-government program is affected by the digital divide. In the following section, a review of relevant literature is presented to outline the notion of the digital divide and e-government and present a brief overview of ICT development in Nepal. In the fourth section, a conventional content analysis method is employed to observe twenty-two ministry-level websites of the federal Government of Nepal (GoN) and present the findings of the websites’ observations. In

36 

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the final section, the findings from the perspective of Layne and Lee’s (2001) four-stage model of e-government development are presented, and the chapter is concluded with a brief summary of the study.

Concepts of E-government and Digital Divide E-government refers to the use of ICT, particularly the Internet, to improve public services, democratic processes, and public policies (UN Survey 2018; West 2004). It is still considered a new phenomenon, though several countries have begun experimenting with, and possibly deploying, limited e-government projects, aiming to improve their service and outreach to the public (UN Survey 2018). E-government programs are interactive, citizen-centric, available 24/7, and carry a lower administrative cost than traditional physical offices (Layne and Lee 2001). E-government connects citizens to government agencies, and it increases their participation in government activities. E-government also facilitates digital interactions and information and service deliveries between citizens, the government, and government agencies using the Internet and ICT devices (Reddick and Turner 2012; Roman 2013; World Bank 2018). E-government platforms allow people to access a number of services, making it easy for them to interact with government officials, staff, and other stakeholders and get immediate responses to public queries (Conteh and Smith 2015). West (2004) explains that e-government programs are part of a larger initiative to achieve good governance, elaborating that there must be a strategy, a vision, and an objective before beginning implementation for the initiative to function properly. Because of the improved system responsiveness and high level of citizen participation, e-government offers the potential to “lead toward a more responsible, accountable, efficient and effective governance” and “considerable financial savings as a result of digitally-based operational efficiency” (Roman 2013: 137–138). In essence, a fully functional e-government system can inform citizens, encourage them to participate in government activities, and consult them in the decision-making process (Conteh and Smith 2015; World Bank 2015). An ideal e-government provides the public with a collaborative and empowering environment so that citizens can be fully involved and use integrated services (vertically and horizontally) available on various digital platforms. In other words, a fully functional e-government program offers digital platforms that are politics-free, cost-saving, transparent, broadly

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engaging to a large public, accessible from anywhere, and available any time (Conteh and Smith 2015; Layne and Lee 2001; Reddick and Turner 2012; Roman 2013). These potential advantages of using e-government, according to Stoiciu (2011), can motivate users to enhance their ICT-­ handling capacity and narrow down the existing digital divide. The UN Survey (2018) reiterates that the digital divide in various forms is the major threat to the successful implementation of e-government programs worldwide. The digital divide refers to the gap in access to, skills in, usage of, and motivation to use ICT, in particular, computers and the Internet (OECD 2001; Van Dijk 2012). Though there is a lack of a uniform definition of the term, one of the oft-cited definitions defines the digital divide as “the gap between individuals, households, businesses, and geographic areas at different socio-economic levels with regard to both their opportunities to access information and communication technologies and their use of the internet for a wide variety of activities” (OECD 2001: 5). The situation of digital divide occurs between or among people because of their unique capabilities or preferences of using or not using ICT devices and the Internet based on various factors, which Van Dijk (2012: 60) labels “categorical inequalities”. These inequalities involve age (young vs. old), gender (male vs. female), attitude (positive vs. negative), education (high vs. low), income (high vs. low), health (abled vs. disabled), ICT skills (expert vs. beginner), geography (rural vs. urban), ethnicity (immigrant vs. non-immigrants), and language of the content (native vs. foreign) (Barth and Veit 2011; Haight et al. 2014; Katz and Aspden 1997; Van Dijk 2012). Some people, despite their high income, good education, good health, and young age, may reject computers and Internet services due to psychological reasons, negative attitude, or technophobia (Katz and Aspden 1997; Van Dijk 2012). These above-mentioned factors, however, can neither be generalized nor be equally applicable in all contexts because even a single factor can motivate or demotivate users and be responsible for the existing digital divide (Harambam et al. 2013; Van Dijk 2012). Defining the essence of the digital divide as a concept, therefore, is not easy. In fact, given how expansive the concept has become in recent years, some authors have suggested that it is “neither theoretically feasible, nor empirically justifiable to [argue] for one single definition of the digital divide” (Hilbert 2011: 715).

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First popularized in the mid-1990s, the digital divide concept has been evolving and expanding for more than two decades now. Early studies on the digital divide (i.e. during the 1990s) were focused on questions of access to ICT devices and interpreted the concept with regard to unequal access to computer- and Internet-based technologies (Compaine 2001; Norris 2001). In other words, the digital divide concept was considered as a binary division of people—those who have access to ICT devices and Internet-related technologies, and those who do not, regardless of their knowledge and skills to handle them effectively (Anderson et  al. 1997; Dewan and Riggins 2005; Katz and Aspden 1997). The binary division of people in terms of having access to ICT devices and technologies is widely known as the first level of the digital divide (Dewan and Riggins 2005; Hargittai 2002). With the turn of the twenty-first century, ICT devices gradually became more affordable and more widely accessible, especially in developed countries. Scholars (e.g. Dewan and Riggins 2005; Hargittai 2002; Himma 2007; Huang and Chen 2010; Ragnedda and Muschert 2015; Yu 2006) began to interpret the digital divide from the perspective of skills and usage disparities between different groups of people with respect to the effective exploitation of these devices. This approach is popularly known as the second level of the digital divide. These scholars maintained that a lack of knowledge and skills in using ICT devices prevents potential users from the digital sphere with regard to meaningfully participating and exploiting digital resources despite the fact that they have access to computers and the Internet. As scholars such as Wei et  al. (2011) argue, the inequality of users’ capacities to exploit ICT can seriously affect the expected outcomes. Scholars such as Himma (2007), Van Dijk (2012), and Ragnedda (2017) argue that the digital divide should be assessed on whether or not ICT devices bring forth positive changes to users’ livelihoods. According to Hanafizadeh et al. (2013: 37), “[the] ultimate goal of the process of technological appropriation in the shape of particular applications” is to explore meaningful outcomes for the users in changing their livelihood from the socio-economic perspective. Hence, a third level of the digital divide was introduced—the digital outcome divide, which measures inequalities among ICT users with regard to outcomes (e.g. income growth or any other type of socio-economic benefit) of their ICT usages. In reviewing 118 scholarly articles published between 2010 and 2015 on various facets of the digital divide, Acharya (2017) noticed that most of

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the authors of the articles pointed toward long-existing socio-economic and socio-cultural disparities responsible for the unequal outcomes of the ICT usage. Hence, the conceptual understanding of the digital divide can be assessed in three levels: first, inequalities in accessing ICT; second, inequalities in using ICT; and, third, inequalities in estimating the outcomes of ICT use. The nature of the digital divide can be experienced differently in developed and developing countries, ranging from access-­ use-­benefit. Developed countries have basic digital infrastructures already in place and work toward bridging the digital usage and outcome divides, whereas developing countries continue to adjust digital infrastructure and access to affordable ICT and Internet services (Acharya 2017). Many countries have their own gravity of digital divide, ranging from the first level of digital access divide to the third level of digital outcomes divide in terms of developing e-government programs and offering online services to the public. What is the state of Nepal’s e-government program with respect to the challenges created by the digital divide? This will be the key question to be discussed in this chapter. The following section will briefly introduce Nepal’s ICT evolution and endeavors of e-government implementation in Nepal.

Evolution of ICT and E-government in Nepal Leaders in Nepal were aware of the potential of ICT since the early 1970s when the first computer (IBM 1401) was brought to the country for the purpose of a census in 1971 (Rupakhetee and Heshmati 2011). In 1974, the National Computer Center was established as an ICT teaching-­ learning center to develop computer-literate human resources across the country. Unfortunately, the Center was dissolved in 1996 due to lack of funding and lack of political will power (Regmi 2017). After the restoration of multiparty democracy in 1990, Nepal employed liberal market policy, and consequently, computers and other IT equipment were made easily importable (Regmi 2017). Amidst the growing hype of computer-mania, the Computer Association of Nepal was established in 1992 as a non-governmental and non-profit organization (CAN 2018) to promote ICT in the country by expanding the ICT market, producing computer-literate human resources, and exploring the potential of ICT in the country. In 1993, the Internet was introduced for the first time, as a joint initiative of the Royal Nepal Academy of Science and Technology

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and the Mercantile Communications, a private Internet service provider (Montgomery 2002). The Ministry of Science and Technology was founded in 1996, and a year later, the Nepal Telecommunication Authority (NTA) was founded. The establishment of these two institutions was a remarkable development in terms of policy formation of ICT in the country (Basyal and Seo 2016; Rupakhetee and Heshmati 2011). The first IT policy was drafted in 2000 for the systematic development of ICT infrastructure, e-government, human resource, and a regulatory mechanism. The IT policy was designed with the purpose of making ICT accessible to the public, increasing job opportunities through ICT, and building knowledge-based society and industries (Basyal and Seo 2016). Meanwhile, the High Level Commission for Information Technology (HLCIT), an apex body chaired by the Prime Minister, was established in 2003 to develop a knowledge-based society and promote national development through ICT (Regmi 2017). The HLCIT outlined an IT agenda in Nepal, prepared a draft of e-government master plan for five years (2007–2011), commissioned external researches on ICT policy and implementation, and organized various roundtable discussions with stakeholders from public agencies and private sectors (Rupakhetee and Heshmati 2011; Regmi 2017). Consequently, private and public sector efforts were boosted considerably to enhance computer literacy and Internet-handling skills for socio-economic transformation (Table 3.1). The first cyber law, the Electronic Transaction Act, 2006, was introduced in the country to authenticate electronic transactions and protect users’ online information. However, its implementation was ineffective due to a lack of timely updates over a decade to address new kinds of cyber issues, including phishing, identity theft, and unauthorized access, among Table 3.1  Nepal: E-government indicators E-government development index E-participation index Fixed telephone subscriptions per 100 inhabitants Mobile cellular telephone subscriptions per 100 inhabitants Percentage of individuals using the Internet Fixed (wired) broadband subscriptions per 100 inhabitants Active mobile broadband subscriptions per 100 inhabitants Income value (Gross National Income (GNI) per capita) Adult literacy Data Source: UN Survey (2018, p. 254)

117 (0.4748) 55 (0.7809) 2.96% 110.83% 19.69% 0.77% 30.54% $790 64.7%

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others. On the contrary, there is not yet a functional digital payment system to foster online transactions in the country (Editorial 2018). The HLCIT was dissolved in 2011 without any reasonable explanation (Basyal and Seo 2016), and after five years, the Information and Communication Technology Council was established under the command of the Prime Minister. This organization aims to explore the potential of ICT to address public expectations in delivering government services via the Internet. Meanwhile, the GoN launched the Digital Nepal Framework program in August 2018 to contribute to the national economy, to explore innovative ways that address social challenges, and to identify opportunities for Nepal in the global economy. The Digital Nepal (2018) program identifies eight sectors (i.e. agriculture, connectivity, education, energy, finance, health, tourism, and urban infrastructure), and eighty initiatives as upcoming priorities to lead the country toward a digital nation. The program is expected to deliver an impact of up to US$70 billion in the Nepalese economy by 2022 and contribute to achieving middle-income country status by 2030 (Digital Nepal 2018: 2). However, basic infrastructures for the Internet and e-government are still inadequate in the country. For example, a large part of Nepal still lacks electricity. Among 753 local governance municipalities in the country, only 230 have full coverage of electricity, 346 units have partial coverage, and the remaining 177  units have no electricity at all (Gautam 2018). Frequent power cuts (also called load shedding), low voltage, and irregularity in service are additional hindrances to access and use of Internet service. Despite this reality, NTA (2018) claims that all seventy-­ seven districts of Nepal have basic Internet service that is available through mobile phone technology (i.e. GSM and CDMA), and Nepal has 63 percent Internet coverage. According to Koirala (2018), NTA’s calculation was faulty because this data was based on the total number of data-­ accessible SIM cards and smartphones regardless of their actual Internet use. The UN Survey (2018) estimated that Nepal had only 19.7 percent of Internet coverage in 2018. Nepal is somehow successful in ICT policy formation and the expansion of the telecommunications network despite a decade-long civil war (1996–2006) and political instability thereafter (Digital Nepal 2018; ICT Policy 2015). The policy targets are, however, unrealistic and not feasible to implement unless there are strong ICT infrastructure, affordable services, and capacity development programs to potential service users (Regmi 2017). The National Information Technology Center (NITC),

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for example, has been working to develop ICT-literate human resources by conducting different training courses and workshops to government officers and members of the public. Similarly, the Ministry of Education has designed computer and ICT-related curricula for secondary schools. In 2008, the Nepal Government introduced the One Laptop per Child program—an ICT-based education project designed to promote computer literacy among schoolchildren in remote regions—that was extended to 340 schools and 5300 laptops were distributed to schoolchildren (Thapa and Sein 2016). These government efforts, however, were on an experimental basis and inadequate to address the growing expectation of the general public in the country (Regmi 2017). On the flip side, the efforts of the private sector on ICT education and literacy have been growing and expanding to the e-banking, telemedicine, online shopping, and e-education sectors (Shakya 2017). Most of these services are, however, urban-centric and expensive, and many people seem hesitant to employ ICT tools to replace their traditional way of doing things (Shakya 2017; Regmi 2017). According to the World Bank (2018), more than 80 percent of the population of Nepal has been living in rural areas, which are marred with low-literacy rate, poverty, and poor ICT infrastructure. To conclude, this section introduces interrelated concepts of e-government and the digital divide in general and discusses the evolution of ICT in Nepal. Leaders in Nepal have realized the importance of digital connectivity and launched e-government programs to improve service delivery to the public, strengthen the national economy, and explore global opportunities in education and employment. However, limited researches have been conducted to assess the capability of Nepal’s e-government platforms in delivering services to the public. This study, therefore, employs the four-stage e-government model of Layne and Lee (2001) and assesses Nepal’s state of e-government in terms of offering online services to the public.

Methodology This study employs the conventional content analysis (CCA) method (Hsieh and Shannon 2005) to describe the current state of federal government websites in terms of service offerings and the richness of relevant content. The CCA allows researchers to create unique categories to describe a phenomenon—of government websites with regard to their

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43

development and maturity—when there is limited literature to explain the phenomenon. By identifying some linkages, researchers can combine small categories into broad categories to formulate bigger themes (Hsieh and Shannon 2005). This process is called inductive category development. In this study, twenty-two official websites of all twenty-two federal ministries of the GoN, including the Prime Minister’s Office, were observed to assess the public services offered by these websites. Before the observation process began, a list of thirty-six features of an ideal e-government program (e.g. use of interactivity tools, financial transaction system, documents uploads and downloads, data transfer, contact information, information security, privacy policy, audio/visual materials, and updated content) was developed based on Layne and Lee’s (2001) four-stage model of e-government development. Based on the list of features, each of the twenty-two websites (see http://opmcm.gov.np/en/cabinet for the lift of ministries and their respective websites) was observed in regard to the services and programs each ministry offers. In addition to the list of thirty-six features, nine new features (e.g. use of social media, language translation, and compatibility of websites on different ICT) emerged during the observation. The findings of the website observation were verified, and re-corrected where necessary, with the information officers of the respective ministries via telephone communication to ensure the accuracy of the website observation data. Altogether, forty-five features were listed, and each of the website features was coded with numbers one to five to indicate their functional status. A fully developed (or fully functional) feature was scored five, a functional feature with a few limitations was scored four, a partially functional feature was scored three, a feature with limited functionality was scored two, and a very poor (underdeveloped or dysfunctional) feature was marked one. An absence of any of the listed features was marked zero. Having a small amount of data, the coding process was done manually while conducting an observation of each government website. Forty-five of these coded categories were merged into twelve key themes by identifying linkages among the categories, and coding numbers were subsequently recalculated based on their total score divided by number of features. The twelve key themes were synthesized into four broad themes: exhibition, transaction, integration, and engagement (see Table 3.2 for the twelve key themes and scoring details). In the conventional content analysis method, this process is called inductive category development (Hsieh and Shannon 2005).

Office of the PM & Council of Ministers Defense Health & Population Home External affairs Education, Science & Technology Energy, Water Resource & Irrigation Physical Infrastructure & Transport Labour, Employment & Social Security Law, Justice & Parliamentary Affairs

Transaction

5

5 4

5 4 5

4

4

4

3

4

4 3

4 4 4

4

4

4

3

3

3

2

4

3 4 3

4 3

5

0

2

2

0

0 3 0

0 0

0

2

2

3

3

4 5 3

4 4

4

0

0

0

0

0 0 0

0 0

0

Content for Downloadable Constant Documents Online Financial users’ Documents updates upload info transaction information submission

Exhibition

Table 3.2  Coding details of ministry-level websites

0

0

0

0

0 0 0

0 0

0

0

0

0

0

0 0 0

0 0

0

0

0

0

0

0 0 0

0 0

0

Top-­ Horizontal Integrated down info service info sharing delivery sharing

Integration

0

0

0

0

0 0 0

0 0

0

Policy-­level Partici­ pation

0

0

0

0

0 0 0

0 0

0

0

0

0

0

0 0 0

0 0

0

Personalized Fully web functional environment one-stopshop

Engagement

4

4

4

3

4

5 4

4

4

5

4 5

4

3

4

4

4

4 3

4

4

4

3 3

3 2

4

3

3

5 2

3

3

3

3

3

0 0

0

0

0

2 0

0

0

0

3

0

2 2

3

2

4

4 3

2

1

1

3

3

Scoring scale: 5=Excellent; 4=Very good; 3=Fair; 2=Poor; 1=Very poor; 0=N/A

Fed. Affairs & General Administration Industry, Commerce & Supplies Agriculture & Livestock Development Women, Children & Senior Citizen Forests & Environment Finance Urban Development Culture, Tourism & Civil Aviation Youth and Sports Communication & Info. Technology Water Supply Land Management, Cooperatives, & Poverty Alleviation 0 0

0

0

0

1 0

0

0

0

0

0

0 0

0

0

0

0 0

0

0

0

0

0

0 0

0

0

0

0 0

0

0

0

0

0

0 0

0

0

0

0 0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0 0

0

0

0

0

0

0 0

0

0

0

0 0

0

0

0

0

0

0 0

0

0

0

0 0

0

0

0

0

0

46 

B. B. ACHARYA

Then, the findings were analyzed using Layne and Lee’s (2001) four-­ stage model of e-government development. The first stage of the model is catalogue, which denotes a static web presence (e.g. information display on website and availability of downloadable documents) portraying information as in print versions. The second stage of the model is transaction, which provides partial service delivery and allows users to upload documents, communicate with government employees, and make financial transactions via online portals. The third stage, or vertical integration, integrates government services available online into a single operating platform, such as a convenient website, easily accessible to all citizens for most or all government services. The fourth and final stage of e-government development is called horizontal integration, which allows individual users to open personal accounts and develop a personalized web environment. Horizontal integration also enhances citizen engagement by encouraging users to provide feedback. Layne and Lee (2001) note that the digital divide highly influences the first stage of e-government, and the influence decreases as the e-government stage increases. The following section briefly presents the findings of the observation of the twenty-two ministry websites of the federal government.

Findings There are altogether twenty-two ministries at the federal government level, and each of twenty-two websites observed and analyzed for this study is the official website of the concerned ministry (see Table 3.2 for the list of ministries). The findings of this study are presented in four thematic categories: exhibition—displaying readable information and downloadable content; transaction—having interactivity and financial transaction features; integration—consolidating multiple services by sharing digital information with stakeholders; and engagement—incorporating digital features that engage the public in the decision-­making process. These themes are created in accordance with the features of the four stages of e-government development in Layne and Lee’s (2001) model so that the findings of the website observation can be analyzed systematically.

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Exhibition Based on the website reviews, all twenty-two federal ministry websites were primarily designed for displaying government information to the public on a digital platform. These websites attempted to answer the following questions: What activities of the concerned ministry have been done so far? What are the plans and policies of the government at present or in the near future? Which department or agency is responsible for carrying out a specific activity? Who are the key officials to be contacted by the public for any inquiry? In general, these websites had separate pages on the following content categories: Home (main page), About Us (a short introduction of the ministry), Legal Documents (acts, regulations, directory, policy), Publications (periodic reports), Media Center (notices, press releases, news briefs), External Links (website links of related organizations), and Contact Us (email, phone, and feedback template). However, the names of web pages, design of the interface, and language of web content were not consistent among the ministry websites. One common feature of these websites was the presences of several downloadable government documents, such as forms, periodic review reports, press releases, photos, news coverage, and audio and video materials. The publication of these documents was intended for service users to download, read, and become informed on the documents before visiting any physical office for any service to be done. The download feature was so popular that a dozen ministry websites had a separate Download tab. Lack of updated content was another common trend among the observed websites. The websites of the Prime Minister’s Office and the Ministry of Finance had the most regularly updated information related to official activities, press releases, social media posts, but the rest of the ministry websites were found to be slow and negligent in updating information. The website of the Ministry of Water Supply, for instance, displayed a nine-month-old document as the most recent update, and the Ministry of Physical Planning had not updated its Facebook page since June 30, 2015. Twenty-one websites were found to have a “bilingual (English/Nepali) interface” to encourage users to access and use government services in either language. However, contents (e.g. press releases, annual reports and downloadable forms, introductory information on the web pages, and brief reports of activities) were not found to be translated from Nepali to English or vice versa. Press releases, annual reports, and downloadable

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forms were mostly available in the Nepali language, but review reports of the government programs by foreign agencies and memorandums of understanding (MOUs) between the Nepal government and foreign agencies were available only in English. Feedback templates available on the website allowed English writing only if users copied and pasted Nepali Unicode from external documents. None of the websites was equipped with a language conversion tool, such as Google Translate, to convert English to Nepali or vice versa.

Transaction Reviews of the federal ministry websites showed that there were very limited transaction-related activities that included online information submission, document uploads, and online payment for services. The observation noted that only thirteen websites had a built-in feedback template that allowed users to write and submit a message (e.g. complaint, feedback, or inquiry) to the government officials. Most of the ministry websites provided an email address of a spokesperson and/or information officer. However, there was no information on when a user could expect responses from the office. During the observation, the researcher sent emails and messages through feedback submission templates to three different ministries, and none of them responded for the following four weeks. Only five official websites among the twenty-two ministries (i.e. Physical Infrastructure and Transport; Finance; External Affairs, Industry, Commerce & Supplies; and Labour, Employment and Social Security) had a document-uploading and online information submission feature for users. The website of the Department of Transport Management, for instance, had online registration for driver licenses, vehicle license plate, and vehicle registration and transfer. This service, however, was not found to be compatible with smartphones. It could be opened only with the Mozilla Firefox web browser, and registrants could not pay service fees or taxes online. Similarly, online financial transaction (i.e. paying service fees, penalties, or fines) for government agencies has just begun and is in the experimental phase. The Inland Revenue Department, under the Ministry of Finance, started tax payment and revenue collection via its online portal in mid-2018, and the service was available only in the capital city of Nepal to experiment and ensure its service reliability (Table 3.2).

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Integration The observation of the federal government’s websites could not identify any service offered online that allows sharing information from one government platform to another, especially from federal to local government agencies or vice versa. Each of the twenty-two ministry websites provided links to other government agencies (internal or external) related to the ministry. The website links, however, did not share users’ information with any other government agencies once entered into a government online portal. Similarly, during the observation of the websites, the researcher could not identify any of the features that facilitate information sharing between or among different departments of the same levels of government. Similarly, there was no integrated service delivery feature identified among government agencies, such as issuing a passport, which requires information sharing and verification among local, provincial, and federal agencies.

Engagement During the observation of the twenty-two ministry websites, the researcher did not find any feature that would allow users a personalized web environment in which e-government users (not only employees) could set up a personal account and access all government services offered by federal, provincial, and local agencies from the same account. Similarly, the researcher did not observe any government programs on the websites to encourage e-government users’ participation in formulating local or national policies. None of the twenty-two government ministries was found stimulating public discussion on any specific issue of public interests, feedback, or opinion. Additionally, government websites did not allow users to access any relevant private or corporate organizations, and they prevented the e-government platform from being a one-stop shop for service users. To summarize, the website observation found that all of the twenty-­ two ministry websites of the federal GoN were predominantly at the first stage of displaying information, in which readable content and downloadable documents were ubiquitous. These twenty-two government websites possessed limited features of the second stage of e-government development related to online information submission, uploading documents, and financial transaction via e-government portals. The

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websites did not introduce any features to foster integrated service delivery and citizen engagement in policy-making issues. The following section analyzes the findings of the website observation.

Discussion and Conclusion Scholars (Conteh and Smith 2015; Layne and Lee 2001; West 2004) note that government institutions should be capable of, and equipped with, innovative technology to serve the public effectively and efficiently. This technology should allow the public to save time, engage with the government, reduce cost, and increase transparency and accountability. The e-government program is a digital innovation designed to inform and interact with the public, to deliver government services to customers, and to engage citizens in the decision-making process. Fully functional e-government websites of various ministries of the Nepal Government are expected to encourage citizens—who are accustomed to using the traditional mode of service delivery—to develop their ICT skills and establish a digital relation/interaction with the government ministries (Digital Nepal 2018; ICT Policy 2015). Such digital connection can be advantageous to the public in terms of having easy access to government information, quick and convenient service deliveries, timely responses of public requests by government agencies, and building trust and maintaining privacy on digital platforms. Currently, Nepal has two major priorities: developing digital infrastructure (including the e-government program) and providing quality access to Internet services to the public (e.g. Basyal and Seo 2016; Joshi 2011; Parajuli and Haynes 2017; Regmi 2017). The general public in the country are more concerned about affordable ICT devices and universal access to quality Internet services than enhancing users’ ICT skills and effective use of these devices (Parajuli and Haynes 2017; Regmi 2017). Although the GoN has policy documents regarding the capacity building of the Nepali public to hone their ICT knowledge and skills, currently, it does not have such programs to encourage their use of e-government services. Regmi (2017) notes that the GoN policy is more focused on the proliferation of ICT access and infrastructure, and there are no reliable statistics on ICT use by the public and their ability to afford them. In a nutshell, Nepal has been struggling to mitigate the first level of the digital divide by establishing digital infrastructure and providing access to quality Internet services (Basyal and Seo

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2016; Joshi 2011; Regmi 2017). The second level (i.e. skills and usage gap) and the third level (i.e. outcomes of ICT use) of the digital divide are far from the public priorities in the country until they are able to overcome the digital access divide. In order to ensure the exact state of the second and third levels of the digital divide, Regmi (2017) recommends conducting a nationwide survey of ICT access, users’ ability to handle ICT devices, and the productive use of the ICT infrastructure. From the perspective of the Layne and Lee’s (2001) e-government development model, all of the twenty-two federal government websites were found to gradually evolve from the cataloging stage to the transaction stage. Most of the e-government websites were found to be in the cataloguing stage, in which government-intended readable information and downloadable form is displayed to be used by citizens. The second stage of e-government development is transaction, in which users can upload personal documents, submit personal information, and make financial transactions via e-government online (Layne and Lee 2001). All the twenty-two ministry websites had a partial online information submission feature; five ministry websites had a document-uploading feature, and only one offered an online payment system on an experimental basis. For these services, e-government users are required to register on each portal, but the registration process was so tough that general users could be discouraged from using e-government portals. There were limited digital tools (e.g. feedback template, social media outlets, and email address) on the twenty-two ministry websites to foster citizen-­ government interactivity, but government agencies used these tools mostly as one-way communication instruments. Vertical integration and horizontal integration are the third and fourth stages of e-government development, which create an ideal e-government by providing a collaborative and empowering environment to the public (Layne and Lee 2001). In these stages, databases from different service agencies communicate with each other and share information where necessary. Unfortunately, the website observation did not identify any of the features of the third and fourth stages of e-government development on the twenty-two ministry websites of the federal government. For instance, e-government users of Nepal could not set up a customized web environment, in which users can specify individual preferences in terms of language use, content filtering, push notifications, privacy set-up, data sharing, document archiving, and interactivity among others.

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This study’s application of the four stages of e-government development helps illuminate the importance and impact of the digital divide on government agencies with regard to developing e-government portals and providing online service delivery. Any e-government’s portal, according to Layne and Lee (2001), will be held back in the preliminary stage when there are multiple issues related to the digital divide, including a lack of infrastructure, low-quality Internet connection, limited ability to access and use e-government services, and limited digital content on e-government portals. Nepal’s federal e-government portals are seriously affected by various aspects of the digital divide related to infrastructure because they lack a fully functional transaction system, data sharing among government agencies, and integrated online service delivery to the public. Stoiciu (2011) notes that easily accessible, cost-effective, and fully functional e-government portals and applications can be influencing factors in reducing the digital divide among the users by encouraging them to use these applications because they are beneficial to them. A successful e-government program needs to have features, such as easy-to-use, cost-­effective, quality content, and reliability (Reddick and Turner 2012; Roman 2013). This study found that the e-government portals of the federal ministries of Nepal did not employ most of these features. Nepal’s leaders struggle to cope with the rapid evolution of ICT because the country has been facing a severe energy crisis and poor infrastructure for decades (Poudyal et al. 2017). To conclude, this chapter examined the state of twenty-two ministry websites of the federal government of Nepal by employing Layne and Lee’s (2001) four-stage model of e-government development regarding the digital tools the websites are equipped with, digital content they possess, and services that they offer on digital platforms. Although Nepal has ambitious ICT policies and programs to develop Nepal into a digital economy by 2030, this study reveals a possible lack of readiness regarding the introduction of the effective and efficient delivery of e-government services to the public. Nepal’s e-government portals of the federal ministries of Nepal have been developed to reduce the first level of the digital divide by providing basic content with very limited features to target users. Early in its development, Nepal’s e-government program is evolving from the catalogue stage to the transaction stage, and it is unable to deliver complete services to the public. Additionally, there is a lack of fully developed and completely executable online transaction systems, data sharing systems, and customized web environments. As a consequence,

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potential users of the e-government program—instead of improving their ICT skills and accessing e-government websites—may let the traditional modes of service delivery continue and reinforce the state of digital divide. Last but not least, this study has a number of limitations. Only twenty-­ two ministry-level websites were studied owing to the word limits of the chapter, time constraints, and resource limitations. Otherwise, this study could have been done comprehensively covering not just the twenty-two ministry-level websites but also other websites of their subordinate departments, branch offices, and related agencies to generate a better understanding of the government’s efforts on delivering services to the public through e-government platforms. Any future research can complement this study by making an empirical study of the general public, focusing on their habits of and ability to use government websites at the federal, provincial, and municipal levels.

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CHAPTER 4

A Widening Digital Divide and Its Impacts on Existing Social Inequalities and Democracy in Pakistan Sadia Jamil

Introduction The proliferation of information and communications technology (ICT) is widely recognized by many scholars and analysts to underpin the social and economic progress of nation-states throughout the first stages of the twenty-first century (Dertouzos 1997). In the past two decades, many analysts have offered insights into how computer, internet and telecommunications technologies transform countries into ‘knowledge economies’ and ‘network societies’ (Castells 2001). Stimulated by the inevitability and necessity of an information and network society, governments in many industrialized countries of the world are strengthening their ICT-based programs. This spirit has also been taken up by the governments of many developing countries. Now many countries in the Global South (such as India, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh) are paying attention to expanding their ICT infrastructures by acknowledging it as S. Jamil (*) Khalifa University, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates © The Author(s) 2020 M. Ragnedda, A. Gladkova (eds.), Digital Inequalities in the Global South, Global Transformations in Media and Communication Research - A Palgrave and IAMCR Series, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-32706-4_4

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“the indispensable grammar of modern life and a fundamental aspect of citizenship in the prevailing information age” (Wills 1999: 10; UNDP 1999; Quibria et al. 2002). Particularly, the explosion of ICT has led many analysts to speculate about its potential and ultimate impacts on society, economy and politics (Katz and Rice 2002; Kirkman et al. 2002). Many academics view ICT as an unparalleled opportunity to surmount existing social inequalities by empowering individuals through increased levels of social connectivity and interaction, public participation in politics and democratic discourse, and widespread access to education and other public and government services (D’Allesandro and Dosa 2001; Katz et  al. 2001). Notwithstanding the positive implications of ICT, issues related to inequalities of access to both technology and information have begun to prompt concern about a rising digital divide between social groups. And many analysts argue that if individuals or groups of individuals are excluded from using ICT or if they are unable to access it, they are not able to have the benefits that ICT can bring to them. Hence, concerns about ‘digital inequalities’ have surfaced in public and political debates over the past two decades (Hargittai 2009; Haywood 1998). And the concern related to technology ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ and the question of who is ‘connected’ to information and technology have grown in prominence, especially in the countries of the Global South that are witnessing an increased digital divide. When analyzing the case of Pakistan, concentrated efforts have been made for the proliferation of ICT infrastructure by the government during the last 15 years. Consequently, in terms of internet users, “Pakistan is the fourth-largest country in Asia – behind Indonesia, India and China” (Hussain 2017). However, a large proportion of the Pakistani people still cannot access and use the internet. For example, according to a report released by Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) in late 2017, Pakistan has a total population of 200 million people. Within those 200 million people, there are 46 million 3G and 4G mobile subscribers, 3 million fixed-line subscribers and 48 million broadband subscribers (Khalid 2017). These statistics indicate a slightly slower growth of internet users in the country. The matter of concern is not only Pakistan’s slow progress toward the proliferation of internet access but also the various political, socio-cultural and other constraints that hinder the public’s access to and usage of the internet. Pakistan’s government often restricts internet access or limits the provision of internet services in certain areas of the country, which serves to curb the public’s right to freedom of expression and access to

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information. For instance, in 2017, internet services were shut down for almost a year in many districts of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan provinces, for the reason of national security. In big cities (like Karachi), internet and mobile services are often suspended during the religious events of Ashura (10th day of Moharram) and 12th day of Rabi-ul-Awal. Consequently, people suffer problems in internet connectivity and access to information. Despite the government’s restrictions, social and cultural norms also considerably restrain the public’s access and their usage of the internet, thus increasing the digital divide. Particularly, the social milieu of Pakistan does affect the women’s use of the internet and social media because “out of 35 million social media users, 77 per cent are male users and only 23 per cent are female” (Farooq 2018a). The women’s access to the internet and mobile phones is often restricted or monitored by male family members, resulting in their inability to effectively represent their issues online and participate in the democratic process. And in the majority of rural areas, both men and women neither have access to the internet nor are they literate/or skilled enough to use it. Moreover, people with disabilities are also not capable to use the internet due to a lack of the provision of special needs equipment such as keyboards, screens and accessibility aids for sensory impairments. It is clear that Pakistan’s digital inequalities are not only increasing in terms of the public’s access to the internet, but there is also a clear gap between information ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’, which indicates the variation in the public’s internet usage. This widening digital divide can potentially reinforce Pakistan’s existing social inequalities (especially income, gender and educational disparities). While digital inequalities continue to grow in the country, the relationship between the digital divide and other forms of inequalities has not yet fully explored by the local academics. Therefore, using the theory of digital divide, this study identifies those factors that are widening the digital divide in the country. The study also analyzes how the digital divide is reinforcing the existing social inequalities (i.e. income, gender and educational disparities) and impacts Pakistan’s democratic process. To achieve these aims, the study uses the qualitative methods of document review and in-depth interviews. The study uses thematic analysis to analyze the collected data. This study reveals that almost all interviewed journalists (i.e. 23 out of total 25) view that the high cost of internet service, poor service accessibility and quality and socio-cultural constraints (i.e. low literacy rate, cultural

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restrictions and linguistic barrier) are the major reasons for widening the digital divide in Pakistan. Interview data show that a large proportion of Pakistani society is not able to gain the benefits of the internet for social, economic and educational purposes. Thus, digital inequalities (in terms of access and use of the internet) are reinforcing existing social disparities and affecting Pakistan’s democratic process. This study further highlights a lack of effective government policies for the proper management of ICT infrastructure and for reducing the digital inequalities in the country. Hence, to explain these findings in detail, the chapter firstly reviews the literature on the theory of digital divide and the causes of digital inequalities. The chapter goes on to explain the methodology and results of the study. Lastly, it discusses the study’s results and offers some recommendations to reduce the digital divide in Pakistan.

Theory of Digital Divide The theory of digital divide suggests that there is an economic and social gap between the population of a nation and their access to technologies pertaining to information and communication (Bimber 2000; Bucy 2000; Loges and Jung 2001). The concept of digital divide is usually measured in terms of people’s accessibility and non-accessibility to the internet, access to internet sites, ability to use the internet for varying purposes and level of online activities. The most common understanding of the digital divide is the difference between those who have access to the internet against those who do not. However, many scholars suggest that it is not merely enough to look at the gap between ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ when conceptualizing and analyzing the digital divide and it must be understood beyond the ‘binary classification’ and typical measure of public’s access to the internet (Castells 2001; Hargittai 2003; Stanley 2003). People who have no access to the internet constitute a clear digital divide (Horrigan 2003). Those with internet access may lack the skills and resources to use it and be deprived of many of its significant impacts on their lives, resulting in the reinforcement of other social inequalities (such as income, gender and educational disparities). Therefore, many scholars have raised concerns regarding the growing divide in terms of people’s use of the internet that is understood as the second level of digital divide (Gui and Argentin 2011; Livingstone and Helsper 2010; Hargittai 2009; Dobson and Willinsky 2009; Eshet-Alkalai and Chajut 2009; Eshet and Aviram 2006). The proponents of the second level of digital divide

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emphasize that it is not merely the matter of accessing information through the internet, but it is about how to utilize, interpret and use knowledge and information (Michael 2012; Teresa 2008; Harigttati 2002). Hence, many scholars suggest that there are at least three main determinants in the digital divide: (1) information accessibility through the internet, (2) information utilization through the internet and (3) information receptiveness through the internet. Studies have shown that the second level of digital divide is on the rise because of the increasing gap between the producers and consumers of internet content. This means the focus is now on how people use the internet for generating content (Bimber 2000; DiMaggio and Hargittai 2001). In the case of Pakistan, thus, this study considers evaluating factors that are increasing digital inequalities in terms of both internet access and usage.

Factors Underpinning the Digital Divide The digital divide has become a global problem and past studies have shown various factors that are increasing digital inequalities in different contexts. For example, many prior studies have revealed that differences in the access and use of the internet across developing and developed countries are primarily related to the following: gender (Bimber 2000; DiMaggio et al. 2001; Cooper 2006), age group (Palfrey and Gasser 2008; Hargittai 2010), Per capital income, cost of internet services and literacy level (Clark and Gorski 2002). Particularly, some studies suggest that the factors of per capital income (Ragnedda and Muschert 2013) and literacy rate in any country are major indicators of internet use (Hargittai 1999; Norris 2001; Guillen and Suarez 2005; Bauer et al. 2002; Chen et al. 2002; Chinn and Robert 2004). Some other studies show that the proliferation of ICT infrastructure and affordable internet tariffs increase the internet’s use among people (Guillen and Suarez 2005; Kiski and Pohjola 2002; Chen et al. 2002; Chinn and Robert 2004). Despite socioeconomic factors, there are other contextual factors too that are relevant to the proliferation of ICT and the widespread use of the internet. Mass communication media (such as newspapers, radio, television and the internet) operate in a context or environment that reflects the economic, regulatory and political state of any country. The author argues that like any other mass medium, the penetration and use of the internet in any society is influenced by the legal and political environments of any country (Norris 2001: 58–64). With regard to this, Bobrow (1974: 561)

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suggests: “politicians and political regimes can shape various aspects of the process of mass communication, including message content, media personnel and technology, cultural level of messages, and availability of the media output.” The author opines that the Western democratic political regimes facilitate a more rapid growth of the internet as compared to authoritarian or totalitarian regimes—where governments do control mass media content through censorship and pressures. In most Western democratic societies, media is decentralized (i.e. the public exercises discretion over access to information) and it is open to public communication (i.e. exchanges of opinions or ideas between individuals and groups). The public in democratic societies still has much more autonomy than in authoritarian or totalitarian ones to establish unhindered communication and be a source of information through the internet. In authoritarian or competitive authoritarian regimes1 (like Pakistan), a free and decentralized media pose a threat to ruling authorities by permitting citizens to access information and to communicate with one another and potentially mobilize politically (Norris 2001: 60–61, 100–101). Therefore, authoritarian regimes prefer a controlled and strictly regulated media that enable centralized mass communication. However, Havick (2000) notices that it is difficult to restrict the flow of information on the internet unlike other traditional mass media such as newspapers and television channels. He argues: On the internet, unlike television, users may retrieve or communicate information 24 hours a day, and that internet information is easily copied and sent to other people. Rather than being transitory, internet information is difficult to stop, retract or erase because it is likely to be stored in countless computers. (Havick 2000: 278)

Similarly, Norris (2001: 60–61) argues, “the greater civil liberties of democracy would be consistent with greater access to and use of the internet, and that governments find it more difficult to censor free expression on the internet than on television.” While in the digital age, it is difficult for authoritarian regimes to control information and communication 1  In competitive authoritarianism, there is a presence of autonomous media but there is a tension between the state and media due to the breach of democratic norms by the government (Levitsky and Way 2002).

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through the internet; there are ample case studies indicating how ruling authorities restrain the public’s rights of equal access to information and the internet. In many authoritarian and competitive authoritarian countries (such as Pakistan, North Korea, China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Libya, Egypt, Cuba, Vietnam, Mexico and Venezuela), internet censorship is very common, apart from restrictions on internet access through heavy tariffs and strict regulations. When analyzing the case of Pakistan, cultural barriers, regulation and censorship together influence the use of the internet. Also, limited efforts have been made by the ruling government to develop effective mechanisms for ensuring equal access to the internet among the public so all segments of societies can take part in the democratic process. There is a large proportion of Pakistani society that is not able to access and use the internet for education, economic and information-seeking purposes. Particularly, Pakistani women are not able to have full-fledged access to the internet as compared to the country’s male population (Farooq 2018b). The rural population of Pakistan, either male or female, is substantially deprived of internet-related facilities as well as basic skills to use it. While mobile internet services are available in some rural areas of the country, it cannot be a substitute for broadband services that are necessary for extensive information-seeking, education, business and other purposes (Farooq 2018b). Ironically, a large proportion of the Pakistani rural population has no online record of their national identity and voting record that should be registered with the Nataional Database and Registration Authority (NADRA). Consequently, they are not able to participate in elections. The gap between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ is increasing in the country, not only in terms of unequal access to the internet and online information but also in relation to other social disparities too (especially in terms of income, gender and education). Hence, this study investigates factors that are increasing digital inequalities and the ways the digital divide is reinforcing social inequalities and affecting the democratic process in Pakistan.

Methodology To examine the issue of digital inequalities in Pakistan, this study primarily focuses on the access and the use of the internet and internet-enabled communication (such as social media, e-mail, WhatsApp and other internet-­ related communication applications). This study uses the qualitative

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methods of document review and in-depth interviews in order to investigate two research questions: (RQ1) what are the factors that are increasing the digital divide in Pakistan, and (RQ2) is the growing digital divide reinforcing existing social inequalities and affecting the democratic process in Pakistan? The study incorporates 25 in-depth interviews of Pakistani journalists in order to explore the aforementioned questions. The selected journalists are full-time employees of local Urdu and English languages’ newspapers and television news channels2 in Karachi. Purposive sampling has been used so as to include the feedback of Karachi’s journalists about the prevalent situation of the digital divide in the country. In order to make sure of the confidentiality, the names of participating journalists have been replaced with numbers (from 1–25). Furthermore, the study uses thematic analysis to analyze the collected data under two key themes, which have been derived from the research questions of this study. These key themes include (1) factors inducing the digital divide in Pakistan and (2) impacts of the digital divide on existing social inequalities and the democratic process in Pakistan. The thematic analysis of qualitative data has been substantiated with a semi-quantification analysis, which means the use of quantitative estimates within the interviewees’ response. The purpose of using quantitative estimates in this study is to make the qualitative analysis more precise with the use of numbers and to interpret a large, qualitative data set with clarity (Braun and Clarke 2008; see also Sadelowski 2001: 231).

Results and Discussion Factors Inducing the Digital Divide in Pakistan Scholars largely agree that the internet has proliferated unevenly in many countries of the world, resulting in the digital divide (Rogers 1995; Castells 2001). Despite the increasing digital divide in many parts of the world, there is a little consensus on what actually causes it. Many past international studies have shown that unequal access to the 2  This study includes 25 Karachi journalists from the 13 most influential media organizations in Pakistan including 3 English language newspapers (i.e. Express Tribune, Daily Dawn and the News International); 3 Urdu language newspapers (i.e. Daily Jang, Daily Express and Daily Nawa-e-Waqt); and 7 television news channels (i.e. SAMA TV, ARY News, Geo News, Dunya News, Ab Tak News, Express News and AAJ News). Journalists were selected from Karachi because it is the media hub of Pakistan.

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internet is related to the factors of per capital income and cost of internet service (Hargittai 1999; Maitland and Johannes 2001) and literacy level (Clark and Gorski 2002). In the case of Pakistan, this study reveals that high internet tariffs, poor service accessibility and quality and socio-cultural constraints (especially low education level, cultural restrictions and linguistic barrier) are major causes of unequal internet access and usage in Pakistan. For example, almost all interviewed journalists (i.e. 23 out of 25) view the aforementioned factors as the prime reasons for the increasing digital divide in the country. When talking about these issues, a senior journalist from a local English language newspaper states: Many changes have occurred in the political and economic scenarios of Pakistan during 2018. After 2018’s general election, the newly elected government has declared economic crises, resulting in an increase in taxes and prices of products and services. Internet tariffs are increasing and it is tough to afford Wi-Fi services for many people. Then there are not so many companies that are offering 3G and 4G internet services. And companies are facing crises due to inflation, taxes and government’s lack of planning to manage ICT infrastructure and its policy to restrict internet services during religious events…There is no uniform distribution of internet services. Mostly people, who are living in urban areas and big cities, are benefited from internet services. Rural masses are still deprived to access and to use the internet. The Pakistani rural people face a lot of constraints to access and to use the internet, to mention a few: firstly they do not have enough economic resources to afford Wi-Fi services or internet at home; secondly they do lack education and basic skills to operate computer and the internet; thirdly social conservatism and religious mind-set often affect the women’s use of internet and that I think is further increasing gender disparity in the society…lastly linguistic barrier and cultural constraints do affect their ability to use the internet for various purposes. In addition to these constraints, there are other issues…such as a lack of ICT infrastructure in small cities and rural areas and recurrent power failure and shortage. These issues are necessary to be addressed by the government in order to facilitate the use of internet in Pakistan. (Interviewee number 4)

Similarly, a female journalist from an Urdu language newspaper states: There is no one single factor in the case of Pakistan. In urban areas, people are literate and have better income level to avail internet facilities. But let me tell you, not everyone in big cities of Pakistan can access and use the inter-

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net. Many rural people come to work in big cities (like Karachi, Lahore and Peshawar), but they are neither skilled nor economically well-off to use internet (especially Wi-Fi or broadband services)…and even many urban people have affordability problem due to constant increase in taxes…Then there are cultural barriers. In many religious and conservative families, women are restricted to use social media and other internet-related applications…Unfortunately, the situation of rural areas is worst and they are still living in the stone age in terms of internet access and its usage. There are many rural parts of Pakistan where there is no information and communication technology (ICT) Infrastructure…And government seems to have no effective strategy to reduce this divide. (Interviewee number 19)

Noticeably, the situation of Pakistan and India is quite similar in terms of the constraints that rural people face to access and use the internet. For example, Singh (2010) highlights that obstacles such as illiteracy; a lack of skills, infrastructure and investment in rural parts of India are increasing the digital divide. As compared to India, the factors of low literacy rate and cultural barriers both are equally inducing digital inequalities in Pakistan. With regard to this, a female television news producer says: It is not all about the issue of access. Many those, who have access, lack economic resources and basic skills to operate computers and to use the internet. Particularly, women face cultural constraints too in order to access and to use the internet, despite having other skills and affordability-related problems. The Pakistani women, especially belonging to conservative and religious families, cannot use social media and internet as freely as those who belong to liberal families…I would say that a lack of education and cultural restrictions both are widening digital divide at same scale in Pakistan. (Interviewee number 6)

Women’s less access to the internet is not just unique to Pakistan because Dugdale (2013) suggests: In a recent study undertaken by Intel, in which 2200 women and girls from India, Egypt, Mexico and Uganda took part, it was found that 25 per cent of women in developing nations lacked Internet access and this figure was as high as 45 per cent in Sub-Saharan Africa. The report highlights the stubborn gap in women’s access to the Internet in Africa, but also in the Middle East and other developing parts of the world.

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From a gender perspective, Weingarten (2013) suggests that the factors of internet availability and affordability are most important. However, the author argues that cultural restrictions, patriarchal and ethic customs do play an important role in women’s use of the internet in Pakistan. Thus, this study unpacks that both economic and cultural factors are inducing the digital divide in Pakistan, apart from a lack of effective strategies and policies by the country’s government to deal with this issue. Besides, a number of interviewed journalists (i.e. 13 out of 25) in this study suggest that the government’s restrictions on internet services also affect the public’s use of the internet in Pakistan. The author believes that such restrictions are against the democratic norms that are claimed by the government in the country. Norris (2001) highlights that there is no culture of internet censorship or restrictions on the online flow of information in Western democratic countries, which means that the public has the right to access information either online or offline. Nevertheless, this is not the case of Pakistan because the government recurrently suspends internet services—especially during certain religious events. Furthermore, some scholars view that the increase in the digital divide is closely related to the concept of social inequalities and the gap between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ (in terms of access and usage of the internet) can amplify many forms of disparities such as gender, income and education (Dijk 2005). It is not known whether Pakistan’s growing digital divide is reinforcing the existing social inequalities (in terms of income, gender and education) and whether it is affecting the democratic process in the country. Therefore, this study recognizes this gap in the literature and addresses this point in the next section. Impacts of the Digital Divide on Existing Social Inequalities and Democratic Process in Pakistan The proliferation of ICTs like computers and the internet provide ample development opportunities to the developing countries (Rashid 2016). The author argues that this promise can be only held true if every person has an equal right to access and use the internet, and indeed this is not happening in Pakistan. The issue of inequality in access to the internet and its usage has been debated intensely and acknowledged by Pakistani ICT experts during the past couple of years. And it is viewed that the gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ may increase further due to the rising digital divide, resulting in an increased level of income, gender and

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educational disparities (Hussain 2017). This study highlights that a large proportion of the Pakistani population is deprived of accessing online economic and educational opportunities and the concepts of e-commerce and online education is limited to the upper-middle class or the elite class of major urban cities (such as Karachi, Hyderabad, Islamabad, Lahore, Peshawar, Faisalabad, Multan and Sialkot). When analyzing from a gender perspective, not all Pakistani women who are living in urban areas can access and use the internet effectively due to societal conservatism and religious extremism. And the situation of rural women is the worst because they not only lack access to the internet but also face constraints to use the internet due to poverty, family restrictions or conservatism, a lack of education and basic living infrastructure. When comparing Pakistan’s gender digital divide with other South Asian countries, less than 20 and 25 percent of Nepalese and Indian women have access to the internet respectively, indicating that the region is broadly plagued with gender-based inequalities (Antonio and Tuffley 2014). Nevertheless, this study highlights that digital inequalities do replicate in other forms of disparities too. For example, a number of interviewed journalists (i.e. 18 out of 25) in this study believe that Pakistan’s increasing digital divide is buttressing income, gender and educational inequalities. While talking about the impacts of the digital divide on existing social inequalities and the democratic process in Pakistan, a senior news producer of a local television news channel states: There is a rapid growth in the use of internet during the past ten years. But still not every Pakistani can access and use the internet and that is increasing the digital divide. The problem is a lack of policy and planning to address issues related to maintenance of ICT infrastructure (especially in rural areas and small cities), cost and quality of the internet service and public’s literacy level…People, who are literate and have better economic resources, can use internet for economic and educational activities. But let me tell you that more than 40 Percent of the Pakistani population lives below the poverty line with no basic facilities of food, shelter and clothing. So, accessing and using the internet is a dream for them…Fact is that Pakistan’s digital divide is buttressing the gap between rich and poor…Another important factor is religious extremism and societal conservatism, which is actually impinging on the women’s use of internet. At times, young girls do face family restrictions to use the internet freely—especially in small cities and towns…One major impact of digital divide is the underrepresentation of public in democratic process. Those, who have access to the internet, can better participate

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in election campaigns and electoral process than those who are deprived of it. We are living in a digital age; however, not every Pakistani has a say in political debates due to unequal access to the internet. (Interviewee number 17)

Likewise, a female journalist from an Urdu language newspaper highlights: National Data Registration Authority (NADRA) has long-ago introduced an online service for the registration of Pakistani citizens, which is important to have national identity card and to be registered as a voter in the country. How people with no access to the internet can avail this facility? There is no government’s policy for it. Those, who do not have internet access, either visit to NADRA offices or they just live without any national registration record. I would say democracy cannot flourish in Pakistan without equal representation and participation of each and every citizen. Pakistan’s political parties claim about heavy election mandate from the public, which is actually not true as a large proportion of masses has no representation and no online record in voting lists…Unfortunately, digital divide is further increasing class discrimination in Pakistan…People, from elite, upper-­middle class and middle class, are benefited more from the use of internet for economic and educational purposes. In elite schools of big cities (like Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad), children do use online educational resources. What about out-of-school children? What about those who cannot afford their basic living? How Pakistani people can access and use the internet with economic and social constraints? Government has no explicit answers of these questions…and yet there is no clear policy or strategy to deal with menace of digital divide and its implications for social inequalities and democracy in the country. (Interviewee number 5)

These findings are not very surprising. Some recent studies have revealed that Pakistan has major challenges of inequality, where income, gender and educational inequalities exist in extreme forms. For example, Oxfam’s study (2015) suggests that “the number of out-of-school children in Pakistan is the second highest in the world, and Pakistan ranks last in women participation in the work force among the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) countries” (Ebrahim and Ali 2015). At present, 35 percent of people live below the poverty line in Pakistan and almost “22.4 million children are out of school and 45 per cent are stunted” (Talpur 2017).

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The matter of concern is that Pakistan’s growing digital divide is considerably affecting the democratic process of the country. For example, this study highlights that a large number of Pakistani people have no online record in the database of the NADRA, which means they cannot participate in the electoral process. This study also shows that many urban and rural dwellers either do not have internet access or cannot use it effectively due to a linguistic barrier, lack of education, power failure issues or electricity load shedding and poor economic resources. As a result, they are not able to have online information regarding political parties and voting process. This means they still have to rely on word of mouth or traditional media (such as newspaper and television) for their participation and representation in political debates and democratic process. According to a senior news editor of an Urdu language newspaper: Democracy requires an informed citizenry that can participate in political debates and represent themselves in election process…Neither every Pakistani citizen has access to the internet, nor every citizen is able to use it for information seeking and other purposes. Then a huge number of people have no record in the database of National Data Regulation Authority (NADRA). How can they participate in election? To the best of my knowledge, there is no accurate online record of religious minorities in NADRA’s database…There is no concept of fair representation in Pakistan, though we are living in a digital age and the internet is an indispensable tool to facilitate public debates and a fair election process. (Interviewee number 7)

Thus, drawing on the theory of digital divide, this study manifests that Pakistan is confronting both the first and second levels of digital divide. This implies that the Pakistani people face inequalities to access and to use the internet, which is further aggravating existing social disparities (i.e. income, gender and educational inequalities) and impinging on democracy in the country.

Conclusion Throughout the first stages of the twenty-first century, the proliferation of the internet has prompted strong speculation about its ultimate positive impacts upon the economy, society and politics across the globe. Many think that the expansion of ICT infrastructure and the explosion of the internet is a powerful force capable of altering the existing patterns of

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social inequality, strengthening connections between citizens and representatives, facilitating new forms of public engagement and communication and broadening opportunities for the development of democratic societies. But what if people are unable to access ICT and the internet? What if only some people can access and use the internet? Would they be able to have benefits that the ICT can bring to them? There has been a growing debate around these questions, resulting in concerns about rising ‘digital divides’ (in terms of both internet access and its usage) between social groups, especially in countries of the Global South. Particularly, Pakistan’s digital inequalities are not only increasing in terms of the public’s access to the internet but there is also a clear gap between information ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’, which indicates the variation in the public’s usage of the internet. For instance, this study reveals a number of factors that are increasing Pakistan’s digital divide, including the government’s restrictions on internet services, improper management of ICT infrastructure, poor internet service accessibility and quality, high cost of internet service, ineffective policies for the provision of equal internet access to the public, and socio-cultural constraints to using the internet (i.e. cultural restrictions, language barrier, content restriction, literacy and/or basic skills and affordability). This indicates that crucial issues of the ‘digital divide’ in Pakistan are not just technological—they are social, economic, cultural and political. And thus, various forms of capital are important when deciding the differentiation of the access and use of the internet among people. These capitals include economic,3 social4 and cultural5 capitals (Bourdieu 1993, 1997; Murdock et  al. 1996). Thus, any framework to reduce digital inequalities in Pakistan must include people’s capacity to have these three types of capitals. Furthermore, the author thinks that Pakistan’s current ICT policy focuses too narrowly on the availability of internet-related technology, which is increasing the digital divide in the country. If this divide is not addressed, there are risks that the internet will aggravate the marginalization of communities and social inequalities. The author argues that effectively bridging the digital divide requires a concerted, holistic, cross-sectoral 3  Economic capital refers to the financial capacity to purchase ICT devices, hardware and software and to afford internet services. 4  Social capital refers to technological networks and online social interaction with friends, family and colleagues. 5  Cultural capital refers to the knowledge and competencies of ICT, technological skills and training.

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and multistakeholder approach to policymaking that can account for a plenitude of factors that impact one’s ability to effectively access and to use the internet in Pakistan. The author believes that making effective access and use of the internet is contingent on diverse factors such as internet tariffs, government restrictions, proper management of ICT infrastructure, language/or technical skills and education. The author also suggests to consider certain policy initiatives by Pakistan’s government to counter the challenges associated with the digital divide, including improved levels of internet accessibility and affordability, government’s assurance for the unrestricted flow of information through the internet and no arbitrary suspension of internet services (except for technical reasons), promotion of e-commerce through proper regulations, introduction of more broadband services in all parts of the country (especially in remote and rural areas), reduction in internet tariffs and taxes, promotion of literacy and basic skills among the masses, and implementation of cybercrimes laws to counter digital risks and to facilitate safe public use of the internet. Last but not least, the author opines that national policies must also take into account cultural factors that restrict women from accessing and using the internet due to either religious reasons or societal conservatism. This means the development of a mass awareness program for promoting the use of the internet among urban and rural Pakistani women. In addition, ethnic minorities living in rural areas are often faced with language barriers and disadvantaged due to a lack of education and poor economic resources. The Pakistani people with disabilities are also unable to use the internet and other ICTs due to a lack of provision of special needs equipment such as keyboards, screens and accessibility aids for sensory impairments. Thus, Pakistan’s government needs to have policies that address all these issues.

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Haywood, T. (1998). Global Networks and the Myth of Equality. In B. D. Loader (Ed.), Cyberspace Divide: Equality, Agency and Policy in the Information Society. London: Routledge. Horrigan, J.  B. (2003). Adoption of Broadband to the Home. Pew Internet and American Life Project. Available at: www.pewinternet.org Hussain, O. (2017). Pakistan Is One of Asia’s Fast Growing Internet-Markets. Available at: https://www.techinasia.com/pakistan-digital-landscape-2016 Katz, J.  E., & Rice, R.  E. (2002). Social Consequences of Internet Use: Access, Involvement and Interaction. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Katz, J., Rice, R., & Aspden, P. (2001). The Internet 1995–2000: Access, Civic Involvement and Social Interaction. The American Behavioral Scientist, 45(3), 405419.. Khalid, U. (2017). 3G/4G Users in Pakistan Reach 46 Million, Broadband Subscribers Reach 48 Million. Available at: https://www.techjuice.pk/3g4gusers-pakistan-reach-46-million/ Kirkman, G. S., Peter, K., Cornelius, S., & Klaus, S. (2002). Global Information: Technology Report 2007–2002. Available at: http://unpan1.un.org/intradoc/ groups/public/documents/un/report.pdf Kiski, S., & Pohjola, M. (2002). Cross-Country Diffusion of the Internet. Information Economics and Policy, 14, 297–310. Levitsky, S., and Way, L. A. (2002). The Rise of Competitive Authoritarianism. Journal of Democracy, 13 (2): 51–65. Available at: https://scholar.harvard. edu/levitsky/files/SL_elections.pdf; http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/journal_ of_democracy/v013/13.2levitsky.html Livingstone, S., & Helsper, E. (2010). Balancing Opportunities and Risks in Teenagers’ Use of the Internet: The Role of Online Skills and the Internet Self-­ Efficacy. New Media & Society, 12(2), 309–329. Loges, W.  E., & Jung, J. (2001). Exploring the Digital Divide: Internet Connectedness and Age. Communication Research, 28(4), 536–562. https:// doi.org/10.1177/009365001028004007. Maitland, C. F., & Johannes, M. B. (2001). National Level Culture and Global Diffusion: The Case of the Internet. In C.  Ess (Ed.), Culture, Technology, Communication: Towards an Intercultural Global Village (pp.  87–128). New York: State University of New York Press. Michael, G. (2012). Open Data: Empowering the Empowered or Effective Data Use for Everyone? Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/220167404_Open_data_Empowering_the_empowered_or_effective_ data_use_for_everyone Murdock, G., Hartmann, P., & Gray, P. (1996). Conceptualising Home Computing: Resources and Practices. In N.  Heap, R.  Thomas, G.  Einon, R.  Mason, & H.  Mackay (Eds.), Information Technology and Society. London: Sage.

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Norris, P. (2001). Digital Divide: Civic Engagement, Information Poverty, and the Internet Worldwide. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Palfrey, J., & Gasser, U. (2008). Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives. New York: Basic Books. Quibria, G., Shamsun, A., Ted, T., and Mari-Len, M. (2002). Digital Divide: Determinants and Policies with Special Reference to Asia. Available at: https:// www.adb.org/publications/digital-divide-determinants-and-policiesspecial-reference-asia Ragnedda, M., & Muschert, G. W. (2013). The Digital Divide: The Internet and Social Inequality in International Perspective. London: Routledge. Rashid, A. (2016). Digital Inclusion and Social Inequality: Gender Differences in ICT Access and Use in Five Developing. Gender, Technology & Development 20(3). https://doi.org/10.1177%2F0971852416660651 Rogers, E. M. (1995). Diffusion of Innovations. New York: Free Press. Sadelowski, M. (2001). Focus on Research Methods, Real Qualitative Researchers Do Not Count: The Use of Numbers in Qualitative Research. Research in Nursing and Health, 24, 230–240. Singh, S. (2010). Digital Divide in India: Measurement, Determinants and Policy for Addressing the Challenges in Bridging the Digital Divide. Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/220136939_Digital_Divide_ in_India_Measurement_Determinants_and_Policy_for_Addressing_the_ Challenges_in_Bridging_the_Digital_Divide Stanley, L. D. (2003). Beyond Access: Psychosocial Barriers to Computer Literacy. The Information Society, 19(5): 407–416. Talpur, M. (2017). Rising Inequality in Pakistan. Available at: https://tribune. com.pk/story/1509963/rising-inequality-pakistan/ Teresa, C. (2008). Literature Review: Understanding the “Second-Level Digital Divide” Papers by Teresa Correa. Unpublished Manuscript, School of Journalism, College of Communication, University of Texas at Austin. Available at: http://www.academia.edu/212163/Literature_ Review_Understading_the_second-level_digital_divide_ UNDP. (1999). New Technologies and the Global Race for Knowledge. Available at: http://hdr.undp.org/sites/default/files/reports/260/hdr_1999_en_ nostats.pdf Weingarten, E. (2013). The Developing World Needs More Female Internet Users. http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/technology/2013/01/a_new_ report_on_female_internet_users_from_the_developing_world.html Wills, M. (1999). Bridging the Digital Divide. Adults Learning, December, 10–11.

CHAPTER 5

Widening the Wedge: Digital Inequalities and Social Media in India Padma Rani, Manjushree G. Naik, and Binod C. Agrawal

Introduction According to Weber social stratification is an interplay of class, status and group dynamics (Cox 1970). Weber postulated the concept of social stratification and pointed out that different indicators of social inequality may be clearly observed at different points of history and development of society. For example, in agrarian society and capitalist society the importance attached to indicators of social stratification was different (Azarkievic 2015). Trajectories of “Citizens” lives—what Weber defined as “life

P. Rani (*) Manipal Institute of Communication, Manipal Academy of Higher Education, Manipal, India e-mail: [email protected] M. G. Naik • B. C. Agrawal Media Research Centre, Manipal Institute of Communication, Manipal Academy of Higher Education, Manipal, India e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2020 M. Ragnedda, A. Gladkova (eds.), Digital Inequalities in the Global South, Global Transformations in Media and Communication Research - A Palgrave and IAMCR Series, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-32706-4_5

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Chances”—are affected by digital capital and internet usage. The base of social inequality in society is the capacity or incapacity to access restricted and limited resources, opportunities and privileged positions and rewards in society (Grabb 1990 cited by Ragnedda 2018). Digital divide and digital inequality are fundamental aspects of social inequality that exists in the information age (Ragnedda et al. 2019). Social stratification in the digital age is reproduced not only by class dynamics (economic aspects) but also by status/prestige (cultural aspects) and in-­ group affiliations (political aspects) are useful for a better understanding of digital inequalities. Social media especially has added another dimension of social stratification in socio-political and economic areas due to the rapid spread of digital media. Few researchers like Kuttan and Peters (2003; cited in Ragnedda 2017) have suggested that technological repercussions may increase social inequality. The digital media is supposed to be devoid of any form of stratification and remain socially neutral. On the contrary, the technological world reflecting the social world will lead to an increase in social inequality in the Indian society. This chapter seeks to examine the case of India. How social and digital divides are intertwined and how they mutually and reciprocally influence each other? The inequalities that exist in the nations and societies and unbalanced pace of growth in societies to access digital services and infrastructures refer to the term digital divide (Paul 2001). The phrase digital divide speaks about the gap that exists between those with the effective and regular access to the information and digital technology and those who do not have the access. The societies that are often looked from the perspective of digital divide include the socio-economic (rich and poor), geographical (urban and rural) or racial (white and minority). The term globally also refers to the disparities that exist in access to the digital technology between the countries. The divide describes the disparities that exist in terms of area, wealth and ethnicity (Sipre and Malik 2017). The recognition of the inequalities that exists in the use of the internet was recognized by the social science research soon after a substantial percentage of the population in the world especially in the United States began using the internet and Web for the needs of their daily lives during the 1990s (Pew Research 2014). The initial research on inequalities that exists in the distribution of digital technologies banked on the definitions “the divide between those without the access to the new technologies and those with” (NTIA 1999). The researchers had the question that how

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people used the internet services after accessing it (Nie and Erbring 2000). The social science research relies generally on digital inequality. Including the highly diffused countries, the issues pertaining to the digital inequalities remain relevant due to its influence in the usage practices, access to the internet and its quality. The members of the United States Federal Communication Commission consider the mobile and fixed internet as an important utility and not a luxury item (Kang 2016). Early study on the internet observed damaging impact on the relationships in the society (Kraut et al. 1998). The studies observed that the inequality in the access of the digital technology is the new form of inequalities that exists in the society in the information age in which there are chances to shape the lives. The people who participate effectively in the digital territory are introduced to the social life mediated by digital technology (Robinson et al. 2015). The difference that exists in the access of valuable goods is termed as social inequality. The stratification process of society depends on the definition of what is valuable, and the people reach the positions that are associated with the valuable assets. Social inequality is synonymous with methodical delivery of scarce and valued goods across the positions in the society. It is not directly associated with the natural, random, personal and temporary differences. The social asset groups include power, economic, social, cultural, health and civil with different subtypes (Grusky 2007). The asset type in culture is the knowledge and is found to be unevenly disseminated among the people who are extremely educated, a lesser amount of well-educated and uneducated. The right to work is considered as the public property. Here the advantage lies among the citizens and immigrants who are illegal are at the disadvantage side (Grusky 2007). The valuable assets are described as capital. The term can be extended, and the use of the term will go beyond the definition of economy as the assets which can be converted directly into money will include the cultural and social forms (Bourdieu 1986). The cultural capital can be established through the attainment of education and social capital that consists essentially the connection with others (Bourdieu 1986). With the definition of social inequalities, it can be observed that there exists the significant connection between the social inequality and digital divide, wherein the social inequalities and the reason of the differences in the usage and skills. The use of the internet influences the disparities and its achievements in the form of capital determine social position and types of assets (Ragnedda and Muschert 2015). The dearth of resources in the social field which

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includes the cultural and social aspects is responsible for the drawbacks in the corresponding field in the digital technology (Helsper 2012). The strengthening of social inequality has become inevitable (Helsper 2012). The domestication and adoption of technology is socially constructed in terms of the diffusion of technology, which enables the relevance to social science (Haddon 2007). And more importantly the technology inspires the society owing to its impact on the political, social and economic relations, which are played (Wajcman 2002). There should be co-evolutionary viewpoint in the process of convergence in the telecommunications to solve the flaws in the technological and social determinism (Latzer et al. 2015). Social change is possible using technologies such as the internet (Latzer et al. 2015; Quan-Haase and McCay-Peet 2016). There are two long-term possible effects through the diffusion of the internet to bring in changes of social inequality (Hargittai and Hsieh 2013). According to the study, the inequality can be reduced if the lower strata of the society start using the internet facilities when compared to the higher strata in more useful ways. The inequality is increased if the people in the higher social positions use the technology such as the internet in more useful ways (Hargittai and Hsieh 2013). The subject of social disparity constitutes the object for the sociological study as a discipline (Bornschier 2008). Hence the study of digital discrimination is the core for the concerns in terms of use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) (Rice and Fuller 2013). During the 1970s, the debate was centered on the information gap following the popularity of application of information technology, which gave birth to the new term digital divide during the 1990s. The term digital divide has broader approach (Fong 2009). Ruedin and Hanimann describe the term digital divide geographically that exists between the countries and regions. Branko (2005), Mark (2003) and Noris (2001) define the digital divide in terms of developed and developing countries, information rich and information poor and the people who use and do not use digital technology to further the participation in the political process. Dearth of skill, education and information technology tools leads toward the social, cultural and economic deprivations (Kaur and Singh 2016). The information and communication technology plays an important role in the development and ensures the change in the life standards of the people. However, the possibilities to exploit the benefits depend largely on the adoption and access of these technologies (Kaur and Singh

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2016). Again, adoption of information and communication technologies differentiates between the countries and within the countries, which is termed as intra-national.

ICT in India India was introduced to the internet in 1995 by Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited (VSNL) in six cities via dial up. In 1999, the policy for national telecom was introduced which offered opportunities to the internet service providers. This enabled the quality of service offered at much lesser price. In 1999, the internet penetration was 0.1% and increased to 11.4% in 2012. In 2001 3G mobile telephony was introduced which was much faster and efficient network. In 2012 4G was introduced by Airtel services in India. 4G relies heavily on internet protocols. Most Indian services have a strong focus on data services such as music, videos and social media. In 2016 Reliance Industries introduced the Jio services, with rock-bottom prices and focus on mobile data consumption. It started a price war among the mobile operators in India. As per the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India the average data usage per month per user has gone up from 70 MB in 2014 to 1.6 GB in 2017. India is the second fastest digital adapter in the world. Digital population in India as of January 2018 (in million) is as follows: active internet users—462, active mobile internet users—430.3, active social media users—250 and active mobile social media users—230 (Mckinsey Global Institute). Internet users are growing in India. In 2019 the growth is expected to be 11% (KANTAR IMRB 2018). The urban penetration is 66% and rural penetration of the internet is 25%. It projected a double-digit growth for 2019 and estimates that the number of internet users will reach 627 million by the end of this year.

Socio-economic Life in India India has a population of over 1.21 billion (2011 census) with 70% of total population living in rural areas. Among them 44.7% in rural areas and 7.3% in urban areas do not have access to electricity. The Government of India has launched an electrification drive by which by 2020 the whole of the country shall have access to electricity.

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The 2011 census report in the country shows overall improvement of 9.2% in the literacy rate. The literacy rate among males is 82.14%, while the female literacy rate is 65.46%. The most literate state in the country is Kerala with the literacy rate of 93.91%, and Lakshadweep and Mizoram with 92.28% and 91.58%, respectively, are at second and third positions (Census 2011). With 63.1%, Bihar has least literacy rate in the country. Overall, although the literacy rate in the country is moving upward, there still exist the disparities in terms of literacy in urban and rural areas. During 1991 census, there were 10,400 raw languages which were later streamlined into 1576 mother tongues. They were again reorganized into 216 mother tongues and clustered under 114 languages (Mallikarjun 2004). The obstacle that is available in the information age is illiteracy in English language. In India, the availability and accessibility of the internet are essential for education, government services, livelihood and other entitlements. The study conducted by CCDS (Center for Communication and Development Studies) observes the amount of inequalities that exist in the accessing the digital technology facilities in the metropolis. The study also explores the obstacles that prevail in the availability of digital technologies to the marginalized and poor. The digital disadvantaged are frequently the individuals who are deprived in many ways by society at large. The individuals constitute the poor class who are unable to bear the cost of the infrastructure facilities required to avail the benefits of digital technologies, the people who do not have enough social capital, which includes the skills of information and communication technologies to use the internet and the computers and education. The community which lacks the freedom to use the technologies, especially the digital technologies, such as women. The study finds that digital inequalities support the idea of the inequalities that exist in the society. The study was conducted in Pune city where 97% of the households had a mobile phone and 89% had television. An overwhelming 80% of users and 78% of non-users said that the internet was as basic a necessity as electricity. There is a strong ambition to go online and be part of the digital society.

Methodology The survey involved data collection in 21 cities spread across five geographic and multilingual regions. Since over dozen languages are spoken and written in these five regions, the data collection instrument was

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prepared and pretested in English language, thereby limiting the scope of the study. The questionnaire was translated into Hindi, Oriya, Marathi and Kannada and also validated with experts. In each city, about 150 adults above 18  years of age of both sexes having mobile phone access were selected by snowball sampling method, since no other sampling technique was found to be suitable. Selected respondents were interviewed with the help of pretested questionnaire between April and September 2017 by a team of researchers belonging to the respective regions after intensive training. The researchers were familiar and fluent in the language spoken in the area/city. A total of 2869 (North—808, South—906, East—525, West—458, North East—172) out of 3150 respondents filled the questionnaire, and data was collected in the face-to-face situation and was recorded using Google Doc. The data is representative of the country as a whole as out of 29 states 19 states are covered in the study. There are states from every region of the country. The aim of the survey was to understand the social media influences among users. The questionnaire was used for the purpose of data collection. It consisted of three parts. The first part was devoted to the collecting information on the demographics of the respondents. The second part sought to collect information on the usage of the internet and social media for various purposes. The third part of the questionnaire collected information on the perception of the people regarding the internet and social media. All the questions were closed-ended questions and options were given for each. In the second and third parts questions were given in the form of statements and they had to choose one of the options. Selected relevant questions have been taken up for this analysis. Profile of the Respondents In the sample 1307 (45.6%) were female respondents and 1562 (54.4%) were male respondents. The sample was divided into age group of 15–24 years, 25–34 years and 35 plus years. The samples are equally distributed in the three groups: 34.3% were in the age group of 15–24, 30.2% were of the age between 25 and 34 and 35.5% of the total respondents were in the age group of 35 and above. The older age group was not excluded on purpose, but the sample consists of a negligible number of people above 45 years and hence they were clubbed as above 35 years. The sample had 49.6% married respondents, while 50.3% respondents were unmarried and 0.1% were separated (people who had no contact with their spouses).

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The occupational distribution of the sample was as follows: 39.2% were employed, 28.4% were students, 12.3% were homemakers/housewife, 1.1% had business and 9% were professional. It was seen that from north eastern part of the country students accounted to 55.8%. The employed were found in large number (63.4%) in eastern part of the country. The income of the sample was collected to understand their socio-­ economic profile. The income was recorded in the Indian Currency which is Rupees. One US dollar is equivalent to approximately 70 Indian Rupees. The income of the sample varied as, 32.6% respondents were found in the income group between Rs. 10,000 and 25,000 per month, 28.5% in the income group of Rs. 25001–50,000, 17.7% in the income of Rs. 50,001–75,000, 10.2% in the income of Rs. 75,000–100,000 and 11% above Rs. 100,000. Religious diversity is a unique feature of the Indian society. In the study Hindus constituted 79.3%, Muslims 10.4%, Christians 9.8% and Buddhists 0.5%. The other religions were not found in the sample. The presence of the three major religions—Hindus, Muslims and Christians—is approximately in the same proportion as the census of India. As per census 2011(census is enumerated every ten years in India) illiteracy is highest among the Muslims in India (42.7%) followed by Hindus at 36.3%. Literacy rates are highest among the Jains followed by the Christians at 74.3%. In India there are 23 official languages in the Eighth Schedule of the constitution including English. Hindi is the official language and English is the sublanguage nationally. The provincial governments are free to use the regional language as the official language. All the states have official languages of their own. There are some languages which are widely spoken but do not have a script like Konkani, Bhojpuri and many others. Language is a barrier for digital adoption as the internet is not available in all the languages (FICCI 2019). In the study data was collected on what language do they speak outside their homes. People who spoke their mother tongue were 65.8%, 19% spoke English, 9.9% spoke Hindi and 5.3% spoke other languages. The language diversity is an impediment in the usage of social media. Google is available in only eight Indian languages and people must use English fonts to type in their language. People who are not educated in English are not able to do this as they are not comfortable/not aware of the English alphabet.

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Different Aspects of Digital Inequality In order to understand that digital inequality exists in India the survey had questions related to whether they had access to the internet on the mobile; time spent on the internet and the use of mobile/internet for various activities like social interaction, politics, religious, shopping and many others. Access to devices like mobile phone has aided in the access to the internet. The cost of smartphone has come down in recent years. In March 2019 the cost of mobile sets without the Jio sim was below US $50. The data pack has also become cheaper and that has increased the usability of the mobile phone in India. Airtel, a mobile internet service provider in India, offers 1 GB data per day and unlimited calls for 80 days for US $6 approximately equivalent to 400 Indian Rupees. The Reliance Jio services is even cheaper. According to Kantar ICUBE 2018 report 97% of the users access the internet through mobile devices. In the sample the percentage of people who have access to smartphone or own a smartphone varies across the regions. The ownership or access to smartphone is 95.9% in the West, 90% in the South, 82.8% in the North, 82.5% in the East and 74.4% in the North East. There is a gap in the ownership or access to smartphones across the regions. The West and South are advanced regions in terms of infrastructure and therefore a larger population owns the smartphone. The East and North East lag in infrastructure development and that is reflected in the ownership of the smartphones. In the study the sample was asked “Do you own or have access to the Internet facility?” In the West 91.5% of the sample had access to internet facility, in the South 91.1%, in the North 84.2%, in the East 83.8% and in the North East 77.3%. It is evident that there is regional variation in terms of access and ownership of smartphones and mobiles. Both West and South have a sizeable population which has access to the smartphone and the internet. In comparison the East and North East have low smartphone ownership as well as access to internet facility. Among the total respondents, 85.7% use the internet, while 14.3% were not using the internet. In the West the percentage of people using the internet was 91.9%, while the percentage was 90.6% in the South, 83.8% in the North, 77.9% in East and 76.7% in North East. With one of the highest growth rates in the state GDP (an economic indicator), Bihar registered the highest growth in the internet users across

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both urban and rural areas, registering a growth of 35% over last year followed by Odisha (Kantar ICUBE 2018). There is improvement in terms of internet penetration in the eastern region. Time Spent on the Internet A total of 50.40% of the respondents spent one to two hours on the internet, while 49.30% spent three to six hours on the internet and 0.40% spent more than six hours on the internet. On a closer look at the regions, it is seen that in the South and East more people spend one to two hours on the internet, whereas in the North, West and North East more people spend three to six hours on the internet. In the North and West there is a small percentage of people who spend more than six hours on the internet. The data also points to the existence of internet addiction, though it is minimal in the sample. Inequalities in Usage of Social Media The first inequality is linked to the frequency of usage. According to our data, 64.2% use Facebook and other social networking sites (SNS) regularly, 25.9% use Facebook and other social networking sites occasionally and 9.9% rarely use social networking sites. Across the country the use of social networking sites is prevalent among the users of social media. S ocial Capital-Enhancing Activities Our research also focused on the inequalities in using social media, whose primary purpose is to maintain and increase one’s online and offline social networks (Ellison et al. 2007; Joinson 2018). Overall, 82.3% said that they use social media to network with others. More specifically, in North India 92.9% use social media to network with others, while in the North East it is 90.2% of the respondents, West 84.3%, South 76% and East 72.9%. It sounds clear how social media is used to maintain their networks and, therefore, those who do not have internet facility or do not know how to use it are disadvantaged in terms of networking and social capital-­ enhancing activities (Table 5.1).  conomic Capital-Enhancing Activities E Social media is used by people to market their business. Inequalities in terms of capital-enhancing activities are particularly interesting. Indeed,

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Table 5.1  Frequency of use of Facebook and other SNS How often do you use Facebook and other social networking sites? Region 1. North (J&K, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand) 2. South (Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu) 3. East (Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh) 4. West (Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa) 5. North East (Assam, Manipur) Total

1. Regularly 2. Occasionally 3. Rarely Total 466 68.8 497 60.5 261 63.8 268 63.8 86 65.2 1578 64.2

149 22.0 214 26.1 109 26.7 127 30.2 39 29.5 638 25.9

62 9.2 110 13.4 39 9.5 25 6.0 7 5.3 243 9.9

677 100.0 821 100.0 409 100.0 420 100.0 132 100.0 2459 100.0

15.2% use social media regularly to market the business and 25.4% said they use social media occasionally to market the business. The marketing factor for the business online was observed more in the West with 18.8% of the respondents agreeing to the fact that they are into the use of social media to market their business. Social media has also helped women to run small enterprise from their homes. The number of people running business is only 11.1% in the sample. A few homemakers also indulge in small enterprises from their homes itself (Table 5.2). A total of 15.4% said that they use social media regularly to market and to develop contact in business, 22.9% said they use it occasionally and 61.7% said they had no opinion on the subject. In Western part of the country, 20.2% of the respondents said that they use social media regularly to market and to develop contact in business, which was highest among other regions. While lowest percentage was reported in the North East for the use of social media to market and to develop contact in business. The business capital of India is in the Western region. North East does not have any large business enterprise. Social media use can increase internet users’ online and offline social capital often operationalized as bonding and bridging social capital (Ellison et al. 2007; Kim and Geidner 2008; Steinfield et al. 2008; Utz 2009; Valenzuela et al. 2009).

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Table 5.2  Frequency of use of social media for business Do you use social media to market and to develop contact in business? Region 1. North (J&K, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand) 2. South (Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu) 3. East (Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh) 4. West (Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa) 5. North East (Assam, Manipur) Total

1. Regularly 2. Occasionally 3. Rarely 82 12.1 129 15.7 75 18.3 85 20.2 9 6.8 380 15.4

143 21.1 199 24.2 87 21.3 112 26.6 22 16.7 563 22.9

452 66.8 493 60.0 247 60.4 224 53.2 101 76.5 1517 61.7

Total 677 100.0 821 100.0 409 100.0 421 100.0 132 100.0 2460 100.0

Furthermore, 50.8% of the respondents said that the internet/social media bring about economic prosperity to the country, while 17.8% said no to the question that the internet/social media bring about economic prosperity to the country and 31.4% had no opinion on the subject. Fifty-­ eight percent of the respondents in North said that they believe that the internet/social media bring about economic prosperity to the country and 56.5% in South said that they agree with the fact that the internet/social media bring about economic prosperity to the country. While 38.4% in the North East said that they believed that social media would bring about economic prosperity, 32.4% in East agreed that the internet/social media bring about economic prosperity to the country. A total of 47.8% of the respondents said that they have not experienced the personal change in face-to-face interaction with family/friends/relatives/colleagues at work place due to increasing social media use, while 43% said that they have experienced the personal change in face-to-face interaction reduced with family/friends/relatives/colleagues at work place due to increasing social media use. Some 9.2% of the sample believed social media use has increased personal contact in the social interaction with family and colleagues. In the opinion of people, social media has reduced the face-to-face interaction among people. People are now able to send messages and information via these SNS, and they meet up only if

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Table 5.3  Influence of social media in interaction Have you experienced any personal change in face-to-face interaction with family/friends/ relatives/colleagues at workplace due to increasing social media use? Region 1. North (J&K, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand) 2. South (Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu) 3. East (Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh) 4. West (Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa) 5. North East (Assam, Manipur) Total

1. No affect 2. Reduced 3. Increased Total 337 41.7 446 49.2 265 50.5 254 55.5 68 39.5 1370 47.8

376 46.5 399 44.0 199 37.9 174 38.0 87 50.6 1235 43.0

95 11.8 61 6.7 61 11.6 30 6.6 17 9.9 264 9.2

808 100.0 906 100.0 525 100.0 458 100.0 172 100.0 2869 100.0

required. Some people reported that people within the same house interact only through apps. In some cases, they have been able to develop contacts through the social media and then physically interacted, but that number is quite minimal (Table 5.3).  olitical Capital-Enhancing Activities P Political figures, campaign organizers and online fundraisers reach out to social media users who have discussed politics on Facebook, followed a political figure on Twitter or tweeted/retweeted about any political issue. Appealing to online political talkers through social media is more likely to convert those political talkers into online political mobilizers, volunteers, activists and donors. Encouraging their political discussions in social media can help create a cascade effect so that more and more young internet users will feel free to discuss political or social issues in social media. It has also been noted that heavy users of Facebook or social media need not necessarily take part in political discussion (Table 5.4). Some 50.9% said that they have not used social media to follow election/political events, while 32.4% said that they do use social media to follow election/political events. It can be noticed that 7.1% of the respondents said that they are totally unaware about the use of social media to follow election/political events, while 9.7% do not have any opinion in this regard.

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Table 5.4  Usage of social media for political activities Have you used social media to follow election/political events? Region

1. Yes

1. North (J&K, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand) 2. South (Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu) 3. East (Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh) 4. West (Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa) 5. North East (Assam, Manipur)

284 381 35.1 47.2 301 553 33.2 61.0 174 181 33.1 34.5 139 275 30.3 60.0 32 69 18.6 40.1 930 1459 32.4 50.9

Total

2. No

3. Cannot say 4. No Total information 63 7.8 38 4.2 109 20.8 44 9.6 23 13.4 277 9.7

80 9.9 14 1.5 61 11.6 0 0.0 48 27.9 203 7.1

808 100.0 906 100.0 525 100.0 458 100.0 172 100.0 2869 100.0

Among the people who follow election/political events, 35.1% in the North, 33.2% in the South, 33.1% in the East, 30.3% in the West and 18.6% in the North East said that they used social media to follow election/political events. Social media plays a crucial role in the vote decision-making process as most of the political leaders of the national parties are relying on the social media to lure the voters, and it can be observed that 56.6% of the respondents said that social media has not affected their voting decision. In the backdrop of the response, it can be noted that social media was significant in bringing the BJP to power in the 2014 Lok Sabha election. Some 22.5% said that social media has affected their voting decision. What also needs to be noted that 20.9% of the sample either had no idea that campaigning could be done by social media or had no opinion regarding the same (Table 5.5). Social media is used to express political views or statements. Twitter has fundamentally changed the ways that political leaders interact with citizens and how political news is covered (Hamby 2013; Parmelee and Bichard 2012). Some 58.5% of the respondents said that they have never expressed the political views or statements on social media, while 21.1% said that they expressed the political views or statements on social media. While 11.6% said that they cannot say. A total of 8.9% said that they do not know

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Table 5.5  Influence of social media on voting decision Has social media affected your voting decision? Region

1. Yes

1. North (J&K, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand) 2. South (Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu) 3. East (Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh) 4. West (Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa) 5. North East (Assam, Manipur)

197 414 24.4 51.2 204 610 22.5 67.3 124 215 23.6 41.0 105 306 22.9 66.8 15 79 8.7 45.9 645 1624 22.5 56.6

Total

2. No

3. Cannot 4. No Total say information 132 16.3 78 8.6 125 23.8 47 10.3 29 16.9 411 14.3

65 8.0 14 1.5 61 11.6 0 0.0 49 28.5 189 6.6

808 100.0 906 100.0 525 100.0 458 100.0 172 100.0 2869 100.0

that the statements or views can be expressed through social media. With the emergence of social media and political parties embracing it completely, still a sizeable portion of the population is unaware of the use of social media for political purposes. Some 57.6% said that they believe that Indian democracy will become more transparent as a result of social media, whereas 16.9% said no to the question. A total of 25.8% said that they cannot say. In North and West, the respondents strongly believed that Indian democracy will become more transparent as a result of social media. The percentage of the respondents who agreed to the fact that they believe that Indian democracy will become more transparent as a result of social media in both the regions was 60.9%. Finally, 57.3% believe that Indian democracy will become more transparent as a result of social media. Social/Civic Issues Some 43.3% said that they cannot say anything about using social media to support social/civic issues. A total of 33.8% said that they use social media to support social/civic issues occasionally, while 12.7% of the respondents said that they use social media to support social/civic issues regularly. Around 48.9% in southern and 44.7% in Western regions of the

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Table 5.6  Usage of social media to support social/civic issues Do you use social media to support social/civic issues? Region 1. North (J&K, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand) 2. South (Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu) 3. East (Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh) 4. West (Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa) 5. North East (Assam, Manipur) Total

1. Regularly 2. Occasionally 3. Cannot 4. No Total say information 75 9.3

255 31.6

329 40.7

149 18.4

808 100.0

134 14.8

353 39.0

405 44.7

14 1.5

906 100.0

79 15.0

165 31.4

220 41.9

61 11.6

525 100.0

69 15.1

155 33.8

224 48.9

10 2.2

458 100.0

8 4.7 365 12.7

42 24.4 970 33.8

64 37.2 1242 43.3

58 33.7 292 10.2

172 100.0 2869 100.0

country said that they cannot say about using social media to support social/civic issues. Some 39% in the South said that they use social media to support social/civic issues occasionally (Table 5.6).

Discussion Social inequalities exist in society and they are prevalent across the world. The form of social inequality changes with the changes in society. In digital society, social inequality exists in the form of digital divide and digital inequality. In India there are areas which do not have electricity. In certain states like Bihar and Uttar Pradesh the towns or cities also do not have electricity for more than 12 hours a day. People in these areas do not have many electronic gadgets as they would not be able to operate them to full capacity. The mobile penetration in these areas has been quite low. Bihar and Odisha are two states in the east of India which have shown substantial increase in mobile ownership after the electrification program has been implemented with full zeal by the Government of India.

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Mobile ownership has also risen due to the low cost of mobiles. The low rate of data packs has also helped people own mobiles. People have mobiles but are not aware of how to operate it. In India there are several factors that contribute to the digital divide owing to the diverse culture and its socio-economic status (Sipre, Malik 2017). The factors include education/low literacy rate, language and income. In India, the huge gap is between the urban and rural, which is leading toward digital divide in terms of tele density, internet and mobile users (Kaur and Singh 2016). CCDS study outlines the hindrances that exist in the pathway of accessing the internet for a broad spectrum of socially excluded and low-income populations in Pune city, a metropolitan accumulation in Maharashtra, where approximately 40% of people live in casual payments or slums. The study defined that the economic, educational, infrastructures, gender and attitudinal constraints along with lack of skills to develop the information and communication technology approach are the main barriers enabling digital equality. Other than physical barriers in terms of relevant infrastructure to access technology factors like illiteracy are an additional impediment to digital equality. As we have seen, there are variations in literacy levels across the regions in India, whereby the literacy level of the southern states is high in comparison to the eastern and many north eastern states. Due to illiteracy people are not able to operate the mobile phones. With the introduction of the smartphones, the internet is accessed on the mobiles. As people have no knowledge of English alphabets, they are not able to exploit the potential of the digital world. In some of the handsets the keyboard is also in Hindi that benefits the people of North and some states like Rajasthan and Bihar. The other states have their own language. People who have had no formal education are doubly disadvantaged when it comes to digital technology. One is the technology itself and the second thing is about the written content. They are only able to receive calls and listen to some music. The sample consists of 35% of young people who are students. This generation is comfortable with technology compared to the older generation. Though only a miniscule percentage of the sample is spending more than six hours on the internet. This is an indication of digital addiction in the youth, happening across the globe. The youth use the mobile for entertainment like watching movies, playing video games and watching YouTube videos. Some of them use it for educational purposes also. Digital inequality occurs from a young age itself: if they do not have the right technical knowledge they are disadvantaged in comparison to their peers (Ellison et al. 2008).

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Gender is also a factor to digital inequality. Male ownership of smartphones is much more compared to women. In the study it was observed that women who were technologically literate were using digital technology to run their home-based enterprise. In the case of women who are not educated and earning they are doubly disadvantaged. They have neither the resources nor the skill to take advantage of the technology. Regional wise variation exists in India due to the differences in education, infrastructure and the socio-cultural context of the region. People from North East are exposed to serials from Korea and it has influenced their lifestyle and behavioral patterns. There are not many business enterprises operating in that part of the country. Due to the geographical terrain of the area mobile connectivity is not very good. In East India the infrastructure is improving, literacy levels are low and this region has people who have migrated to other parts of the country in search of employment. In order to keep in contact with their family and friends, people are using social media. There exists a wide gender gap in this region. People in this region are politically active. They feel that social media would help bring some transparency in politics. In the North of India there are regions with medium and low literacy levels. Infrastructure is good in metros and big cities but not in small towns. In the state of Jammu and Kashmir during times of disturbance the government places a ban on the internet and mobile network. The community feeling is quiet heightened in the North. Groups with selective members are formed and information is shared via the social media within these groups. In the West of India, except the state of Rajasthan, the states have good literacy rate and gender equality. The business centers of India are in this region and people are aware of how social media can be used to promote business. So, the low-income, uneducated small-time businessman suffers. He is not able to exploit the benefits of the digital networks. In the South of India literacy levels are high, and infrastructural facilities even in small towns and cities are good. The gender divide is much less in this region. People access all forms of media. But there is gap between the people in the higher strata and the lower strata of society. Adoption of digital technology for day-to-day activities has also widened the gap.

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Conclusion India is a vast country and there are variations between regions in terms of internet access and availability. There are regions in the country which still do not have electricity. One of the essential requirements for internet is electricity, these areas are deprived off internet usage. The internet is used for a variety of purposes including social media like YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and so on. The use of only selected language on social media has created a knowledge gap between the users of other languages and the nine languages used by Google. People in the older age group above 60 find it difficult to use social media as several things are done using the English alphabet but writing in the local language. All the older people are doubly disadvantaged regarding social media as they must learn the operational aspects of social media as well as the language. They are not using English and Hindi in their day-to-day functioning. Ownership and access to the internet also creates a digital divide. Mobiles are available at cheaper rates, but the internet cannot be used on all kinds of mobile phones. Lack of accessibility creates the first level of digital divide. Social media is aiding in creating online and offline networks. People who are not on social media are doubly disadvantaged as they are not able to connect. Some people were of the view that social media has affected face-to-face contacts; on the contrary there were some people who have developed face-to-face contact with the help of social media. In the study approximately 10% of the sample was not aware about the various uses of social media. They perceive that social media has helped to create new smaller groups; therefore, it could aid in forming smaller online communities. It is being used by people to gather information about their business as well as develop contacts for their business. Some people have joined smaller groups which promote the cause. About 15% of the sample was able to develop contacts for business through social media. In case of the economic activities that can be enhanced with the help of social media, a sizeable proportion of the sample was unaware about it. The use of social media for political purposes such as following news about elections or political events, response to political statements, gathering opinion on political issues and many other activities. A sizeable proportion of the sample felt that voting decisions, that is, whom to cast their votes for, are affected by social media. They do express their views or

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express their reaction to political statements. Some are of the view that social media use will bring about transparency in the Indian democracy. On the contrast 20.9% of the sample is not aware that social media can be used for political purposes. On the other hand, a portion of the sample feels that political activities will not be influenced by social media. People were optimistic in their opinion on perception they had about social media. Some believe that being on social media is a new leisure activity. People are divided on the view that social media is a wastage of time. Only half the sample believes that social media will bring about economic prosperity. A section of the sample believes that social media would affect families and personal relationships negatively. Some believe that social media would bring about personal happiness, but others do not think so. Regarding the impact social media would have in the future the opinion is almost equally divided between a bright and gloomy future. The division in perception is also an indication of the wedge existing in the society. From the above analysis it can be summed up that in India the digital divide exists at all the three levels. The first level of digital divide exists where people do not have access to ICTs or in this case social media. The second level of digital divide exists in the form of differential access to ICTs and this is created by differences in terms of education, income, language and so on. People who do not know English are severely disadvantaged in using social media. The third level of digital divide refers to capacity or ability to exploit the internet and to transform its use into tangible outcomes. From the study it is obvious that some people are using social media for building networks, developing their business and for political purposes. On the contrary, a sizeable section of the population is not aware of the various possibilities of using social media. Therefore, it further adds another dimension to stratification prevalent in society and promotes inequality.

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CHAPTER 6

ICTs, Power Prejudice and Empowerment: Digital Exclusion of the Poor in Rural Bangladesh Mohammad Sahid Ullah

Introduction The optimistic estimation that Information and Communication Technology (ICT) leads to sustainable development fails to prove its potential. Rather, scholars’ attention is drawn toward these technologies’ ambivalent nature in development processes. The hopeful view of ICTs as a medium of change is problematized by preexisting asymmetrical power relations in countries of the global South (Harris 2016; Thomas 2009; Ullah 2017a). Described as a ‘multi-edged sword,’ Indian Development Communication scholar Nagraj criticizes overly optimistic views of technology, arguing that they fail to treat poor nations as potential economic producers by reducing them to beneficiaries. Nagraj (2018: 31) expresses his concern about the negative influence of ICTs, metaphorically M. S. Ullah (*) Department of Communication and Journalism, University of Chittagong, Chittagong, Bangladesh e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2020 M. Ragnedda, A. Gladkova (eds.), Digital Inequalities in the Global South, Global Transformations in Media and Communication Research - A Palgrave and IAMCR Series, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-32706-4_6

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as a sword that ‘can cut everywhere, if not used properly … modern communication technology is expensive and tends to support the power elites among political leadership.’ Such claims directly negate the common notion of ICTs making a deep-seated contribution to economic and social change across the globe (Asian Development Bank 2017; Hussain and Brown 2018; Sam 2017; Unwin 2009). This dampens the dream of creating a more equitable and democratic society in the advanced industrialized world while also bridging the development divide between industrialized and less developed countries. As Sreekumar (2005: 61) has said, ‘the cyberlibertarian approach regards bridging the digital divide as the most important step to emancipate the masses from poverty, because, it is believed, new technologies like ICTs would deliver rapid economic growth.’ Robinson et al. (2015: 569) however note, ‘the significance of digital inequalities is clear across a broad range of individual-level and macro-level domains, including life course, gender, race, and class, as well as health care, politics, economic activity, and social capital.’ Internet Live Stats (quoted in Dutta 2016) estimates the total population of Bangladesh is 162.91 million, while the number of Internet users is given as 21.43 million with an ICT penetration of 13.2 percent. The World Bank (2016) reports that Bangladesh has the fifth largest offline population in the world, with about 148 million still unconnected to the Internet. The report also lists Bangladesh as having the world’s eighth largest population, with a median age of 25.4  years. While youth comprises one-third of the population, 70 percent are below 35, suggesting the potential for media consumption being increasingly skewed toward digital media. The country stands 144th in the International Telecommunication Union’s ICT Development Index, up from its 148th spot in 2010, and most ICTs are urban based. Similarly, ICT literacy among students and use of equipment, especially in rural areas, are far from optimal. Internet penetration is eight times lower in rural areas than in urban ones, due to some recurring setbacks. These include frequently interrupted power supply, poor location, personnel with limited training, low motivation and lack of awareness about the benefits of ICTs (Alam 2014; Hoque and Sorwar 2015; Muhammad et al. 2015; Rahman and Bhuiyan 2016). To overcome these inequalities, Hussain and Brown (2018), Harris (2016) and Loh and Chib (2018) suggest focusing on ICT usage and appropriation along with the ICT access. Following these preconditions, this chapter takes a closer look at the Union Digital Center (UDC)—an ICT initiative implemented by

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the local governments in Bangladesh as empirical example for digital inclusion and exclusion. The findings of this study come out of an ethno-methodological observation of operational activities (demography of the users, service seeking reasons, service providing trends and the general views of people on UDC initiative), where a month of observations was spent in six different centers (six Union Parishads from six Divisions through using multistage quota sampling method) across Bangladesh. The findings also draw from 55 indepth interviews with UDC users (top and minimal users from each center), non-users, center entrepreneurs and two national-level policy coordinators. The empirical evidence shows that influential elites who enjoy privileged access to non-digital rural resources (for instance, possession of land, various government development allocations) derive additional benefits from the UDCs. In comparison, poorer groups have severe limitations to their access to digital services and are actually further deprived by community access to digital technology. As such, inequalities and exploitation of the poor do not disappear through the introduction of ICT initiatives—indeed the UDC experience suggests that these inequalities are further intensified between power-rich and power-poor. To unpack the particular power prejudice, local hierarchies and the politics of exclusion and inclusion, this chapter engages David Harvey’s (Harvey 2003, 2006) concept of ‘accumulation by dispossession’ as a study framework. This chapter firstly maps out the ICTs and the situation of digital inclusiveness across nations, followed by the inception of UDCs, power dynamics in rural Bangladesh, study settings and finally the findings in support of chapter standpoint—the empowerment of rural communities is conditioned by local power hierarchies and that issues with the existing social structure need to be addressed prior to the scaling up of ICTs in development.

ICTs and Digital Inclusivity Research has established that race and ethnicity (Mesch and Talmud 2011), socio-economic status (Ragnedda and Muschert 2013) and gender (Ono and Zavodny 2008) can be determinants of Internet usage and proficiency (Stern et al. 2009). Thus, digital inequalities can reinforce existing social inequalities and even exacerbate them because they carry over preexisting differences in human capital into online settings (DiMaggio and Garip 2012). To overcome the exclusive nature of ICTs, Singhal et  al.

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(2005), Thomas (2009), UNDP (2001) and Unwin (2009) observed that governments in developing nations understood ICTs (mainly mobile phone and computer with Internet connections) as tools of inclusion. Consequently, a myriad of government-sponsored agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in South Asia (e.g., Cyber Kiosks in India, Village Pay Phone of Grameen Bank in Bangladesh), Latin America (BiblioRedes in Chile) and Africa (Telecenter) have initiated a host of ICT-based development projects to demonstrate ICT’s potential to provide unprecedented social and economic opportunities for vulnerable groups such as women and marginalized communities (ADB 2017; Khan et al. 2017; Sam 2017; Ullah 2017a) living in isolated rural areas who have limited or no ICT access facilities in their communities. The UDC is the largest project (a budget of US$23,802,730) from the Government of Bangladesh to connect rural people who are generally beyond the purview of Internet connection and practice good governance through accessibility and transparency. There is also the general belief that ICTs can be a tool to bring marginalized communities into mainstream development efforts with the aim to achieve a Digital Bangladesh by 2021 (Hasan 2016; Karim et al. 2011; UNDP 2012). UDC is the fourth wave (and the first ever attempt by the government) to use ICTs to connect rural communities, an effort that started in 2010. The first wave took the form of Palli Phone (Village Pay Phone), a pay phone entrepreneurship that engaged rural women in 1997, an effort led by Grameen Bank. The second wave of connection of rural communities with ICTs took place during 2006 and 2007 through the initiation of the Community Information Center (CiC), followed by the third wave, a project called Info-lady in 2010, another effort focused on connecting women to the Internet. Research evidence (Harris 2016; Mansell 2018; Sam 2017) however reveals governments and their development partners (mainly UNDP and World Bank) identified that the inclusion of marginalized communities in the emerging rural network society would enhance their participation in democratic processes on the one hand and provide access to expanding social and economic opportunities on the other. Sam’s (2017) study results, for instance, on the relationship between mobile phone usage and empowerment of marginalized young people in Sierra Leone, suggest that mobile phones empower marginalized young people to communicate and access vital information to support their everyday activities and livelihoods. His study however does not strongly show that the use of mobile phones

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completely emancipates young people from socio-economic and political exclusion. Obijiofor (2009: 41) perhaps therefore tellingly urges for a ‘deeper, more sophisticated understanding of the meanings and implications of the new communication technologies, especially as they relate to power structures’ in Africa. The deployment of ICTs in Asian rural societies likewise has been viewed as a process marked by promises, opportunities, ironies and complexities (Harris 2016; Jose Thomas 2006; Singhal et  al. 2005; Sreekumar 2011; Thomas 2012). But, most of the studies on the social impacts of ICTs fail to go beyond anecdotal narratives of the success of major initiatives (Sreekumar 2011: 3). Analyzing the impacts of ICT projects (Kuppam i-community project, the Akshaya Project in Malappuram) in two South Indian states—Kuppam in Andhra Pradesh and Malappuram in Kerala—Jose Thomas (2006: 2) argues that ICTs can play a potent role in rural development, but only if the basic obstacles to rural prosperity are removed through radical changes (e.g., land reforms, revitalization of rural credit, state intervention in rural infrastructure and primary education). According to him, the ‘diffusion of ICTs is faster among literates than among illiterates; diffusion of ICTs is also faster, the greater the level of education and greater the level of assets. ICTs can offer little help as long as fundamental constraints to development – including unequal distribution of assets and illiteracy  – persist’ (Jose Thomas 2006: 26). Harris (2016: 178) analyzing 272 studies on ICTs also claims research that is prioritized by an agenda ‘includes poverty alleviation is capable of leading to such an outcome, whether or not it does in fact serve the poor.’ This observation is echoed by Thomas (2014) when he argues in an interview with Honsberger (2014: 137) that people and technology are involved in a process of mutual shaping. In his evaluation of the Digital India campaign, he argues that ICTs bring ‘both an opportunity for social change, and further social domination’ over the power-poor. This argument holds true for other parts of the world too—for instance, Gomez and Baron-Porras’ (2011: 8) study on public access computing (PAC) in Colombia shows that personal friendships and entertainment are perceived as stronger benefits of PAC rather than the community’s economic development or social transformation. A study from the Technology and Social Change Group at the University of Washington’s Information School (Sey et al. 2015) likewise reveals that the goal of most public and donor-funded initiatives is to reach specific

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priority populations perceived as disadvantaged, mainly due to low socio-­ economic status or unemployment, but also targeting at-risk youth, rural residents, minorities and women. Focusing on such groups from eight countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America, between 2007 and 2012, the study found that in most instances, public access venues are on par with more advantaged counterparts. In their evaluation, Sey et  al. note the evidence also indicates that most public access users are middle class, urban, male and young, not really the marginalized groups the projects claim to target, leading to recurring criticism (Sey et al. 2015: 9). Similarly, studies from Singhal et al. (2005), Ullah (2016a, b, 2017a) and Ullah and Hultberg (2009) on ICTs in Bangladesh found that top-­ down ICT intervention by itself (e.g., Grameen’s Village Pay Phone by Morshed 2014; Singhal et al. 2005; Ullah and Hultberg 2009; Info-lady of D.Net by Hussain and Brown 2018; Ullah 2016b; and the Union Information and Service Center (UISC) model by Shahnewaz et al. 2015; Ullah 2017a) cannot bring substantial change for people at the bottom of the social pyramid. Power holders (males in Village Pay Phone and educated youths in UISC) in fact continue to deprive marginalized groups from receiving the claimed benefits of ICT facilities. To reach these seemingly unreachable groups (comprising illiterate men and women, wage-laborers on farms, peasant farmers, sharecroppers and day laborers in town, those who are usually deprived of access to government services), the UDC has emerged from a small enterprise, originally hosted in two locations in rural areas by the local government.

The Union Digital Center Bangladesh expands the use of ICTs in a move toward good governance, and initially rural areas were beyond the purview of modern ICT facilities during early ICT initiatives (for instance, there were no telephone lines in rural areas until recently). Therefore, most of the benefits of ICT-related initiatives were concentrated within urban areas where elites were the primary beneficiaries of those efforts (Karim et al. 2011). The Grameen Bank—a microcredit NGO—first initiated the project Village Pay Phone, a pay phone entrepreneurship engaging rural women in 1997. This project aimed to connect millions of isolated people living in rural areas through mobile phones and was quite successful in the initial stages, but later was abandoned after mobile phones became more readily available through different commercial giants (Ullah and Hultberg 2009).

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The second wave of connection of rural communities with ICTs took place during 2006 and 2007 through the initiation of the CiCs by different NGOs with the help of foreign donor agencies like Swedish International Development and Cooperation Agency (SIDA); United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization; and United States Agency for International Development (USAID). This attempt also failed to sustain its connectivity mission in the aftermath of the withdrawal of donor funding (Dey et al. 2010). The third wave of rural empowerment projects was Info-Lady undertaken by the D. Net, Dell-she program, which provided ICT facilities (mainly laptop with mobile Internet connection and a bicycle) to 1200 young educated girls and women to help rural communities by connecting them with different institutions and public information (mainly health, agriculture). This initiative also lost steam in the middle of its journey due to lack of male participation and social support along with inexperience in entrepreneurship of the girls/women engaged with the initiative (Alam et al. 2018; Ullah 2016a). No extensive government projects were operating to expand ICT-related facilities for people living in rural communities until the UDC started in 2010 (Alam 2014; Khan and Evans 2017). The UDC, originally known as the UISC, started in rural Bangladesh under a pilot program from the UNDP-sponsored Democratic Governance Thematic Trust Fund in 2007. Later, the Access to Information (a2i) Programme from the Prime Minister’s Office established this local government initiative in 2010 to raise awareness around ICTs among government offices through consulting assignments outside the purview of the regular government machinery for ICT affairs (Karim et al. 2011). From there, the UDC expanded rapidly and is hosted by 5275 local government offices—known as the Union Parishad (UP) (Bangladesh, Prime Minister’s Office 2018). According to official records, the UDC is the biggest initiative on ICTs and development in Bangladesh to serve as centers for rural empowerment nationwide (Access to Information 2014: 2; 2016; Zambrano and Seward 2013) providing an average of 3.91 million services every month (a2i 2018). These services include online birth and death registrations, job applications and services such as visa processing, which reflect Bangladesh’s huge migrant worker population, especially those from the Middle East. Facilities for Internet browsing, word-processing and printing, photography and mobile phone credit refills are also provided. Social

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services and awareness programs related to anti-dowry, anti-human trafficking, arsenic contamination and climate change, as well as health and agricultural matters, are provided to the rural poor through a public-­ private-­people-partnership (also known as the 4Ps), with the Government of Bangladesh along with two key donor agencies—the USAID and the UNDP. In the 4Ps model, a local entrepreneur operates each center. The entrepreneurs are allowed to collect minimal service fees for the services provided by the UDC. The UDC has some specific significance among ICT initiatives in Bangladesh. First, UDC was a UNDP-initiated project, but the government took responsibility for certain aspects of operation resulting in a public and private sharing model (the government provides the initial equipment while private entrepreneurs maintain the equipment and are responsible for repairs and replacement). Second, the government utilizes local administrative units that provide space in their buildings for grassroots service delivery with direct supervision from the Prime Minister’s Office, the highest and most influential body of Bangladesh’s public administration. Third, UDCs engage entrepreneurs from the same locality as the service area. They require a jointly run, male and female, young entrepreneurship in an effort to facilitate access for women. Finally, as part of the public-­ private sharing model, the government does not share the profits of the entrepreneurs, but neither does it bear the risks of losses, which fall on the local entrepreneurs. These characteristics make the UDC initiative worthy of research, contributing to ongoing debates on the success of ICT projects, especially claims that they benefit people living at the bottom of the power pyramid. Since the beginning of the UDC, a number of studies have been carried out to assess the prospects of the 4Ps model (Rahman 2016), E-governance and in particular the relationship between people and service delivery (Alam 2014; Faroqi 2014; Hasan 2016), the hurdles of service delivery and problems related to the sustainability of UDCs (Rahman and Bhuiyan 2016), community development (Shahnewaz et al. 2015), ICT4D (Hoque and Sorwar 2015) and the empowerment of rural communities (Ullah 2016a, 2017a, b). The time, visit and cost (TVC) analysis report (GOB-­ Government of Bangladesh 2013) claims that travel distance has been reduced from an average of 35 km to reach the district headquarters and 15 km from Upazila (subdistrict) headquarters to only 3 km to reach the UDCs. This reduces the cost to the district offices by 69 percent, where visits have fallen from five to three times on average. Findings from these

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studies show that UDCs save time and minimize suffering of those seeking services in rural areas (either due to travel or dealing with corruption). However, Hoque and Sorwar (2015) claim the UDCs are primarily providing services to educated people and the elite who comprise only 10 percent of the population in rural areas. This means that the UDCs significantly benefit a certain segment of the rural population, but not everyone (Rahman and Bhuiyan 2016; Shahnewaz et al. 2015). This also suggests that the availability of ICT facilities through the UDCs does not ensure equal access by all stakeholders, and the rural poor still experience restricted access due to their income, lack of knowledge and fear of not being able to afford the cost of service fees (Ullah 2017b: 92).

Rural Power Dynamics The Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) reports that 66.2 percent of the country’s population live in rural areas and 35 percent of the total 162.91 million population live below the poverty line (BBS 2018). Despite increasing urbanization in recent times, the real power structure of Bangladesh still remains reflected in rural settlements (Afsar 2010; Khan 2015; Ullah 2016a). In other words, ‘the key to understanding Bangladeshi society lies in the appreciation of the dynamics of its rural settlements’ (Khan 2015: 17). Studying rural power structures in Bangladesh is however extremely complex because it raises difficult theoretical questions about the relations between formal village government (Union Parishad) and informal institutions, either society-based, loosely bonded small village units (samaj), neighborhoods (para) or patrilineal clans (gusthi) (Rahman and Huda 1992; Lewis 2011; Westergaard 1985). In addition, rural Bangladeshi society is stratified economically as well as socially, with social binaries dividing people into power elites or power-poor, big landowners and tenants, merchants and salesmen, rich moneylenders and poor peasants, artisans and landless bonded laborers, literates and illiterates and so forth. Alam (1995), Lewis (2011), Rahman and Huda (1992) and Westergaard (1985) considered such social power structures to form the basis and fundamental layer of intrasocial class disparity in earnings and welfare. Rahman and Huda (1992: 87) observe agriculture as the main source of income, with possession of agricultural and as the prerequisite for economic and socio-political power. They point out that influential elites, through their power and economic supremacy, have open access to rural resources

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and derive direct benefits from development processes, while poorer groups, precisely those that many development projects target, face access-­ related issues and are often deprived of benefits accruing from development efforts. Lewis and Hossain (2008a: 39) state that power structures ‘extend from the elite control to central or national level institutions right down to the village or neighbourhood levels,’ and encompass the range of individuals who seek to ‘broker’ elite relationships and resources across wider society. This relation is called a ‘patron-client’ relationship. Recent research (Afsar 2010; Khan 2015; Lewis 2011) shows that some areas in rural Bangladesh historically populated by surplus farmers are now predominantly comprised of power-elite patrons, poor peasants, bonded laborers, political musclemen and their followers and at the lowest tier, deprived power-poor illiterates. Local and international researchers (e.g., Huque 2007; Jahangir 1982; Lewis 2011; Mamoon 2011; Sarker 2008) on Bangladesh agree that this ‘patron-client relation’ is the cornerstone of society in Bangladesh. Jahangir (1982: 88) identified the patron-client relationship as ‘a reciprocity of exchange based on unequal rank with three important characteristics: economic structures of exploitation, political structures of domination and ideological structures of consensus and control.’ Bangladeshi rural society is, therefore, structured around a complex network of interpersonal patron-client relationships, which are reinforced by economic mechanisms, such as credit and employment opportunities, and political mechanisms such as protection. This makes the social context difficult for people to develop horizontal relationships. The emergence of NGOs though seeming to work for the betterment of the rural poor also reinforces clientelism in Bangladesh society. With this given condition, the majority of rural people remain beyond the purview of the power nexus and for that matter excluded from overall development processes in both government and NGOs initiatives (Adnan 2013; Lewis and Hossain 2008b). To observe this new dimension of power and how power position influences utilization of facilities from the UDCs, this study has adopted an ethno-methodological research approach that includes observation and in-depth interviews.

The Study Setting Findings for this study draw from ethno-methodological observations of four aspects of UDC-centric activities—users’ demography, service seeking reasons, service providing trends and the general views of people on UDC

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initiative. Additionally, a total of 55 in-depth interviews were conducted with users (a frequent user and a minimum user from each center) and non-users (power holders and commoners) of facilities in six UDC coverage areas (quota sampling—e.g., near the highway and more distant from access roads; run by both male and female and male or female; best and worst performance data based on the UISC Census Report 2013) across Bangladesh. This study examines the contributions made by UDCs in regards to digital inclusion and exclusion between the power-rich and power-poor in rural Bangladesh. The six UDC sites in this study are, by district, Amirganj of Narshingdhi (Central Bangladesh as best performing UDC), Chandanbari of Panchagarh (North-west region as the worst performance), Kushna of Jheneidaha (South-west, run by two males), Pangashia of Patuakhali (South, run by single male), Raisa of Bandarban (South-east, run by a male and a female) and Selboros of Sunamganj (North-east region run by single female). To understand the power gap and digital exclusion and inclusion through UDC, the study takes the access to ICTs and use of UDC facilities as a process of ‘accumulation by dispossession’ outlined by David Harvey (2003, 2006). The study first examines ethnographically what power dynamics prevail in the respective local Union Parishad areas. Attention is then turned to how people accumulate, conceptualize and perceive the use of, and relationships between, social, economic and political power in using the UDC facilities. Finally, the study examines how these power structures influence the relationship between benefits and restrictions from UDCs. The users’ data was collected from the UDC offices through on-site observation (9:00 to 17:00 daily) of activities in the six sample UDCs (one month in each UDC area). In-depth interviews were conducted through semi-structured open questions lasting around an hour with 11 entrepreneurs (4 female and 7 male), 6 maximum, 6 minimum users from UDCs, 2 policy-level coordinators (one from the a2i and one from the UNDP), 5 UP chairmen (local guide of UDCs) and 25 non-users. The non-user respondents were selected purposefully following representative quota sampling (age, gender, social position and occupation) and comprised of housewives (rural elite and illiterate family), farmers (landless and surplus), village leader or elder (matubbar), illiterate fisherman, agro-farm worker, religious leaders, NGO worker and political activist. Interviews were designed to collect information on a range of issues categorized under four headings, the access and use or non-use of UDC facilities, role of power prejudice in using UDC facilities, the accumulation of dispossession through UDC

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initiatives and the contribution of UDC in empowerment and disempowerment. The analyses reported here are based on the researcher’s observation notes, record of service seekers attendance, interview transcripts and short biographical data of service seekers noted during the field research. Different key themes are distinguished through careful reading of the data, and direct quotations are used to illustrate the themes of research enquiry.

Findings Access and Usages of UDC Facilities The studied UDCs are situated within a 3 km radius of even the farthest boundaries of the service area. They are well connected to each village within the UP area meaning that even people living in a remote corner of that UP can access the center. This setup is emphasized in the time, visit and cost analysis report from the Government of Bangladesh, where it claims that travel distance and cost have been reduced (Government of Bangladesh 2013). Even though there is relatively easy access to the UDCs, the demography of UDC visitors shows 1223 visitors (with 809 male comprising 66.15 percent and 414 females comprising 33.85 percent) sought services during the six-month study period (some visited more than once but were recorded as new service seekers). The total population of the studied areas is 149,024 meaning only 0.82 percent of the population were found to use the UDC facilities on average. In every case, the majority of the service seekers were between 18 and 25  years old, and most had either just completed their secondary level education or studied in the higher secondary level. Relatively few aged persons, women, disabled and/or poor people visited the UDCs, although some illiterate people did approach the UDC for services, mainly for birth certificates or registering their child for school (for primary school, a government birth certificate is mandatory). The other prominent services sought by visitors included word composition and printing (29.5 percent, n-361), computer training (13.0 percent, n-159), paying electricity bills (7.4 percent, n-91), photo shoots (5.9 percent, n-72) and applying for national identity cards (5.3 percent, n-65). Most UDCs do not have the same ICT facilities and therefore the service providing trends differ according to the available services, as shown in Table 6.1 (Annex).

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UDCs by their terms are designated to provide 70 different services. These include 29 public services like land registration, birth and death registration, and citizenship certificate. They also include 13 information-­ related services, like information relating to women’s rights, health and farming; as well as 28 commercial services like computer training, Internet browsing and electricity bill payment. Other services include obtaining true copies of different government documents, applying for passports, public examination results, job applications, computer training and photo shoots (usually for government identification). These services are categorized either as government or commercial services for which users need to pay some nominal fees or as services that were free before from the UPs. Users often seek support from the UDC to obtain birth certificates and occasionally a few for land registration. Nobody sought the category of information services, which includes information on farming and health-related issues that one would think are essential for rural people. It has also been observed that entrepreneurs showed little interest in providing information services to visitors as those have no commercial value. The service seeking trends also vary from region to region. For instance, people in Pangashia and Raisa visited for computer training as young people look to find jobs in  local offices. In Chandanbari and Selboros, people visited for birth certificates and to check public examination results as there is no available online support nearby. In Amirganj and Kushna, people visited the UDC for job applications or to apply for passports as most educated youths seek jobs in the capital Dhaka and those with lower literacy look to migrate to Malaysia as unskilled laborers. Men and women visit UDCs for different reasons too—men for job applications and women for computer training. Women hope that the computer training will increase their potential to secure jobs in local government offices. The observation dataset from the study sites in regard to use indicates firstly that the number of users was less than 1 (0.82) percent of the total population of the areas the UDCs serve. Secondly, UDCs are still struggling to remain both accessible and viable for the majority of potential poor citizens due to expertise and the imposition of service fees. Thirdly, male domination exists across the UDC entrepreneurs and clients, with a single exception (Raisa), making little change to the established gender divide within these communities. Fourthly, the poor and marginal groups (women, day laborers, elderly) are not using the UDC facilities as expected. Finally, UDC entrepreneurs are more likely to provide government and

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commercial services, and rarely, if ever, the other information services necessary for peoples’ livelihoods that do not require service fees. Power Prejudice and Use of UDC Facilities Empirical evidence from the studied areas confirms that power dynamics in rural Bangladesh are nevertheless context-specific, where crises of authority and power can be induced not only by economic downturns or state fragility but by demands around issues not entirely related to or encompassed by the formal economy or state power. Rather power depends on multiple informal elements like (1) surplus income from land; (2) holding government jobs; (3) belonging to a prestigious clan; (4) building of prayer houses within the community; (5) affiliation with the ruling party; (6) holding ranks in  local-level cooperatives and (7) connections with political leaders and government officials. The field observations have furthermore confirmed that the dynamics of rural power structures are a constantly changing phenomenon through exogenous and indigenous influences, although how they are leveraged remains quite similar. The city-based power-elites within this structure by virtue of their political connections and economic supremacy exercise power at the rural level as power prejudice ‘distant-patrons.’ The local-level surplus farmers and political activists (holding cooperatives, club or political ranks) by keeping ties with distant patrons play the role of imminent patrons within the community. Evidence from the study sites confirms that unpacking power structures raises a set of difficult theoretical questions due to the nature of the relationships between formal (Union Parishad—UP) and informal groups (Samaj—society, Gusthi—patrilineal clan, Para/Mohallah—open village and peerism—religious followers). Due to the multistructured form of power relations over time, no specific class established themselves in a clear-cut manner and thus informal power relations have a number of dimensions. All left behind a diverse nature of power exercised in communities by different groups across the study sites. Based on the exercise and source of power, these relations can be divided broadly into two groups, the power-rich and the power-poor. The power-rich are comprised of rural-based surplus farmers, city-based patrons-migrated elites with prestigious jobs, political party leaders and their followers (cadres as an intermediary class) those who are self-employed, NGO creators and educated youths. The power-poor comprise many: landless peasants and bonded labor, poor tenants (Borgachashi—sharecroppers),

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rickshaw-van drivers, workers in orchards, seasonal labor in other districts, migrant garment workers, laborers in overseas countries and unemployed illiterate youths. In addition, an intermediary power holder (popularly known as ‘touts’/‘mastans’ in villages) is emerging in between these two power groups made up of unemployed educated youths living in rural areas, local-level party activists and people who are looking after the local land and resources of city-based migrated elites. On average the ratio of power-rich, intermediary and power-poor comprises around 1:3:12 in all areas studied. As such it seems that the state and city-based elites, including village-­ based moneylenders and microcredit NGOs, together continue to exploit power-poor people. This fuels forms of power discrimination resulting in social unrest, things like intense political rivalry and even homicide, alongside more general dysfunction like corruption and the rise of political musclemen in rural communities. Odhikar (http://odhikar.org), a human rights watchdog NGO, reported that during 2017 and 2018 a total of 156 were killed and 8461 were injured due to inter- and intraparty clashes across the country. Through the accumulation of power among power-­ rich elite groups, the marginal, who traditionally stand outside of the power circle (landless farmers, poor day laborers, illiterate men and women, the disabled and language minorities), lose their power and become the victims of power inequality. Under these circumstances, a small section of people (around 6 percent) in the community enjoys most of the local resources, depriving the majority. Here power inequality goes hand in hand with the exploitation and dispossession of the power-poor which is very common in rural Bangladesh. For instance, relaying an example with the Vulnerable Group Feeding (VGF, a state-sponsored feeding facility for poor in rural community) card distribution which is under the jurisdiction the local UP Chairman, Moazzem Hossain Babul, Chandanbari, but not controlled by him. In his words: I along with all my UP members had to follow the instruction of a member of the parliament of the local constituency to distribute the card according to a list he provided, but we understand that most of those listed were party activists, many of whom were not designated to have VGF card. We had no way of refusing his instruction. [in fact] the law is violated everywhere. It is now the time for opportunity hunters, they have no morality and those who have power are their activists. By any means, even if it is illegal or through threats, they will realize their desires, ignoring others’ rights.

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This statement confirms that despite the constitution of Bangladesh providing for the equal treatment of every citizen in laws and rights (Part III of the Constitution of Bangladesh), this unequal distribution of power predetermines access to nearly every opportunity. Power structures in study sites in fact indicate that the power-rich and power-poor relationship between the elites and the poor is predominantly based on unequal exchanges of power and loyalty, with a general pyramid-like structure. As the pyramid grows, the patronage resources, including protection and benefits, flow downward in exchange for loyalty. This structure results in a hierarchical social position for different groups. People likewise follow the same path; they sell their resources to their power-rich patrons, who were once surplus farmers and are now the political leaders with other influential elements of power. These influential power-rich elite enjoy privileged access to rural resources and derive benefits from all development processes by virtue of their power and economic supremacy while the power-poor groups have minimal access and are deprived of the benefits accrued from development efforts. As such, the power dynamics between the local and migrated elite, between the local poor and surplus farmers, between the educated and the illiterate youth and finally between men and women are unequally distributed. All these corresponding changes bring different local outcomes and maintain the asymmetric power relations observed in these communities, indicating that despite government efforts, unjust accumulation of power results from the ruthless exploitation of rural resources (land and human) and wealth (government grants, like VGF card distribution). Basu Miah, a small-scale farmer from Selboros UP, who described himself as illiterate with grade three level education, compares the country to a dead cow. Presuming the wealthy to be very powerful, he believes that ‘the weak have no voice, no place in this society. They are born, pass their days and die unnoticed.’ According to him: The powerful people, mainly local leaders and their allies, grab everything. Allocation or any other facility goes to the poor very rarely. Because the news of grants or facilities reaches the poor far too late, by that time all has gone to the belly of those musclemen. If they distribute something among the poor, it must be considered a blessing (daya) or they need to think all of those are extra, after their own consumption.

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The power over gusthi (patrilineal clan) people by the father of a ruling party activist in Selboros, or the connection between Haji Bhuyan in Kushna with the UP chairman, or non-conflict between the peer (religious saints) and cooperative head in Pangashia exemplifies the power nexus and its unfair practice. The empirical evidence substantiates that all of these elites have become powerful by accumulating money and resources both from within rural communities (surplus from land) and beyond (grants from government). The wealth disparity widens the power gap between the power-rich and the power-poor and makes the process of wealth accumulation smooth and uninterrupted. Similarly, the misuse and disappearance of government grants (including foreign NGO grants) is common across the studied areas. More so, foreign aid and government grants that were originally allocated for the rural poor benefit the rich due to this kind of power disparity. These elements underpin and generate social discrimination between people. For instance, Joy Mohan, a wayside grocer in Balaram bazaar under Chandanbari UP, believes people who possess social prestige and higher levels of education or have jobs in government offices bear more prestige in rural areas than the rest of the community and assume the benefits of a privileged class. Joy Mohan states: The poor have no force and possess no spirit [for any work] due to lack of sufficient income. So, those matters [availing service from the UDC] are beyond their reach. … Because politically empowered people are always busy devouring aid and grants when the government allocates anything for underprivileged people, they have strategically intercepted that grant and distribute it amongst themselves. I have little confidence in this [UDC] step.

The evidence from rural experiences in the studied areas show that poor peasants and landless wage-laborers, including poor women, devote most of their time to growing and processing food for their own consumption through selling their labor (wage-labor in farm land, rickshaw-van pulling, working on fishing boats), sharecropping and backyard farming. The labor and sharecropping however do not fulfill their basic needs including food, shelter and health care, rather most face a constant debt crisis and are obliged to take loans either from traditional moneylenders or from NGOs for their survival. Both the landowner and moneylender are part of the power-rich classes that control the power-­ poor through different forms of exploitation. David Harvey (2003, 2006) called these forms of exploitation as the Accumulation by Dispossession.

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Accumulation by Dispossession and Digital Exclusion Harvey (2003, 2006) analyzes ‘Accumulation by Dispossession’ in four broad components—privatization, financialization, the management and manipulation of crises and state redistribution. To explain Accumulation by Dispossession, Harvey follows Luxemberg’s notion of ‘how commodity exchange turns into exploitation and equality becomes class rule’ (Harvey 2003: 137) which evolves from the concept of ‘primitive accumulation’ developed by Marx that refers to the continuation and proliferation of the practice of accumulation. According to the interpretation of Marx (Capital Vol. 1, Part III, and Chapter 26), accumulation is the starting point of the capitalist mode of production, which by definition precedes capital accumulation and clears the way for the capitalist system to stand on its own legs. Harvey consistently (2003, 2006 and 2016) argues that Accumulation by Dispossession is manifested by the privatization of public assets, the appropriation of the commons. Privatization can come in a myriad of forms and is one of the crucial ways in which capitalists have been able to ‘actively manufacture’ new realms for both the proletariat and the private appropriation of public property. Harvey (2006: 25) claims the fundamental mission of the neo-liberal state is to create a ‘good business climate’ and therefore to optimize conditions for capital accumulation no matter what the consequences for employment or social well-being. The formation of the UDC under the 4Ps strategy can be considered a move toward Accumulation by Dispossession. The institutional and political economy factors (a balance between entrepreneur and social services) behind the design and implementation of UDCs are important indicators. The UDC establishment policy shows that local union councils were previously regarded as common spaces for any public services that were of national interest. Services have been made into commodities through the application of some purchase value (fees) and local residents turn into consumers of those facilities and services. Asrafun Nesa Shimul, Selboros UDC entrepreneur, agrees that service fee only benefits a few people, not the poor who live hand to mouth. For her, ‘the UDC is a matter of my survival, I must not think who comes and who cannot … I focus on my income, not on the free services.’ This statement suggests that entrepreneurs show more interest in providing commercial services, where they can earn money and tend to de-prioritize other responsibilities with less commercial

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viability (namely providing free information services). This situation is also reflected in the comments from small-scale farmer Basu Miah of Selboros, when he says: The imposition of fees on services deprives me of [formerly] free public services. What is the benefit that I get from the state as a citizen if I need to pay for services? … The state is the authority to improve people’s chance for a better life. If the state fails who will do it then? It is just a way to kill the poor.

The UDC as such, by turning local government services under the control of a commercial enterprise (private entrepreneurs), the government approaches, perhaps to different degrees, the neo-liberal model of capitalism at the grassroots level, which can be considered a tool of exploitation against the poor. Harvey (2003: 175) explains this process as ‘systematic exclusion’ of poor from state benefits in the second characteristic of Accumulation by Dispossession is financialization. Harvey (2006: 26) writes, ‘Public-private partnerships are favoured in which the public sector bears all of the risks and the corporate sector reaps all of the profit.’ The UDC operations have witnessed that the government provides all equipment through local administrations and bears all starting costs, whereas without investing any capital, the entrepreneurs take all income earned, but do not like to take on any of the liabilities (like equipment damaged at Selboros). As the UDC is supervised under the Prime Minister’s Office in cooperation with global partners, these entities are responsible for bearing the cost of the program, primarily the international financial institutions (World Bank) or international development partners (UNDP/USAID) involved. The financialization of the UDC step is confusing in information provided by donors and from the government side. For instance, the key purpose of the UDC according to documents from the Access to Information unit in the Prime Minister’s Office is to provide quick public service to rural people, while USAID encourages Digital Financial Inclusion Banking to bring rural people under the financial sector and aims to develop a business model for the entrepreneurs. The UNDP on the other hand sees the UDC as a form of good governance through digital inclusion of the rural masses. Capitalism has a tendency to expand reproduction geographically by relocating the purchase of labor power or means of production elsewhere, and thus creating new spaces for the accumulation of capital. These

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provoked crises result in a massive relocation of capital and create an apparent accumulation of capital. The crises produce a large population of unemployed labor force that create ‘a pool of low wage surplus labour convenient for further accumulation’ (Harvey 2006: 47) which Harvey notes as the ‘Management and Manipulation of Crises’—the third component of Accumulation by Dispossession. Bangladesh faces this trend on a national scale right now. For instance, the Centre for Development and Employment Research (2016) records that 25 percent of the population ages 15–29  years, who constitute around 11 million of the country’s total population, is unemployed. According to the report, ‘The prevalence of unemployment is greater among the higher educated section of the youth.’ The users’ data shows the majority of UDC users are youth and students. Likewise, the idle pastime of people, mostly unemployed educated youths, in Amirganj, Chandanbari, Pangashia and Selboros reflects that this group is focused on searching for jobs in nearby towns, even if it requires bribes or accepting minimum wage. Arbinda Karmakar from the Kushna UP area describes his dilemma; ‘If I do not secure one [job] I would be a burden to my family and would be part of the unemployed force.’ Jhorna Akhter from Pangashia UP likewise claims, ‘Education even with ICT training (mainly computer) is not enough to secure a job.’ As such, computer training produces a pool of unemployed skilled youth where elites can exploit this surplus force for their industries with minimum wages or as their party cadres in local political units. Harvey (2003: 154) interpreted Accumulation by Dispossession as ‘the necessary cost of making successful breakthrough into capitalist development with the strong backing of state power.’ Thus, he says that a large cut in the funding of public services is a fourth key element in Accumulation by Dispossession (Harvey 2006: 48). Since privatization and liberalization are the mantras of the neo-liberal movement, Harvey (2003: 158) argues that the effect is to introduce a new round of ‘enclosure of the commons’ as an objective of state policies. The role of the state in facilitating these processes is crucial because in Harvey’s understanding the state actively works at the behest of financial capital to dispossess people of their rights to facilitate accumulation. The state, with its monopoly of violence and definition of legality, plays a critical role in both backing and promoting Accumulation by Dispossession processes. The state actively works at the behest of financial capital to dispossess people of their rights and facilitate Accumulation by Dispossession. The UDC is supervised from the Prime Minister’s office directly, which includes strong backing from state

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mechanisms. The decision from the head of the government to operate UDCs within the 4Ps strategy reflects the state’s approach to redistribution. Through the UDC, the government intends to redistribute the public administration system at the grassroots level. The field observations in this study indicate that the level of corruption and exploitation of the rural poor is also being redistributed, rather than providing public services at the rural level. These kinds of redistribution attempts have strengthened power in the hands of elites and leave behind common people who have a limited capacity to access services and resources through capital. The evidence discussed above indicates that there is an interconnection between the initiation of the UDC, its operation and role of power in delivering services within the notion of Accumulation by Dispossession. Bangladesh as a donor-dependent country adopted forms of structural adjustment, particularly during the Bush administration, where USAID and UNDP proposed this reform in order to distribute foreign aid grants to poor nations. The grants in most cases, Harvey notes, are ‘some combination of internal motivation and external pressure lies behind that transformation’ (Harvey 2003: 154). When we look back to the state affairs in Bangladesh—the political movement, building a Digital Bangladesh by 2021, motivates the ruling government to accept privatization steps. Policy documents as well as the operational evidence of UDCs in rural Bangladesh and the deception of common people using services confirm that in the name of people’s digital inclusion through UDCs, the Bangladesh government keeps the poor confined under the elites’ grip and keep them away from such facilities. As such the UDC attempt is an extension of neo-liberal policy on the world stage to the rural level where the power-poor are a means of exploitation. As such, the UDC experience shows that Accumulation by Dispossession, which Harvey (2003) advances in his book New Imperialism, is an immensely valuable contribution to understandings of capitalism in the age of contemporary globalization and for understanding the specificity of its operation. Empowerment and Disempowerment The experiences in UDC operational activities reveal that this initiative so far has brought some benefits to rural communities in regard to minimizing the distance, time, cost and harassment/corruption often experienced in government offices administering services. Yet these benefits are largely directed toward a particular class—the educated youths who are the

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emerging middle-class power-elite in accordance to the power structure that exists in study sites. The rest who are generally considered the power-­ poor do not access UDCs as easily due to their illiteracy and the imposition of service fees, where many services were freely available previously. The field experience and user data further confirm that local influential elites (those who come from affluent families) enjoy privileged access to rural resources and derive benefits from the UDC as well, whereas except the educated youths (emerging intermediary) comprise 20 million across rural Bangladesh, poorer groups have decreased access to this service and are quickly deprived of benefitting from the UDC effort for lack of monetary and educational capital. Jhorna Akhter, a female UDC entrepreneur from Pangashia who dropped out of the program, agrees that the poor have less opportunity than the rich, like in any other institution: It has been seen that the poor are deprived in society because they carry relatively less value in the social system, they understand little about rules and regulations due to the need for literacy, they cannot share good or bad ideas about society, could not mobilize people to do something, cannot express their problems in an office or in front of others. They need to change their attitudes if they really expect a change.

Overall, the field observation notes that power dynamics and their influence in every case are concentrated in the hands of people who were once owners of surplus land wealth along with gusthi influence, affiliation with party politics (mainly holding a rank and file) and support from influential political supporters (high rank government job holders). Another notable change is the decline of the influence of the Samaj system, but gusthi has become more influential in power dynamics recently. Gusthi influence however depends on wealth (land and cash), the number of educated people with government jobs and even the construction of religious institutions (mainly Mosques) as they elevate the status and power symbolic of a particular gusthi people. These structures depend on some loosely defined components that include surplus land and money, education with a government job, party affiliation and rank, support from local influential (mainly political musclemen), the capacity to make donations to local clubs or religious institutions and NGO formation. UDC operational activities demonstrate that the poor have lagged behind in service use as a result of their poverty, illiteracy and the inability for information about government benefits to reach them. In addition to

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social hierarchy, gender discrimination has been impacted very little in rural society, even after the advent of ICTs through UDCs in villages. Evidence further demonstrates that UDCs facilitate ICT-related service opportunities to the power-rich and emerging elites. In doing so, the marginalized poor—illiterate man and women, day laborers, peasant farmers—who constitute the majority of the population (around 60 percent) across the studied areas are further deprived. Through forms of discrimination in service provision, UDCs empower one group (elite, educated youths and even party activists) at the expense of another (poor, illiterate, elderly and women). Therefore, there is little evidence that the introduction of UDCs contributes to altering the existing power hierarchy in rural areas or empowers the power-poor. Given the conditions of poverty, the illiterate and relatively powerless majority of the rural poor failed to be empowered by UDCs due to their lack of engagement with the facilities, which were inevitably controlled by the power-elites in the service area. Findings of this study demonstrate that while access to relevant information is a key component of empowerment, the way UDCs have been organized with a particular kind of socio-economic arrangement, the services delivered neither succeeded in equality in access nor has the information available through these centers been deemed relevant to users or able to reduce social disparity in any significant way. This chapter demonstrates further that community empowerment through UDCs has yet to meet expectations, in particular, empowering the people who live at the bottom of power pyramid in rural Bangladesh as 99.18 percent do not avail the access and usages. Therefore, without changing the existing powers structure and to ensure universal access and usages of ICT facilities even though UDC model, it would be difficult to get benefit from the implementation of ICT attempts.

Conclusion The potential benefits of the spread of ICTs in rural areas could have considerable social and economic impacts. However, current operation of the UDC shows that it cannot deliver the range of benefits initially envisaged due to a multitude of factors. These include (1) limited local participation of the rural poor; (2) lack of availability of local resources; (3) fractured relationships with the state and its agencies; (4) limited integration with asymmetrical social power structure and (5) the exogenous social and

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economic environment that these enterprises are unable to control. These factors were perhaps overlooked when projecting the potential promises of the UDCs. Examining power dynamics in rural areas and scrutinizing how people accumulate, conceptualize and perceive the use of and relationships between social, economic and political power, and their impact on the access and use of digital resources across the country through UDCs suggest that the digital inclusion and exclusion of rural communities is conditioned by local power hierarchies and that existing social structures need to be addressed prior to the scaling up of ICTs in digital inclusion. The field data shows that ICTs have the potential to enable people to participate actively in rural Bangladesh, and access some government services more easily, but overall use of the facilities by the rural poor is alarmingly low. However, the study also indicates that UDCs have decreased travel distance and have provided a more people-friendly climate (to some extent) to those living in study sites. This scenario suggests that the introduction of ICTs in poor nations like Bangladesh, through top-­ down models, cannot bring substantial change for those living at the bottom of the social pyramid. As such the UDCs reinforce existing power relations and local power hierarchies through the process of Accumulation by Dispossession rather than disrupt them. The belief that ICTs are inherently an emancipating social equalizer appears not to be founded on the actual empirics of their social mediation in Bangladesh. ICTs, within the UDC model, get enmeshed in the complex ensemble of the rural social structure and are invariably amenable to capture by rural elites that deprive the poor and the underprivileged through power prejudice, both in covert and overt methods. The overwhelming enthusiasm displayed by rural elites in unequivocally embracing the new technology and the spiraling skepticism and non-­ participation of the poor and the marginalized in areas where the UDCs are initiated support the idea that a possible elite commandeering of digital resources is already underway. Therefore, the UDC experience argues that the more we invest in ICTs without the structural change of society, the more we risk entrenching existing power hierarchies digitally when our professed aim is to bridge the digital divide. To ensure equal access, usages and providing benefits, the Government of Bangladesh and other similar countries need to focus on the existing power structure of the society and how the power structure left influence having benefits from ICT attempts.

548 85 120 199 179 92 1223

Amirganj Chandanbari Kushna Pangashia Raisa Selboros Total

Source: Author’s fieldwork

Total visitor

UISC name

359 61 116 154 67 52 809

M 189 24 04 45 112 40 414

F

Service seekers

41 74 289



77 72 25

Birth reg.

84 75 – 159

– – –

Comp Train

Table 6.1  Visitors/service seekers in the UDCs

– – 42 – – – 42

Photo copy 76 – – 15 – – 91

Elect bill

Annex

61 1 – – 3 – 65

Nal ID – – – 23 2 – 25

I.net Bro 283 1 23 28 25 1 361

Com/ print

Service providing activities

25 – – – – 3 28

Land reg.

1 – 23 20 28 – 72

Photo shoot

32 11 7 29 5 14 98

Oth

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SECTION II

Digital Inequalities in Central and Western Asia

CHAPTER 7

Weaponization of Access, Communication Inequalities as a Form of Control: Case of Israel/Palestine Hanna M. Kreitem

Introduction Since its early days, the Internet and the World Wide Web became the new home for most of communication and expression as it moved to digital forms through emerging media platforms, overtaking conventional media to become the decisive technology of the information age (Castells 2014; Dutta et al. 2011). This move posed new challenges and opportunities to freedom of access and expression in terms of access to information, reach, and freedom of expression (Benedek and Kettemann 2014). The Internet also became the medium that many people rely on in their daily activities, including finding new friendships and relations, gaining new knowledge, searching for information, and conducting business (Hargittai and Walejko 2008), prompting the rise of digital capital as an influencing factor for social and digital inequalities (Ragnedda and Ruiu 2017).

H. M. Kreitem (*) Northumbria University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK © The Author(s) 2020 M. Ragnedda, A. Gladkova (eds.), Digital Inequalities in the Global South, Global Transformations in Media and Communication Research - A Palgrave and IAMCR Series, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-32706-4_7

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The digital and connected world has substantially affected our activities in general, including receiving and sharing knowledge and information, adding immense resources of information and communication abilities (Castells 2014). The information sources over the Internet usually are not limited to geographical restrictions or to governmental restrictions, making them sources of information that is available in a scale, scope, and ease of access not possible otherwise. At the same time, the Internet provided an opportunity to reach out to the world to communicate and express ideas in a manner that have the potential to be free (Al Nashmi et al. 2010; Castells 2011). On the other hand, the Network Society, the form of society increasingly using media/digital networks to organize relationships as defined by Van Dijk (2005), posed threats related to surveillance and lack of privacy with more and more activities done online. Information about user activities become available to a wider group of companies and governmental bodies, allowing high detailed profiling of people and potential invasion of privacy and valorization (Andrejevic 2012; Fuchs 2012). Although free access and freedom of expression manifest itself differently across different regions and countries (Benedek and Kettemann 2014; Gagliardone n.d.), developments in access prove to be connected globally, leading to a view of the Internet as a prerequisite for social and economic development of the individual and community alike. Controlling and oppressing regimes have been worried from open communication since the early days of electrical communication, as we can see in the history of telephone and correspondence monitoring and surveillance in different countries around the world (Deibert et  al. 2010; Lyon 2003; Ragnedda 2011). The surveillance served as a tool to maintain and exhibit control, essentially a weapon of offense against people’s freedom of expression and communication, or as described by Ragnedda, practices of “soft coercion” aimed at modifying behavior (Ragnedda 2011), effectively maintaining asymmetrical power relations to support social control through act of data collection (p: 181). The avails of the Internet provide opportunities for development and expression that may be viewed as a threat to oppressing regimes, whether in dictatorships or occupying forces, as they lessen the power and control they can exercise on the oppressed people and communities in terms of access to information and communication possibilities. This can be seen on individual levels, and even at the level of organization of political groups. Singer and Brooking (2018) described the Zapatista National

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Liberation Army (EZLN) in 1994 utilization of the Internet and digital networks to advance interests and values and maintain power relation asymmetry as one of the early examples of weaponization of the Internet. EZLN members have been talking and organizing online, started their activities in Mexico’s state of Chiapas, a poor southern state, connecting over the Internet with activists in over 130 countries, and reaching to media outlets worldwide. Ironically enough to this chapter, one of the first occurrences of the term “Weaponisation of the Internet” was used by Jill Slay in 2014 to describe the heroic actions of Israel in the world of cybersecurity by using the Internet as a weapon (Scott 2014). A more recent example of the use of the Internet as a platform to assist in large-scale social movements is the Arab Spring and other movements that utilized the Internet as one of its tools and resulted in transformational consequences on global policy frameworks on Internet infrastructure (Hussain 2014; Wagner 2012). The events starting toward the end of 2010 shed light on the potential of communication technology to support, and possibly facilitate, regime change and mass protests started by people in response to oppression, and at the same time, highlighted practices of Internet artificial limitations, from content censorship and blocking, to shutdowns and surveillance. The Internet provided emancipation opportunities that would fundamentally compete against the interests of oppressing regimes, leading to increase in exercise, or introduction, of different forms of limitations to maintain control and power balance. These attempts reserved the position of surveillance, censorship, and filtering as the main issues that affect freedom of expression while extending it to the Internet (Benedek and Kettemann 2014). Limitations related to the Internet do not only affect the ability to communicate and express, it affects further fields of life, particularly in relation to opportunities of individuals and societies to making use of the Internet and communication technologies to better themselves, providing a stark effect on digital inequalities, particularly when limitations are set to a subset of the community. Contributing to gaps in access abilities, digital skills opportunities, and opportunities to making use of the Internet to enhance their lives, these gaps are defined as the first, second, and third levels of digital divide respectively (Attewell 2001; DiMaggio and Hargittai 2001; Ragnedda 2017; Ragnedda and Kreitem 2018; van Dijk 2013). The

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practice of limiting Internet availability and access plays against possible digital inclusion efforts and further extends inequalities. It is possible to project the perspective of oppressing regimes on communication controls to understand occupying forces’ practices in this regard, for they share the common interest of maintaining control and challenging freedom-seeking movements from their grassroots. This chapter argues that Israel, as the occupying force of Palestine, holds this position in what is evident in decisions related to connectivity and communication in the area since early days of communication and for the past 50 years. This case was selected for the relevance to this book, and for what it represents in terms of the extent of practices that make it possible to project it, or parts of it, on other cases of hegemony around the world. Technology from this perspective becomes a means of supporting occupation and colonization, providing “frictionless control” (Tawil-Souri 2012), a level of control with less direct interaction with population, and thus results in less nuisance and direct confrontation need for oppressing authorities.

Context of Palestine According to the United Nations, Palestinian Territory is the area defined by the 1949 Armistice Lines set after the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 and includes the West Bank and Gaza Strip (UN 2016). This area is more commonly referred to as pre-1967 borders, as it comprises the areas of Palestine that were occupied by Israel in 1967. In 1993, following the Oslo Accords between Israel and Palestine Liberation Organization, the Palestinian Authority was established as the local governing body for parts of the West Bank and Gaza. Nowadays, Palestinian Territory can be classified into four different areas with different forms and levels of governance and control performed by both, Israel as an occupying force, and the Palestinian Authority as an autonomous control body. Most of the West Bank can be classified as either A, B, or C area, agreed on in Oslo II Accords (OCHA 2017) as part of the peace accords, with a total Palestinian population of 2.9 million, while Gaza is an area on its own with a population of 1.9 million (PCBS 2019). According to the accords, Area A, which comprises of scattered Palestinian cities in the West Bank and their immediate surroundings making up around 18% of the West Bank, was agreed to be exclusively under

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Palestinian Authority administration in terms of civil and security controls. While Area B, making around 21% of the area of the West Bank with most Palestinian village and town centers, will be under Palestinian civil control and Israeli security control. The agreements classify the remaining 61% as Area C, falling under full Israeli control, which includes all the lands around cities, towns, and villages, main roads, and Israeli settlements. Figure  7.1 shows how these areas are related, demonstrating how scattered the areas are and the lack of geographical continuity, which as we will see later played a role in further control of Israel on communication. This classification has affected different aspects of the daily lives of Palestinians living in the West Bank and reflects in telecommunication infrastructure as well as service provisioning, creating an imbalance in power that results in several disparities manifested in different levels and aspects of people’s lives, with digital inequalities as one of its aspects. The control on the availability of access to communication technology and the Internet, from basic telephony services to domestic broadband and mobile networks, exerted by Israel as a result of the status quo and practice of oppression demonstrates weaponization of communication technology in general, and the Internet in particular, toward upholding command as occupying forces. The weaponization in this context is demonstrated by using the power to control access as a weapon to maintain control.

Telecommunication Infrastructure The British Mandate developed the basis for the first telephony infrastructure in historical Palestine during its control on the region between 1920 and 1948, mainly to serve the need for communication among British administration (Sherman 1998). Israel, with its establishment in 1948, inherited the infrastructure and managed it in the areas it controlled within the 1949 Armistice lines, which did not include the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza Strip. Between 1948 and 1967, Jordan, the controlling power over West Bank then, partly developed telephony provisioning, while Egypt played the same role in Gaza. In 1967, Israel furthered its control to the infrastructure with the occupation of the rest of historical Palestine and the annexation of the West Bank and Gaza, essentially controlling all aspects of life, including communication. Over the years, Israel has extended telecommunication infrastructure over the whole area of historical Palestine, but the rate of telephony penetration was not high. In 1985, one year after the establishment of the

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Fig. 7.1  Geopolitical areas of the West Bank. (Based on the UN Office of Humanitarian Affairs in Occupied Palestinian Territory map available at: https://unispal.un.org/UNISPAL.NSF/0/6B9EABA6D3EA5CE2852578 410058A8C6)

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then government-owned Bezeq, The Israeli Telecommunication Corp. Ltd., there were 26.4 telephone lines per 100 inhabitants (Salomon and Razin 1988). The same paper includes demand numbers for telephones in the same year, which was at 32 telephones per 100 inhabitants, increasing from 26 in 1980, and 10.4 in 1968. These numbers, nonetheless, also reflect the inequality in handling the provisioning of communication services, with households in areas with higher Palestinian population, particularly in the West Bank and Gaza, having to wait years after requesting installation of phone line to receive one. Only 16.8% of households had telephones in 1984, compared to 75.8% of the Jewish population as per Salomon and Razin (1988: 128). The paper indicated two factors to justify this inequality: the first is that Palestinians may not be as interested because of “their lower income and because they place a lower value on the telephone as compared with other goods”. The second reason according to the authors was government policies, which invested unequally among different populations. Figure 7.2 based on that research data, provides visualization for the blunt difference in communication service provisioning in different regions. With the signing of the Oslo I and Oslo II Accords in 1993 and 1995, the Palestinian Authority established itself in parts of the West Bank and Gaza as an autonomous body to govern some of the areas occupied in 1967. The Palestinian Authority handed management of telecommunication service provisioning to the newly established public shareholding company Palestine Telecommunications Company P.L.C (Paltel) in 1995. The company managed the copper telephony infrastructure dominant then and greatly invested in advancing the infrastructure to mend the gaps in access it inherited from its predecessor, but this is not to be understood in any way that they effectively had total control over the telecommunication sector. The accords and agreements signed between the Palestinians and Israelis enforced any telecommunication provider in the Palestinian Territory to maintain compatibility with Israeli infrastructure, which implied having to receive pre-approval from Israeli authorities on any equipment or technology used and offered, giving the final word to the occupier. This control extended to defining what equipment can be imported since the Palestinian Authority had no borders but with Israel, and all imports should go through Israeli ports and pass through the customs.

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Percentage of Households with Telephones 1983

Golan Heights

0 - 20

(Occupied from Syria)

20 - 50 50 - 80 Over 80

a

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Fig. 7.2  Percentage of households with telephone lines in Israel/ Palestine in 1983. (Based on data from Salomon, I., and Razin, E. (1988) The Geography of Telecommunications Systems: The Case of Israel’s Telephone System)

G

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For electronics and equipment, including telecommunication devices, import requirements include obtaining the technical approval of Israeli Standards, commonly known as Tekken. As a result, the equipment may be held for months or years, as in one case mentioned by Professor Robert Wade in a reflection of a visit to Israel/Palestine in 2013, when “Palestinian telecommunication agency imported equipment from Ericsson, identical to Ericsson equipment imported at the same time by Israel. The Israeli equipment passed through customs in two weeks; the Palestinian equipment was held up two years for ‘security checks’, all the time paying daily storage fees” (Wade 2015). The constraints also reached to communication between Palestinian Territory and the world, forcing it to pass through Israel and Israeli companies, meaning that the Israeli government maintained control and ability to monitor all communication between Palestine and the world, further enriching its arsenal of weaponry to control and monitor Palestinian communication with the world. Despite the restrictions, Paltel opened the way for Palestinians to get the phone lines they waited for long time to get, increasing number of lines active in the West Bank and Gaza to 83,621 lines by 1996, one year after its establishment, using mainly the infrastructure available. The company invested in expanding infrastructure to serve the demand, increasing active phone lines to 110,893 lines with a further 182,866 line requests on waiting lists by the end of 1997, reaching 301,579 lines in 2002, and later increasing slowly and steadily to reach 470,000 lines in 2018 (Paltel 2019). This sudden increase after Paltel took over demonstrates the oppressed demand of Palestinians for connectivity not served under direct Israeli control. Israeli control extends to the airwaves as well, controlling what frequencies Palestinian telecommunication providers can use in Palestinian Territory. For example, and despite efforts to establish a Third Generation mobile network services (3G) in Palestine since 2009, it was not until 2015 that Israel granted the two mobile telecom providers in Palestine a small range of frequencies needed to operate this service in the West Bank but not in Gaza. However, implementation had to wait for almost three years after finalizing all agreements on the subject, when Israeli authorities dedicated a 10 MHz frequency band in early 2018 to Palestinian companies for 3G services. To put the frequencies allowed to the two Palestinian companies in perspective, Israeli companies had the chance to get a hold on additional

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65 MHz to expand their services in 2014 to allow for Fourth Generation (4G) services, while Palestinian companies and the Palestinian Authority will need to start a new process of negotiations to get frequencies for potential 4G services. The two Palestinian mobile operators, Jawwal, member of Paltel group, and Ooredoo Palestine, established as Wataniya and member of the international Ooredoo group, had to share these frequencies, just as they did with the Second Generation of GSM networks (2G) frequencies. Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) published several reports and opinion pieces on the issue, and in one of them, they put ease of monitoring and eavesdropping of 2G networks as one of the reasons why Israel has been postponing handing over of 3G frequencies (O’Brien and York 2015). As providing frequencies would mean that Israeli authorities would lose the ability to easily perform surveillance and eavesdrop on communication traffic passively without detection and require them to either work on new surveillance technology or turn into more active eavesdropping through access to the Palestinian telecom traffic through the companies, which would increase the risk of being detected. Nonetheless, it is not fair to say that Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza did not demand, or had access to, mobile Internet, even if illegally. Israeli telecom providers have most of the Palestinian areas covered with mobile service, including 3G service, through towers in Area C and settlements surrounding Palestinian city and village centers, which they have easy access to, compared to that of the Palestinian companies. Israeli telecom companies have been able to offer their services in Palestinian Territory, and as the report from the Palestinian think tank, Al-Shabaka, puts it in a policy brief “Israeli operators have been able to offer Palestinian customers better quality services at the expense of Palestinian operators by capitalizing on Israel’s superior force as an occupying power and the captive state of the Palestinian market” (Arafeh et al. 2015). Israeli companies have captured 30% of the Palestinian market volume in that way, without paying any taxes to the Palestinian Authority, and leading to losses for Palestinian telecom providers (Rossotto et al. 2016). These practices contribute to the extended control of Israeli authorities over Palestinians, allowing it access to monitoring of communication, as we have seen in the 2G case, and limited economic opportunities resulting from unauthorized capture of market volume by Israeli companies. Crossing these practices with older policies of telephone infrastructure investment and distribution, as we have seen in the case of phone distribution, provides evidence for systematic weaponization of telecommunication to support

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control and continuation of the occupation. These practices also play a role in maintenance of certain inequalities in access to technology that, in turn, propagates digital inequalities among other social inequalities between different communities under control of the Israeli authorities.

Internet in Palestine According to data from the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the Internet penetration rate in the West Bank and Gaza has risen steadily over the years to reach over 61% in 2016, from a mere 1% in the year 2000, jumping in one year from 4.4% to 16% between 2004 and 2005 (ITU 2019). However, these numbers do not agree with numbers published by Palestinian Centre Bureau of Statistics, as it states that 9.2% of households in 2004 had access to the Internet, increasing to 51.7% in 2017 (PCBS 2018), rendering the ITU data of 2000 to 2004 as very conservative estimation. Nonetheless, penetration numbers in Palestine have been above the Middle East and North Africa since 2004, demonstrating the interest of Palestinians to connect and use the Internet. The tendency of communication adoption in terms of new telephone lines served after handing telephony provisioning to Palestinian Communication Company, and the leaps in Internet penetration rates are remarkable. This tendency does not comply with the first justification of Salomon and Razin (1988), mentioned earlier, for why Palestinians did not have as many phone lines per household, leaving their second justification of Israeli government policies as a more plausible reason. By 1999, the Internet in Palestine was provided through ten Palestinian Internet Service Providers (ISP); however, with Internet connectivity having to come from Israel, these companies had limited or no agency, in deciding the affordability of access, and this power positionality carried on over the years until today. As a result, connectivity costs were significantly higher in Palestinian Territory than in the neighboring areas served by Israeli companies directly. This resulted in the rise of a parallel Internet market, where Palestinians obtained access to the Internet through mobile Internet service provided by Israeli companies signal “spillover” to Palestinian areas, or through local non-official wireless networks that resell Internet bought from an Israeli settlement in a line of sight of Israeli companies.

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The Internet in Palestine, despite all the efforts to make it widely available and demand from users, is still lagging in terms of speed, affordability, and coverage when compared to Israel. The comparison is possible here as it comes from the fact that, between 1967 and 1995, the whole area was effectively a single market with the same rules applied, the only legal differences came from special directives based on ethnicity of population in different areas as we have seen earlier in the case of telephone lines distribution in the mid-1980s, and policies affecting Internet and telecommunications to date. Today, the inequality in access available between the areas can be sensed from Cable.co.uk rankings, which puts Israel at the 70th position worldwide in average Internet speed in the world with a mean download speed of 7.64 Mbps, while Palestine is at the 154th position, with 1.75 Mbps (Cable.co.uk 2018). This gap points out an interesting case that deserves further studies on digital inequalities among different communities under the same rule, but with essentially discriminatory policies, which unfortunately is not well studied yet. The Internet has provided a window for Palestinians over the years, especially with Israeli authority’s policies resulting in mobility and communication with the outer world impediments. People have always looked for communication methods to defy borders and connect with family and acquaintances outside Palestine. People resorted to the Internet since its introduction in the early 1990s to communicate with long lost cousins in refugee camps outside of Palestine. Projects like Across Borders Program (ABP) stemmed from this need, launching in February 1999 at Birzeit University, to build “otherwise inexistent, Internet linkages between Palestinian refugees spread around the world” (CCE 2014). In book titled Palestine Online, Transnationalism, the Internet and Construction of Identity, Miriyam Aouragh argued how the Internet offered “virtual escapism” for Palestinians. This featured a necessary opportunity, although partial and temporal, to take part and engage politically, as well as providing urgently needed forms of entertainment (Aouragh 2012: 288), despite being embedded in the colonial reality of everyday life under occupation. The Internet in this regard helped to establish a virtual space where Palestinians could practice their identity with less direct interference from the occupying forces, and thus offering more opportunities for Palestinians to make use of the Internet, essentially helping in reducing digital inequalities. Internet use helped Palestinians to defy political borders to communicate and organize with people from all over the world on issues ranging

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from political campaigns to coordinating cultural events, one example is the Ramallah Contemporary Dance Festival, which is organised online, over closed borders, with regional festivals that cover Lebanon,Syria,and Jordan, in addition to Palestine (Kreitem 2017). Another form was the early adoption of the Internet as a medium to deliver their voice and news directly, including broadcast for Palestinian media. One of the first Palestinian radio broadcasts came from Birzeit University’s BZU Outloud Internet radio in 1998 by their media institute to train the radio journalism students. Appreciating the potential of the global audience the Internet may bring to the online radio, the institute broadcast included shows in Arabic and English languages that focused mainly on politics and issues related to Palestine (BZU 2000). Virtual escapism did not only mean escapism from immediate locality to reach a global audience and join international communication, but it meant providing means to escape more local restriction on movement as well, between Palestinian cities and areas, to communicate, conduct business, and learn. When road closures stood between students and their classrooms, universities in the West Bank found themselves under pressure of either stopping the educational process or bypassing restrictions by moving to a virtual classroom. Universities opted for the second option by expediting the launch of eLearning portals and virtual learning environments to accommodate the need for means of communication that are capable of bypassing roadblocks. An example of the effect of road blockage on education can be seen when between March 2001 and June 2004, the roads connecting to Birzeit University were regularly closed by Israeli forces as part of the Operation Defensive Shield (Hammami 2004), as a response, Birzeit University sped up its eLearning efforts. The efforts included launching an online portal for students and staff to communicate, share content, and conduct university business online (Aouragh 2012), providing another example of a window provided by the Internet to overcome colonial restrictions and reducing inequalities propagated by control practices on communication opportunities and on joining the network society. Internet and communication technologies have also provided Palestine with economic opportunities, with the information and communications technology (ICT) business sector moving from mainly focusing on selling hardware and computers in the 1980s and early 1990s, to a more advanced production sector. The sector has over 250 companies employing 5000 direct employees and 15,000 indirect employees in the West Bank and

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Gaza (PITA 2016). The output of the sector skyrocketed from 5.6 million USD in 1994 to 794.3 million USD in 2016, providing almost 10% of the gross domestic product (GDP) of Palestine (PCBS 2017). Mobility restrictions are attributed as one of the reasons for this increase, as barriers decrease incentives of investment in the production of physical goods, while ICT sector is able to employ highly skilled labor from different areas, overcoming mobility restrictions (Giannone and Fratto 2019).

Internet Controls in Palestine Despite the practices of Israeli authorities in delaying access to communication technologies over the years, as discussed earlier, Palestinians were able to find their place online and gained access to the Internet, allowing people in Palestine the opportunity to reap benefits of the Internet. Benefits include the ability to speak to the world, communicate with other Palestinians around the world, and express their opinion and self in a more open manner than what it is in real life under the reality of occupation. However, this freedom posed further concerns for the Israeli authorities as the occupying forces, which mitigated potential risks, as they perceive it, through putting more efforts toward monitoring and surveillance of Palestinian online activity, moving from controls on access availability, the medium, to controls on what you say online, the message. In 2009, OpenNet Initiative published a report on the state of Internet freedoms in West Bank and Gaza, concluding that access in the Palestinian Territory is relatively open, with no or low fettering from the Palestinian Authority, and the limitations the report found had the shape of filtering of sexually explicit content Implemented in Gaza (ONI 2009). However, the years since witnessed change in the status of Internet freedoms, with several sites blocked following orders from the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, particularly under political and ethical justifications, the blocking was intermittent, but the trend shows that it is in the way toward further controls on Internet access (MADA 2017; Othman 2017). In addition to Internet controls exhorted by the Palestinian Authority, Palestinians are also under another form of controls exhorted by Israel, not limited to what we have seen earlier in terms of control on access and telecommunication infrastructure and availability. Israel, as we can conclude from previous discussion and examples, has weaponized its technical capabilities to maintain control over the Palestinian online world through monitoring and surveillance. With the highest number of technological

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surveillance companies per capita, 27 companies, as well as the infamous Unit 8200, Israel maintained mass surveillance in the occupied Palestinian Territory (Kane 2016). The mass surveillance allowed for a testing ground for Israel’s position in the cyber arms market, as in the Pegasus system that operates in no less than 45 countries, including Palestine (Marczak et al. 2018). To address concern coming from the online world effectively, Israel integrated the surveillance weaponry with other direct force apparatus, including arrests based on activity on social media platforms, as in 2017, more than 300 Palestinians were arrested from the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, following online activity (AbuShanab 2018). Arrests did not only base on what people express and say aloud online, but also extended to group participation, merely being in a WhatsApp group could be enough of a reason for arrest (Maan News 2017). Israeli practice of control of access and surveillance was described by Helga Tawil-Souri as digital occupation, a system that spans territorial and digital control of people to maintain power asymmetry through conventional hard borders augmented by soft controls on the digital infrastructure and in the digital world (Dawes 2015). This form of occupation was also suspected as the motive behind attacks on Palestinian networks, including one attack that almost resulted in a total shutdown of the Internet and telephony network operating in Palestine in 2011, which Tawil-Souri claims to have targeted the right to sovereignty, not only the digital networks (Tawil-Souri 2011).

Discussion and Conclusion Practices related to telecommunication infrastructure and communication in the West Bank and Gaza Strip have been steered mainly by the need for control by the bodies governing these areas to exert control as a form of support for colonialism and management of possible resistance. These practices are observable since the early days of mass telephony provisioning in the mid-twentieth century in the form of policies discriminating among different areas and populations. The practices and policies carried on until current days in different forms, but with the same motive of assuring a certain level of control and monitoring to the advantage of colonial power. Augmenting direct practices of control with access and communication controls as an instrument to support occupation is a form of

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weaponization of these tools, which in their most basic function provide access; thus, access is what is essentially being weaponized. Weaponization of access is a form of control that allows for asymmetrical power relations that favor the empowered actor, here the colonial force, to implement its will and interests and further its authority over the less powered actor. This practice at its simplest form of controlling access to media plays a role in assuring imbalance in the Networking Power, one of the four power relations governing the network society as described by Castells (Castells 2011), leading toward lingering of authority and expansion of digital inequalities between people who are able to join the network society, and those who are under access limitations, here the Palestinians. While the power to conduct surveillance and monitor communication and online activity is an attempt to control what is being said and establish an environment of soft coercion or threat of violence that roughly maps to another form of Castells network society powers, Networked Power, which leads toward the extension of oversight from the medium to the message, and again affects Internet use and digital inequalities as well. In the case of Israel/Palestine, Weaponization of access transition from controlling the medium to controlling the message is clear but not incisive. Transition, in this case, goes in cycles, from delaying access to technology and media, to allowing it under limitations, to creating a state of control on the message and usage within the technology. This form and level of weaponization and control is made possible partly because of the distinct locality of geography in the Israeli/Palestinian case, as well as the policies that allowed such discrimination to take place among different groups of people, under one authority, or under two authorities that are connected but not balanced in powers. Access to communication for Palestinians in terms of medium control was limited through limitations on access to telephone lines, mainly due to governmental policies as we have seen earlier, and later on, this moved to limitations on access to the Internet and then limitations on access to mobile Internet enabling frequencies. While Palestinians utilized virtual escapism tactics by using communication technologies to overcome mobility barriers and other colonial limitations designed to promulgate social and digital inequalities, surveillance and punishment on the message created a level of self-censorship facilitating the extension of control to the online world. The overall effect of these practices, in this case, is evident in

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digital inequalities across the Armistice lines, as well as economic losses among Palestinians due to restrictions on technology and illegal service provisioning from Israeli companies. These practices are not unique to the case of Palestine/Israel, occurrence of all or some of the practices discussed here by controlling and oppressive regimes and power actors is conceivable, with the difference that the act of weaponization may be more inclined to control either the media or the message, depending on underlying realities and regulations. Thus, it is important to look at these practices and consider the implications of weaponization of access on people and groups, particularly when it comes to policymaking and Internet governance. Clear and forceful policies on the subject provide tools to fight against this form of weaponization, allowing for freer and wider available Internet and communication technologies.

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Cable.co.uk. (2018). Worldwide Broadband Speed League 2018. Available at https://www.cable.co.uk/broadband/speed/worldwide-speed-league/ Castells, M. (2011). Communication Power (Reprint ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. Castells, M. (2014). The Impact of the Internet on Society: A Global Perspective. Manuel Castells, 23. Center for Continuing Education. (2014). Birzeit University, Across Borders Project. http://cceweb.birzeit.edu/AcrossBorders.html. Dawes, S. (2015). The Digital Occupation of Gaza: An Interview with Helga Tawil-Souri. Networking Knowledge: Journal of the MeCCSA Postgraduate Network, 8(2). https://doi.org/10.31165/nk.2015.82.374. Deibert, R., Palfrey, J.  G., Rohozinski, R., et  al. (2010). Access Controlled: The Shaping of Power, Rights, and Rule in Cyberspace. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. DiMaggio, P., & Hargittai, E. (2001). From the ‘Digital Divide’ to ‘Digital Inequality’: Studying Internet Use as Penetration Increases. Princeton Center for Arts and Cultural Policy Studies, Working Paper 15. Available at https:// pdfs.semanticscholar.org/4843/610b79d670136e3cdd12311f91f5 cc98d2ee.pdf Dutta, S., Dutton, W. H., & Law, G. (2011, April 14). The New Internet World: A Global Perspective on Freedom of Expression, Privacy, Trust and Security Online. ID 1810005, SSRN Scholarly Paper. Rochester: Social Science Research Network. Available at https://papers.ssrn.com/abstract=1810005. Accessed 4 Apr 2019. Fuchs, C. (2012). Critique of the Political Economy of Web 2.0 Surveillance. In Fuchs, C., Boersma, K, Albrechtslund, A, et al. (Eds.), Internet and Surveillance: The Challenges of Web 2.0 and Social Media (pp. 31–70). New York: Routledge. Available at http://westminsterresearch.wmin.ac.uk/12271/. Accessed 10 Aug 2017. Gagliardone, I. (n.d.) World Trends in Freedom of Expression and Media Development 2018. Available at https://www.academia.edu/35847336/ World_Trends_in_Freedom_of_Expression_and_Media_Development_2018. Accessed 9 Apr 2018. Giannone, E., & Fratto, C. (2019). IT Sector, Mobility Barriers and Knowledge Spillover in Palestine|PEDL. In Centre for Economic Policy Research. Available at https://pedl.cepr.org/content/it-sector-mobility-barriers-and-knowledgespillover-palestine-0 Hammami, R. (2004). Palestine  – Tribulation at Surda Checkpoint. New Statesman. Available at http://www.newstatesman.com/node/160125 Hargittai, E., & Walejko, G. (2008). The Participation Divide: Content Creation and Sharing in the Digital Age. Information Communication and Society, 11(2), 239–256. https://doi.org/10.1080/13691180801946150. Hussain, M.  M. (2014). Digital Infrastructure Politics and Internet Freedom Stakeholders After the Arab Spring. Journal of International Affairs, 68(1), 37.

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ITU. (2019). The World Telecommunication/ICT Indicators Database. International Telecommunication Union. Available at https://www.itu.int/ en/ITU-D/Statistics/Pages/stat/default.aspx Kane, A. (2016). How Israel Became a Hub for Surveillance Technology. In The Intercept. Available at https://theintercept.com/2016/10/17/ how-israel-became-a-hub-for-surveillance-technology/ Kreitem, H. (2017). Defying Borders in the Levant: Contemporary Dance and the Internet. In Bocanegra Barbecho, L., & García López, A. (Eds.), Con La Red/En La Red: Creación, Investigación y Comunicación Cultural y Artística En La Era de Internet (pp.  367–384). Granada: Universidad de Granada; Downhill Publishing. Available at https://www.academia.edu/35700234/ DEFYING_BORDERS_IN_THE_LEVANT_CONTEMPORARY_DANCE_ AND_THE_INTERNET Lyon, D. (2003). Surveillance After September 11. Malden: Polity Press in association with Blackwell Pub. Inc.. Maan News. (2017). Israeli Forces Detain 18 Palestinians for Being in WhatsApp Group. Maan News Agency. Available at http://www.maannews.com/ Content.aspx?ID=776018 MADA. (2017). Several Palestinian News Websites Blocked in the West Bank. In IFEX. Available at http://www.ifex.org/palestine/2017/06/20/ websites-blocked-west-bank/ Marczak, B., Scott-Railton, J., McKune, S., et  al. (2018). HIDE AND SEEK: Tracking NSO Group’s Pegasus Spyware to Operations in 45 Countries. Available at https://citizenlab.ca/2018/09/hide-and-seek-tracking-nsogroups-pegasus-spyware-to-operations-in-45-countries/ O’Brien, D., & York, J. C. (2015). A Slow Boat to Fast Data: Why Is Palestine Still Waiting for 3G? In Electronic Frontier Foundation. Available at https://www. eff.org/deeplinks/2015/11/palestine-3g OCHA. (2017). Humanitarian Facts and Figures. Available at https://www. ochaopt.org/content/humanitarian-facts-and-figures ONI. (2009). Internet Filtering in Gaza and the West Bank. OpenNet Initiative. Available at https://opennet.net/research/profiles/gazawestbank Othman, D. (2017). Palestinian Authority Once Again Censors Websites of Rivals and Critics Global Voices. In Global Voices. Available at https://globalvoices.org/2017/06/18/palestinian-authority-once-again-censorswebsites-of-rivals-and-critics/ Paltel. (2019). Paltel Group Annual Report 2018. Annual Report. Palestine: Paltel Group. Available at http://www.paltelgroup.ps/uploads/Annual_ report_PG_15_M_Final.pdf. Accessed 4 Apr 2019. PCBS. (2017). National Accounts Indicators, 2015 and 2016. Available at http:// www.pcbs.gov.ps/Portals/_Rainbow/Documents/A.NA_Current.htm

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PCBS. (2018). Access and Use of ICT by Households and Individuals by Year. Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics. Available at http://www.pcbs.gov.ps/ Portals/_Rainbow/Documents/ICT_main_indic_e2017.html PCBS. (2019). Estimated Population in Palestine Mid-Year by Governorate, 1997–2021. Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics. Available at http://www. pcbs.gov.ps/Portals/_Rainbow/Documents/%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D8 %AD%D8%A7%D9%81%D8%B8%D8%A7%D8%AA%20%D8%A7%D9%86%D8 %AC%D9%84%D9%8A%D8%B2%D9%8A%2097-2017.html PITA. (2016). PITA|ICT Sector Profile. In Palestinian IT Association of Companies. Available at http://home.pita.ps/wp/ict-sector-profile/ Ragnedda, M. (2011). Social Control and Surveillance in the Society of Consumers. International Journal of Sociology and Anthropology 3(2). Available at https:// www.academia.edu/673071/Social_control_and_sur veillance_in_the_ society_of_consumers Ragnedda, M. (2017). The Third Digital Divide: A Weberian Approach to Digital Inequalities (M.  Ragnedda, Ed.). Taylor & Francis. Available at http://nrl. northumbria.ac.uk/30110/ Ragnedda, M., & Kreitem, H. (2018). The Three Levels of Digital Divide in East EU Countries. World of Media (4): 5–26. Available at https://doi. org/10.30547/worldofmedia.4.2018.1 Ragnedda, M., & Ruiu, M. (2017). Social Capital and the Three Levels of Digital Divide. In M.  Ragnedda, & G.  Muschert (Eds.), Theorizing Digital Divides (pp.  21–34). Abingdon: Taylor & Francis. Available at http://nrl.northumbria.ac.uk/33052/. Accessed 4 Apr 2019. Rossotto, C.  M., Decoster, X.  S., Lewin, A., et  al. (2016, February 1). The Telecommunication Sector in the Palestinian Territories: A Missed Opportunity for Economic Development. 104263. The World Bank. Available at http:// documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/993031473856114803/Thetelecommunication-sector-in-the-Palestinian-territories-a-missed-opportunityfor-economic-development Salomon, I., & Razin, E. (1988). The Geography of Telecommunications Systems: The Case of Israel’s Telephone System. Tijdschrift voor economische en sociale geografie, 79(2), 122–134. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9663.1988. tb00590.x. Scott, G. (2014). Professor Jill Slay, Director of Australian Centre for Cyber Security: Exclusive Interview. In Global Government Forum. Available at https://www.globalgovernmentforum.com/interview-professor-jill-slaydirector-of-australian-centre-for-cyber-security/. Accessed 4 Apr 2019. Sherman, A.  J. (1998). Mandate Days: British Lives in Palestine, 1918–1948. New York: Thames & Hudson. Singer, P.  W., & Brooking, E.  T. (2018). LikeWar: The Weaponization of Social Media. Boston: Eamon Dolan/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

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Tawil-Souri, H. (2011). Hacking Palestine: A Digital Occupation. Available at https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2011/11/ 2011117151559601957.html Tawil-Souri, H. (2012). Digital Occupation: Gaza’s High-Tech Enclosure. Journal of Palestine Studies, 41(2), 27–43. https://doi.org/10.1525/ jps.2012.xli.2.27. UN. (2016). Key Issues at Stake. In Question of Palestine. Available at https:// www.un.org/unispal/permanent-status-issues/ Van Dijk, J. A. G. M. (2005). The Network Society: Social Aspects of New Media. Thousand Oaks: SAGE. Van Dijk, J.  A. (2013). A Theory of the Digital Divide. In M.  Ragnedda, & G. W. Muschert (Eds.). The Digital Divide: The Internet and Social Inequality in International Perspective (pp.  29–51). Routledge. Available at https:// research.utwente.nl/en/publications/a-theory-of-the-digital-divide Wade, R. (2015). Living Where You Don’t Make the Rules: Development in Palestine – One of the World’s Last Colonies. In LSE International Development. Available at https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/internationaldevelopment/2015/08/11/ living-where-you-dont-make-the-rules-development-in-palestine-one-of-theworlds-last-colonies/ Wagner, B. (2012). After the Arab Spring: New Paths for Human Rights and the Internet in European Foreign Policy. Available at https://publications.europa. eu/en/publication-detail/-/publication/c49c0d2d-1fb5-4724b147-9433cfb99b07/language-en

CHAPTER 8

Digital Inequalities in CIS Countries: Updated Approach to the Analysis of Situation Olga Smirnova

Theories of Digital Divide: Current Approaches Even though Internet technologies and accessibility are rapidly developing, there are still a number of limitations defining the quality of access and types of uses (van Dijk 2013, 2017; Ragnedda 2017; van Deursen et  al. 2017; Van Deursen and van Dijk 2015; Wessels 2015). Some of these limitations can be regarded as natural, for instance, those arising from the rapid development of the technologies themselves. Other limitations can be viewed as artificial, imposed, or even forced. Limitations that can significantly influence the coverage and quality of Internet penetration are often related to motivation, purpose, and efficiency of its use. Researchers emphasize that the ubiquity of Internet technologies worldwide greatly influences social relations and public processes (Guillen and Suarez 2005; Wessels 2010, 2018). A distinctive feature of digital

O. Smirnova (*) Lomonosov Moscow State University, Moscow, Russia © The Author(s) 2020 M. Ragnedda, A. Gladkova (eds.), Digital Inequalities in the Global South, Global Transformations in Media and Communication Research - A Palgrave and IAMCR Series, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-32706-4_8

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technologies is the phenomenon of “double penetrations”, that is, they are simultaneously the subject of the material culture and the means of communication (Silverstone and Hirsch 1994). This becomes important when analyzing unequal access within the digital society that uses digital technologies, which are the key resources in the information society. Using technologies in economic, political, and socio-cultural processes in a society inevitably leads to a divide (Wessels 2013, pp. 17–18; Vartanova 2000, pp. 14–24). Theoretical and empirical studies of the digital divide are developing in different directions, starting from the analysis of basic divide in access (Warschauer 2003; van Dijk 2005; Vartanova 2001, 2014; Vartanova and Puyu 2017). Researchers point to the fact that the so-called artificial limitations are mainly related to peculiarities, level, and conditions of living, to the state of the environment, cultural peculiarities, the need for protection of social norms, and so on. Researchers have developed the theory of three levels of the digital divide. The analysis shows that not only access to the Internet (first level of the digital divide) but also how users use the Internet, what they use it for (second level of digital divide), and the benefits of using it (third level of digital divide) are crucially important above all (Hilbert 2016; Ragnedda and Ruiu 2017). The theory of digital society, in its turn, analyzes how information and communication technologies create a new social paradigm, in which, according to researches, new social relations different from the previous ones are being formed (van Dijk 2013; Helsper 2012). It should be also noted that current studies of the digital divide and computer skills are generally descriptive by nature (van Dijk 2006). Usually, peculiarities of the divide are described via basic demographic characteristics of people or groups of people that have some access to Internet and have some skills of using it. Substantially less attention is given to the comparative analysis and explanation of these discrepancies. Western researchers explain such an approach by the dominance of individualistic concepts of the divide. Within the context of sociological, scientific, and economic studies, approaches to the research of digital divide are based on the so-called methodological individualism (Wellman and Berkowitz 1988). The divide in information and computer access (ICA) is explained by the person himself and his key characteristics: level of income and education, work, gender, nationality, and so on (van Dijk 2013, p. 29; Ragnedda and Kreitem 2018; Ragnedda and Muschert 2017). From this point of view of the population divide in the use of information

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technologies, several key characteristics are proposed: availability of technical means and connections, autonomy of access, skills in using information technologies, availability of social support in mastering, and purpose of use (DiMaggio and Hargittai 2001). The digital divide has occurred at the intersection of both international and intrastate differences in socio-economic, technological, and linguistic factors. The divide also remains substantial within some countries and regions. Even nowadays people, social groups, and nations on the wrong side of the digital divide may be increasingly excluded from knowledge-­ based societies and economies (Chen and Wellman 2004). This article sets the objective of identifying certain approaches to the research of the digital divide within the context of regional, national, and cultural peculiarities of CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) countries. The development of the CIS space is studied in various aspects—from political and economic to social and cultural (Lokshina 2005). Special attention is paid to the processes and phenomena that are caused by the shared past of the countries. Most often researchers focus on the same negative characteristics (Engvall 2016). Attention has already been paid to the analysis of some aspects related to the problem of digital divide. Researchers have noted that the term “digital divide” entered the Russian-­ speaking public space after the international seminar “The problems of overcoming the digital divide in Russia and CIS countries” in November 2000 (Beketov 2009). The library landscape in CIS countries has been explored with a primary focus on digital libraries and the implementation of open access initiatives (Usova 2009). Researchers have also analyzed the state of human potential in CIS countries according to the development of the information society. It has been noted that the common challenge for CIS countries is the lack of attention to human capacity building as a factor of the development of the information society and reduction of the digital divide (Shaposhnik 2016). Digital divide has already been studied in particular countries, for example, in Russia (Brodovskaya and Shumilova 2013; Bykov and Hall 2011; Zherebin and Makhrova 2015; Volchenko 2016; Smirnova 2017). However, to date there is no comparative analysis of the general situation with digital divide and its factors in the CIS space. The importance of this problem has been repeatedly emphasized in public space, by high-­ level politicians too. Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, speaking about the development of cooperation in Eurasia in 2018, said: “The

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differences between countries are huge and what’s called the “digital divide” is too big. We all have programs, we all implement them. But the digital divide has not been overcome. As long as the digital divide persists—not only between our countries among the “Big Five” or in the CIS, or in Europe and Asia, and in general on the planet—it is impossible to say that the digital agenda has become universal”.

Current State and Factors of the Digital Divide Within the National Context of CIS Countries The particular task is to analyze a series of data related to the digital divide, obtained from open sources, and to define the main trends for comparative analysis of such data and data related to economic, cultural, and social nature of countries that are part of the CIS. In terms of historical-­systematic analysis, which requires a deeper analysis of socio-historical systems and the elucidation of internal and external mechanisms of their functioning, it should be considered that the last decades of the twentieth century saw a number of vital global trends. Among them was the increasingly important role played by information technologies in all spheres of social life, as well as the corresponding expansion of the sphere of globalization effects (Bykov 2009, p. 20). At the same time, this period of active development and spread of information and telecommunication technologies coincided with the period of the above-mentioned political transformations of the 1990s in the former Soviet Union. The breakup of the USSR was followed by attempts to form a new integration in the post-Soviet space, which was declared during the denouncement of the Belovezha Union Treaty by leaders of three union republics in December 1991. The countries, that had become independent after the breakup, had intricate links between industrial enterprises and common transport, administrative and financial-credit infrastructure, and significantly a common market (Bykov 2009, p. 73). The actual state of affairs and the level of mutual mistrust showed the inability to form a common economic union with a common budget and a unified legal framework. Multi-directional nature of interests (internal, regional, and global) of certain CIS countries, peculiarities of their geographical location, different levels of interest (political and economic) in the creation of a unified economic space, contradictions and conflicts between different CIS countries, and their apprehension over the

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inevitable political and economic dominance of Russia, all this promoted sub-regional formations within the post-Soviet space that varied by capabilities and focus, and which included members joined mostly by interests (Bykov 2009. p. 76). The presence of common infrastructure and cultural relations dictated the need for cooperation. Namely, the CIS was established as a new form of interaction of some countries that once were a part of the USSR, and that still had the need for cooperation based on the previously existing infrastructure. This form of cooperation between now legally equal independent states was characterized by organized cooperation in different spheres of interstate communication. The CIS currently includes 11 countries: Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Ukraine. It should be mentioned that Ukraine, due to the recent worsening of its relations with Russia, has said on numerous occasions that it could leave the CIS, yet formally this country remains a member of the Commonwealth. CIS countries inherited a fairly strong economic system from the USSR, which had a common transport system and other elements of common infrastructure. However, in the context of ICA, it should be noted that in the early 1990s not one CIS country had a developed telecommunication infrastructure and enough information technology experts. For a number of political, economic, technological, and cultural reasons, the Internet came to the post-Soviet space late compared to countries in Europe and America. And yet, by pace of development of ICA, some CIS countries were soon among the leading countries in the world: from the late 1990s to the early 2000s, the number of Internet users doubled annually, while in some cases, it tripled. According to data from International Telecommunication Union (ITU)1 from 2000 to 2007, the number of users increased by 11.633.3% in Uzbekistan, 5.556.7% in Azerbaijan, and 2.539.1% and 1.785.8% in Ukraine and Belarus, respectively. Such rapid growth has obviously led to digital divide challenges. There are still differences in terms of access (first level of the digital divide), digital skills and digital competences required to use the Internet competently (second level of digital divide), and inequalities in the ability to reap the benefits of accessing and using the Internet (third level of the digital divide) (Ragnedda 2018). 1

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When analyzing the CIS cyberspace, we used data that demonstrate the level of access to the Internet, the first level of the possible digital divide. According to information from the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), at the end of 2018 the percentage of the population in the CIS using the Internet was 71.3%.2 Throughout the period of rapid development of ICA, Russia has been the solid leader among CIS countries on Internet coverage over the past three decades—over 70% of population regularly used the Internet. Nevertheless, the situation changed literally last year. According to data from Internet World Stats, at the end of 2017, the absolute leaders on Internet coverage were Ukraine (93%), Azerbaijan (80.6%), and Kazakhstan (76.4%).3 In recent years these countries have demonstrated steady growth in Internet usage. In Russia, which currently ranks fourth in this rating, the number of Internet users continues to increase (at the end of 2017, the percentage was 76.1%), although at a slower pace than before. Yet still, Russia as a country with the largest population than other CIS countries remains the leader in terms of the absolute number of Internet users—more than 109.5 million. The list ends with Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan, with 40.7%, 33.1%, and 17.9% Internet coverage, respectively.4 Even a cursory analysis of the situation shows that the absence of technical access to the Internet is not the main challenge in CIS. We should remember that these countries in the early 1990s had generally similar basic conditions for development, based on infrastructure inherited from the USSR. Beyond the inequalities in accessing the Internet, there are inequalities in digital capabilities and skills to utilize ICT to participate and enjoy the benefits of the information society. Such a situation in some CIS countries is explained by a variety of reasons. In particular, low-income levels impose limitations not only on Internet access but assimilation of information technologies as a whole. The economic divide between countries is the critical factor; nevertheless, cultural peculiarities, gender inequality, and language barrier are often a compelling argument. Part of population that lives outside cities just does not see any need in using the Internet. Therefore, a large rural population makes the digital divide critical. An important role is also played by psychological factors, a certain fear and  https://www.itu.int/en/mediacentre/Pages/2018-PR40.aspx  https://internetworldstats.com/stats4.htm, https://internetworldstats.com/stats3.htm 4  http://www.internetworldstats.com/stats3.htm#asia 2 3

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hesitancy when it comes to new technologies, nostalgia for routine ways of obtaining information, and so on. These inequalities in accessing the digital realm have serious social consequences, since more and more services, activities, and utilities are migrating online. Indeed, those who are totally cut off from the Internet are also cut off from accessing these services and enjoying the benefits of the Internet (Ragnedda 2017, p. 11). Most countries from the bottom of the rating are predominantly Islamic; they also have a relatively small urban population (e.g., in Tajikistan with its 33.1% Internet coverage, the ratio of the urban and rural population is 27% to 73%, respectively).5 Researchers stress that demographic and socio-economic imbalances (primarily in wages) have created major migration flows among CIS countries. It has negatively impacted the socio-economic situation and could lead to other problems. Sociological studies indicate that people in the former Soviet republics identify such straightforward things as healthcare, education, and affordable housing as development priorities, and consider them as more important than simply developing infrastructure (Lukin and Yakunin 2018). In connection with these processes, it is possible to talk about the emergence of serious regional imbalances within these countries, which in some cases continue to increase. In Uzbekistan, it has manifested in the huge separation of the capital from the rest of the territories in all socio-­ demographic indicators. In regions of Uzbekistan, the increase in life expectancy had a higher rate compared to the other components. At the same time, in the second half of the 1990s, the fast development of the level of education was preserved, and the economic lag of almost all regions of Uzbekistan became more significant (Lokshina 2005). Such a factor as the level of literacy within the context of the Internet coverage cannot be regarded unequivocally. At the moment of the collapse of the USSR, the population of all the newly born countries had 100% literacy. In some cases the situation has certainly changed considerably three decades after CIS countries gained independence. In terms of the growing digital divide in countries of Central Asia, researches noted that, for example, in Afghanistan the low level of computer literacy was primarily related to the fact that a little over one fourth of the population can read and write. Meanwhile, the situation in Kazakhstan, which is also located in this region, was dramatically different due to the almost 100% 5

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literacy of the population that the country inherited from the Soviet Union (Warf 2013, p. 271). Tajikistan, despite the Soviet heritage and a similar level of literacy, has demonstrated quite different results when it comes to the development of ICA. The key factor here is the low level of income: more than half of the population of this country lives below the poverty line. Researches emphasize that in countries of Central Asia, including the CIS, Internet users are mostly young people, men, who live in cities and have a relatively high level of education. Therefore, a significant role in the formation of digital divide in this region is still played by such factors as low level of education, low income, strict marking of gender roles in the society, which in turn is closely related to strict religious norms, and low level of civil activity. Western researchers also note the “disproportional” influence of the Russian-language Internet in CIS countries that are located in Central Asia (Warf 2013, p. 282).

Characteristics of the Media Policy in CIS Countries Within the Context of the Digital Divide One of the key factors from the perspective of Internet development and the situation with the digital divide is the peculiarities of the state information policy and the level of development of the media system. It goes without saying that the media policy in CIS countries has stark differences. There is also a marked difference in Internet coverage and the level of freedom of information on the Internet. The most controversial is the situation regarding countries located in the Southern part of the CIS—in Central Asia (Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan). Bear in mind that particularly Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan, with their 40.7%, 33.1%, and 17.9% Internet coverage, respectively, are ranked bottom among CIS countries.6 The international public organization Reporters without Borders listed Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan among “Enemies of the Internet” due to the practice of online censorship and strict control over the use of information and communication technologies as a whole.7 In a sense, this hinders the development of Internet media in these countries and reduces the audience’s trust in them, and therefore does not 6 7

 http://www.internetworldstats.com/stats3.htm#asia  See: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4d82268c28.html

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allow for the effective use of Internet technologies, which refers to the problem of the digital divide of the third level. Tajikistan is the country that inherited the most problematic telecommunication sector of all former USSR countries. In the mid-1990s in this country a national program for the development of communications was launched, which was based on privatization and centralization, and sought to attract foreign investors to this sector. However, internal factors such as the fragmentation of the telecommunication sector and the clash of political, commercial, and other interests hampered its implementation. Today, Tajikistan is characterized by restrictions on Internet freedom, including filtration of content, monitoring of online activity of people by law enforcement bodies, and other practices. Current legislation on Internet freedom in Tajikistan includes a number of crucial documents and laws. The telecommunication sector of another country in this region, Kazakhstan, is also regulated quite strictly: more than 300 legislative acts directly or indirectly control ICA. Resources in the .kz domain must be physically located in Kazakhstan. The significant growth of the Internet sector in Kazakhstan led to attempts of wider state control of the Internet. The law “On the amendment and additions to certain legislative acts of the Republic of Kazakhstan on issues of information-communication networks” was passed in 2009, which particularly replaces the previous term “website” with the broader term “Internet resource”. This also includes such online platforms as social networks, blogs, forums, chats, WAP portals, and IPTV. As a result, user content is practically treated as mass media and is therefore regulated.8 In 2014, the Government of Kyrgyzstan adopted a program for 2014–2017 on introduction of electronic government in state bodies and local self-administrative bodies.9 At the same time, the development of the Internet in this country as a whole is negatively affected by lack of infrastructure, outdated legislation, and other factors. CIS countries located in the Caucasus—Azerbaijan and Armenia—also have a number of features regarding information policy. In 2008, Azerbaijan adopted the “Concept of state support of development of mass media in the Republic of Azerbaijan”, according to which the information policy of the state is aimed at the provision of “freedom of thought, speech 8   Informational-analytical portal Digital. Report https://digital.report/kazahstannatsionalnyiy-ikt-profayl/ 9  https://digital.report/kyirgyizstan-natsionalnyiy-ikt-profayl/

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and information, and rights of citizens for obtaining information”.10 Emphasis is made on the importance of integration of Azerbaijan into the global information space and the provision of information safety of the individual, society, and state due to shift to the information society. The company AzerTelecom, which is a subsidiary of Bakcell, has launched the program “Azerbaijan Digital Hub” to turn Azerbaijan into the “Digital Center” of the region. The main purpose of this program is to develop the telecommunication system of Azerbaijan up to the level of global standards and to reduce the country’s dependence on foreign countries when purchasing the Internet. And in future, the program will turn Azerbaijan into a key country in the sphere of selling the Internet locally and will transform it from a country that imports digital services into a manufacturer and exporter of such services to neighboring regions under the “Made in Azerbaijan” brand.11 If Azerbaijan can actually bring to life this program, it will be a great leap toward overcoming the third level of the digital divide. Disparities between the available services and the percentage of citizens using them are a clear indicator of Internet usage gap between countries. For e-Government services, this can be clearly seen by comparing trends of online interaction with public authorities, with the percentage of services that can be completed online, and the change in Internet penetration rates (Ragnedda 2018, p. 14). In addition, on a local level within each country, inequalities in the use of government services over the Internet are determined by vital variables of social inequalities, such as education and occupation. In Armenia, the main principles of governing all kinds of mass media, including those operating online, are defined by the Law on mass media passed in 2003. In terms of long-term planning, Armenia has adopted the Strategic Program of Prospective Development for 2014–2025. This document, adopted in 2013, among other priorities, also includes the development of electronic government and the promotion of IT sector in the country. The regulatory-legal framework in the ICA sector is developing toward Western standards in accordance with EU norms.12 The general policy in the IT sector in Armenia is set by the Ministry of Transport and Communications. Enforcement of legislative acts, laws, and regulations in this sphere is implemented and monitored by the Committee on  https://azertag.az/ru/xeber/china-689121  https://www.trend.az/business/it/3009658.html 12  https://digital.report/armeniya-natsionalnyiy-ikt-profayl/ 10 11

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Regulation and Public Services, which is the “independent national regulator in the IT sector”. Although the government does not directly influence the activity of the Committee, it is funded by the state, and its members are appointed by the President of the republic. The entire telecommunication sector is regulated by the Law on electronic communication passed in 2005. In general, the Internet space in Armenia is relatively liberal. According to the results of the study Freedom on the Net 2016, published by the organization Freedom House, Armenia is listed among countries “free from the perspective of the functioning of the Internet” and “not free from the perspective of the functioning of the mass media” (Baginyan 2017, pp. 77–78). CIS countries located in Eastern Europe (Belarus, Moldova, Ukraine, and Russia) greatly differ in terms of information policy from CIS countries in other regions, as well as among themselves. In Belarus, besides the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus, mass media is regulated by the law “On mass media” 2008, the law “On advertisement” 2007, as well as numerous executive orders that control certain aspects of mass media, the Decree of the President of the Republic of Belarus No. 60 issued on 1 February 2010 “On measures for advancement of the national segment of the Internet”, the Decree of the President of the Republic of Belarus No. 65 issued on 6 February 2009 “On the improvement of the work of state bodies and other state organizations with mass media”, and so on. Belarus has also adopted the National Program for the Development of Services in the Sphere of Information-Communication Technologies for 2011–2015. Digital methods of information transfer will enable to merge digital streams from different sources. They will also allow effective interact of various communication systems among themselves and with computer networks, and will enable to provide a wide range of users with access to global and local information networks. Such methods therefore contribute to the further development of the information structure and the scientific and industrial potential of the country in the fields of radio electronics and telecommunications. The country has highly developed communication infrastructure, the best in the region, and a very high level of coverage of broadband and mobile Internet. From the technical viewpoint, the Internet can be used without any serious limitations. The connection speed, ease of access, and fees are quite competitive even when compared to developed countries. In Moldova the new National Strategy of the Development of the ICA sector for 2012–2015 was first brought up for consideration and then

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discarded. At the beginning of 2016, the government approved a draft law (No.161) with a set of amendments to current legislation, which allowed broader digital monitoring by law enforcement and security agencies, in particular, the power to block sites with content that promotes hatred, discrimination, and violence. The national strategic document defining policy on Internet freedom in Moldova is called the Strategy for the Development of the Information Society, or “Digital Moldova 2020”. The document was approved in 2013 and sets the priorities for the development of Internet coverage, increasing competitiveness on the market of broadband access, support for the development of digital content and services, and information security.13 Ukraine, according to the data from the ITU, was ranked 58th in the world in 2008 terms of ICA development. The principle of freedom of thought, speech, and information and prohibition of censorship is enshrined in the constitution. The basic law for mass media here is the law “On information” (1992), which, however, has a declarative character. Laws that are more instrumental in nature were later adopted: “On printed mass media (press) in Ukraine” (1993), “On television and radio broadcast” (1993), “On information agencies” (1995), “On the National Board on Issues of Television and Radio Broadcast” (1997), “On the coverage of the activity of state bodies and local self-­administration by mass media” (1997), “On state support of mass media and social responsibility of journalists” (1997), and so on. One of serious challenges facing the telecommunication sector in Ukraine is the so-called grey providers—small companies that buy traffic from big providers by wholesale and then sell it in retail without proper licenses. After 2014, Ukraine went through significant changes, including in the legislative sphere that regulates information policy. New laws were adopted, in particular, the Law of Ukraine dated 24 December 2015 №917-VIII “On reformation of state and communal printed mass media”; the Law of Ukraine dated 8 December 2015 No. 856-VIII “On the system of overseas broadcast in Ukraine” (as amended by the Law of Ukraine dated 19 June 2018 №2462-VIII), and so on. The doctrine of information security, which was adopted in December 2016, provides the policy framework for the provision of safety of access to the Internet and critically important infrastructure. In 2017, Ukraine was ranked number 73 on the Networked Readiness Index. The country’s  https://digital.report/moldova-ikt/

13

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ICA sector is not fully developed in both the technical and the legal understanding.14 From the viewpoint of Internet freedom, Freedom House’s Index of Internet Freedom shows that Ukraine has taken a step backward in recent years. The main reason for concern is the continuous restriction of freedoms due to the deterioration of Russian-Ukrainian relations. People and organizations can be prosecuted for expression of views that can be considered separatist, while new trends of government policy— already implemented or offered for implementation—enable the removal, blocking, or filtration of content and mass surveillance and censorship of private electronic communication by law enforcement agencies.15 In 2017 the Counselor of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Zoran Shkiryak, proposed to block Russian social networks Odnoklassniki and VKontakte in Ukraine, to combat “Russian propaganda”. Various measures for the regulation and censorship of the content of mass media and the Internet are being discussed even at parliamentary level. In Russia, media activity is regulated by current legislation, primarily by the Law of the Russian Federation “On mass media” 1999, and a number of other laws. Bear in mind that even after the breakup of the USSR, in independent Russia, the “paternalistic tradition” in relations between the state and mass media continued to influence the media system, especially in such issues as the development of media regulation, formation of a national information agenda, improvement of the image of Russia in the global media space, and financial support of weak media. In the early stages, the Internet developed mostly in big cities, and especially in the capital, but in the following years, other regions started catching up. In 2016, residents of Moscow and Saint Petersburg accounted for one third of Internet users. As a result, the Internet became an open segment of the Russian media system, while forming among Russians the notions of digital communications as a new public sphere. Until now, the Russian segment of the Internet remains one of the least controlled segments of media environment. One of the vital steps in the elimination of the digital divide is the State Program for the Development of Fiber-optic Baseline Networks. This program, despite the fact that the Internet is developing faster in big cities and industrial centers, made the availability of said networks in areas with as few as 250 people mandatory by 2018 (Vartanova and Puyu 2017, p. 197). Today, television in big cities in Russia faces a  https://digital.report/ukrainya-ikt/  https://digital.report/ukrainya-ikt/

14 15

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rapidly increasing competition from online video services, Internet cinemas, and non-linear screening of traditional TV programs on various video devices. Although the term “second screen” or “five screens” is not yet known to all viewers, residents of Russian megapolises more and more often watch TV programs on new devices and by unconventional means for television. Among the laws that had the greatest impact on the Internet space recently, we should note a few more. In 2012 the Federal Law «On making amendments to the Federal Law “On protection of children from information bringing harm to their health and development”» was adopted, together with certain legislative acts on the restriction of access to illegal information on the Internet. This law had provisions for the filtration and blocking of websites. The national program “Information Society (2011–2020)” was adopted in 2010. Its goal was to provide members of the public and organizations with the benefits of using information and telecommunication technologies by ensuring equal access to information resources, developing digital content, applying innovative technologies, and improving the efficiency of public administration in ensuring security in the information society. The specific objectives of the program are based on the fact that the effects arising from the use of information and telecommunication technologies in various fields of activity will ultimately influence the improvement of the quality of life of citizens, regardless of their age, health status, region of residence, ability and working conditions, labor productivity and the competitiveness of Russian goods, as well as the level of dialogue between peoples and countries. Thus, the development of the digital society and the overcoming of the third level digital divide is one of the priorities in Russia. In 2018, the Ministry of Digital Development, Telecommunications and Mass Communications of the Russian Federation was created on the basis of the former Ministry of Communications and Mass Media. The key tasks of this ministry are further development of the provision of state, municipal and socially important services in electronic form, speeding up the development of the information technology industry, equal access of Russian citizens to the Internet and media environment, and so on.

Conclusions Countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States, to our view, are an interesting subject for research since on the one hand they all had similar basic conditions for development based on the infrastructure

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inherited from the USSR. On the other hand, they were characterized by different socio-economic and, most importantly, cultural characteristics that had major influence on the peculiarities and direction of development of these countries after the breakup of the USSR.  Researchers underline the importance of the multi-variable and comparative analysis of different features and levels of the digital divide, which enables to better understand the prerequisites and trends of development under certain social and national conditions. The search for factors and unique features of the digital divide in different regions, building of digital models of the studied regions under conditions of the development of a new digital media reality, is essential and can take the understanding of processes occurring in the information space of such formations as the CIS to a new level. Exploring the CIS space also gives an idea that the digital divide in these countries is not only at different quantitative, but also at qualitative, levels. Under the influence of various socio-cultural factors and characteristics, a different situation has developed. In some countries the problem of the digital divide of the first level is still relevant (e.g., in Tajikistan); in other countries, where the Internet is relatively widespread (e.g., Armenia, Azerbaijan), it is about the possibilities of improving the quality and penetration; and finally, some countries that have fairly steady results on previous levels are at the stage of improving the efficiency of using digital technologies, developing e-government, and so on. CIS, as an entity that emerged in the post-Soviet space and is located in the center of the vast Eurasian territory, should “play a significant role in both regional and global development. Therefore, it is important to analyze emerging regional and international challenges, including those related to the digital divide”. Despite marked differences in approaches to public development, the penetration of digital technologies—sooner or later—will occur in all CIS countries without exception, which significantly impacts social relations and public processes. Studying these processes can become an important trend in terms of the search for an effective model of interaction between the digital North and the digital South, within the context of the CIS, and globally.

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Ragnedda, M. (2018). Conceptualizing Digital Capital. Telematics and Informatics, 35(8), 2366–2375. Elsevier. Ragnedda, M., & Kreitem, H. (2018). The Three Levels of Digital Divide in East EU Countries. World of Media. Journal of Russian Media and Journalism Studies, 1(4), 5–26. Ragnedda, M., & Muschert, G. (2017). Theorizing Digital Divides. Abingdon/ New York: Taylor and Francis. Ragnedda, M., & Ruiu, M.  L. (2017). Social Capital and the Three Levels of Digital Divide. In M.  Ragnedda & G.  Muschert (Eds.), Theorizing Digital Divides (pp. 21–34). Abingdon: Routledge. Shaposhnik, S.  B. (2016). Chelovecheskii Kapital Kak Faktor Razvitiya Informatsionnogo Obschestva V Stranah SNG [Human Capital as a Factor in the Development of the Information Society in the CIS Countries]. The Information Society, 4–5, 72–80. Silverstone, R., & Hirsch, E. (1994). Consuming Technologies: Media and Information in Domestic Spaces. London: Routledge. Smirnova, O.  V. (2017). Tsifrovoe Neravenstvo V Stranah SNG: aktual’nye Podhody K Analizu Situacii [Digital Inequality in the CIS Countries: Current Approaches to Situation Analysis]. Media, 6, 26–33. Usova, T. (2009). Open Access and the Digital Divide: An Overview in CIS Libraries. Feliciter, 55, 246–248. Van Deursen, A., & Dijk, v. J. (2015). Toward a Multifaceted Model of Internet Access for Understanding Digital Divides: An Empirical Investigation. The Information Society, 31(5), 379–391. van Deursen, A., Helsper, E., Eynon, R., & Dijk, v. J. (2017). The Compoundness and Sequentiality of Digital Inequality. International Journal of Communication, 11, 452–473. van Dijk, J. (2005). The Deepening Divide: Inequality in the Information Society. London: Sage. van Dijk, J. (2006). Digital Divide Research, Achievements and Shortcomings. Poetics, 34(4–5), 221–235. van Dijk, J. (2013). A Theory of Digital Divide. In M. Ragnedda & G. W. Muschert (Eds.), The Digital Divide. The Internet and Social Inequality in International Perspective. London: Routledge. van Dijk, J. (2017). Digital Divide: Impact of Access. In P.  Rössler (Ed.), The International Encyclopedia of Media Effects (pp.  1–11). London: John Wiley & Sons. Vartanova, E. (2000). Internet Dlia Kazdogo: real’nost Ili Utopia [Internet for Everubody: Reality or Utopia]. Informatsionnoe obcshestvo, 1. Vartanova, E. (2001). European Inequality in the époque of Internet [Evropejskie Neravenstva Epokhi Interneta]. Vestnik Moskovskogo Universiteta. Seria 10: Zhurnalistika, 6, 14–24.

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CHAPTER 9

A Comparison of High-Skill and Low-Skill Internet Users in Northeast Anatolia, Turkey Duygu Özsoy and Glenn Muschert

Introduction Contemporary digital divide studies examine patterns in the development of skills in individual use of information and communication technologies (ICTs). This study examines the attitudes, online engagement, motivation, and the range of virtual activities among people with varying digital Foundational research on the topic of digital divides in Northeast Anatolia ̇ received financial backing as project number 215K159 of TÜBITAK (The Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey). The authors ̇ acknowledge TÜBITAK for funding support and members of the research team, Dr. Eyüp Akbulut and Dr. Sait Sinan Atılgan (both of Atatürk University), for their contributions to the previous study. The team has submitted a project ̇ report to TÜBITAK (see Özsoy et al. 2018), and academic publications are in process. D. Özsoy Department of Radio, Television and Cinema, Atatürk University, Erzurum, Turkey e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2020 M. Ragnedda, A. Gladkova (eds.), Digital Inequalities in the Global South, Global Transformations in Media and Communication Research - A Palgrave and IAMCR Series, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-32706-4_9

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skill levels. The research draws upon an exploratory sample of Internet users in the Northeast Anatolia region of Turkey. In terms of Internet access and use, Northeast Anatolia lags behind the rest of Turkey. In 2018 among the 12 regions of Turkey, Northeast Anatolia ranks 11th for the proportion of households with Internet access, and last (12th) for percentage of regular Internet users (TURKSTAT n.d.). While there are no published statistics ranking digital skills in Turkey by region, the region’s lagging status on other measures strongly suggests that digital skills in Northeast Anatolia will also lag behind those in other regions. Thus, the region stands out as one of Turkey’s most digitally disadvantaged regions. As this chapter will discuss the digital disadvantages of the region, many may be concomitant with the region’s cultural conservatism compared to other, particularly Western, regions in Turkey. Turkey is an interesting site for digital divide studies, because in some definitions of the “Global South,” the country is excluded, while in others it is included. Indeed, development and usage of digital skills in Turkey has not been uniform, as data indicates higher development in Western Turkey, while East Anatolia lags behind, particularly in the Northeast Anatolia region. So many nations, including Turkey, place their hope for economic development in the cultivation of Internet technologies in their lagging regions. Since 2004, TURKSTAT has been conducting the ICT Usage Survey in Households and by Individuals every year. According to the survey data in 2018 (TURKSTAT n.d.), 83.8% of households have Internet access throughout Turkey, and 72.9% of those aged 16–74 use the Internet. The usage rate is split by gender at 80.4% for men and 65.5% for women. According to the Northeast Anatolia region data segment of the same study, 51.9% of individuals in the region use Internet; 64% of men and 39.3% of women use the Internet. However, TURKSTAT does not measure Internet skills, and therefore does not allow inferences beyond the first level of digital divide, focused primarily on connectivity. In Turkey, there have not to date been any studies that measure the second level of digital inequality, namely patterns in the unequal development of Internet skills. Indeed, the authors have G. Muschert (*) Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Khalifa University, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates e-mail: [email protected]

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already collected data on digital skill levels in Northeast Anatolia for an ongoing study (n = 400); however, publication of such results is pending (Özsoy et al. 2018). Within the cultural context of Northeast Anatolia, our contemporaneous research examines four varieties of digital skills (operational, formal, informational, and strategic) using performance test measures developed by van Deursen and van Dijk (2010). Key findings to date highlight that age, gender, education, and household income significantly predict Internet skill levels in the sample. From this point of departure, this exploratory study examines the Internet skills and attitudes toward Internet usage among a purposive sample of respondents (n = 8) selected from the previous sample, one that provides variability along age, gender, education, and digital skill levels (high vs. low). Using in-person interviews, the current study examines patterns in the interviewees’ practices of digital engagement, which in turn relates to whether they are able to translate those digital skills into concrete advantages outside the digital sphere. Ultimately, this study finds that skilled Internet use indeed enhances the social lives of its users, and that low-skill users are aware of their deficiency in digital skills, yet that they are unable to find avenues for remedying this disadvantage. In addition, interviewees described that the tangible advantages of Internet use are skewed along gender lines, which is of particular concern within the study’s context of traditional Anatolian social life that remains strongly governed by men. The following section describes how his study fits with and extends the existing literature in digital divide studies.

Literature Inequality in the use of digital technology can reinforce inequalities in other spheres of life, and thus digital exclusion is one of the major problems that contemporary societies must address as an underlying factor in inequality beyond the digital sphere. In Japan, “[d]igital inequality is becoming a serious issue for research on social stratification because inequality in digital technology use translates into inequality in other domains of life” (Akiyoshi 2011). Elsewhere, reports reach similar conclusions in the context of the UK (House of Commons Science and Technology Committee 2016, June 13) and Europe more broadly (European Commission 2017), as “the digitisation of economy has a number of complex effects on the labour market, work organisation, workers’ skillsets and working conditions. In particular, it entails a shift in

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the type of skills required by workers in relation to ICT utilisation, exploitation and advancement in the workplace. It thus becomes fundamental that the effective introduction of ICT in the workplace is accompanied by an appropriate upskilling of workers” (p.  16). Such concerns are at the forefront of contemporary digital divide studies; however, to clarify the context, it is necessary to consider the broader field of digital divide studies. The early first-level digital divide studies focused on unequal access to ICTs in a dualistic paradigm that assumes homogeneity among Internet users and that considers only the difference between those who have and those who do not have digital access, and that dichotomous portrayal was repeated in various official reports and academic studies since the mid-­1990s (Selwyn 2004). Such a dual distinction between “have’s” and “have not’s” has fallen out of use, as the metaphor suggests a simple divide between two clearly divided groups with a yawning gap between them. However, in contemporary modern society we may observe an increasingly complex social, economic, and cultural differentiation (van Dijk 2002). As it became clear that the problem of digital inequality was too complex to be limited to technical aspects, subsequent second-level digital divide studies have focused on skills and usage (Attewell 2001; DiMaggio et al. 2001; Hargittai 2002). Skills to use ICTs effectively are among the primary prerequisites of digital inclusion, as new technology demands digital literacy skills, ones notably different from traditional literacy skills (Bonfadelli 2002; Steyaert 2002). How effectively Internet technologies are integrated into everyday life depends essentially on the Internet skills of the user (Zillien and Marr 2013), so it is crucial in digital divide studies to define and measure Internet skills. Hargittai (2002) defines such skill as the ability to find information effectively and efficiently from the web, while van Deursen and van Dijk (2010) make the distinction between medium-related skills (operational and formal skills) and content-related skills (information and strategic skills). In these conceptions, both technical and content aspects are considered. Having sufficient motivation, physical access, and skills are necessary but not sufficient for actual use (van Dijk 2013), as varying Internet activities provide differential advantages to users (van Deursen and van Dijk 2013). Increasingly, the Internet provides capital-enhancing opportunities for people with high income and education levels, and may be leveraged to bolster already-existing social inequalities (van Deursen et al. 2015).

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Thusly, third-level digital divide studies focus on the tangible outcomes (see Ragnedda 2017). Even though there are few studies on the tangible outcomes derived from Internet use, studies increasingly reveal that there is a relationship between first-level divides (access), second-level divides (skills, motivation, engagement with online content, and range of online activities), and concrete benefits of the third level of digital divide. In this relationship, skills play a significant role, as digital skills are essential in order to obtain concrete outcomes from online activities (in the economic, social, cultural, and/or individual fields). However, it is also clear that such levels of divide are not deterministically connected, as obtaining tangible outcomes in one field does not guarantee the same in other areas (Helsper et al. 2015). Other than the TURKSTAT surveys, there are few empirical studies about digital divides in Turkey. One is our concurrent research on digital divides measuring patterns in Internet skills in Northeast Anatolia (Özsoy et al. 2018). In the study, while 32.3% of the participants (n = 129) failed all aspects of the skill test, 26.0% (n = 104) were successful in only one type of skill, 15.3% (n = 61) were successful in two skills, 15.8% were successful in three skill types (n = 63), and 10.8% (n = 43) were successful in all four types of skills. Further, age, gender, education, and household income significantly predict respondents’ level of Internet skill development. Researchers already know a lot about the relationship between demographic factors and the digital divide, and, indeed, the digital divide is closely related to demographic characteristics such as ethnicity, class, gender, age, education level, and income (see, e.g., Bimber 2000; Correa 2010; Wasserman and Richmond-Abbott 2005; Zillien and Hargittai 2009). Although demographic factors explain the individualistic aspect of the matter, we also need to understand this relationship within its sociocultural context, as social differences can influence attitudes toward the Internet, level of engagement with the Internet (i.e., motivation), engagement with different kinds of online activities, and varying perceptions of the benefits of using ICTs. The primary contribution of this study is to clarify how cultural differences affect digital inclusion. While the majority of the studies in this area focus on individual differences (Brandtzæg et al. 2011; Hargittai 2010), the aim of this study is to examine the problem of digital inequality in a wider context by probing deeper into the data of the previous research (Özsoy et al. 2018). Ultimately, this thread of inquiry helps to explain why/how some people are more digitally engaged, and thus able to convert digital activities into palpable outcomes in offline life.

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Methodology This study is based on a purposive subsample of the respondents in the concurrent study of users in Northeastern Anatolia (n  =  400), which examined associations between skills test outcomes and key sociological variables, including age, gender, and education (Özsoy et al. 2018). A key dimension for case selection for the subsample (n  =  8) interviewed in-­ depth for this study included identifying those with different levels of digital skill (high vs. low) and using important sociodemographic variables in order to represent a range of ages, both genders, and various education levels (Table 9.1). The aim of the study is to understand the respondents’ differing levels of digital engagement and whether they are able to translate Internet use into real benefits in everyday life. Table 9.1  Characteristics of the sample of Internet users in Northeast Anatolia (n = 8) Participant name (Number)

Age Gender Education

Digital skill

Online activities

Selami (P1)

45

Male

Secondary school

High

Samet (P2)

31

Male

High

Erdem (P3)

19

Male

University (Master’s) University student

Oğuzhan (P4)

24

Male

University (Bachelor’s)

High

Hatice (P5)

27

High

Asime (P6)

26

Female University (Bachelor’s) Female Primary school

Aysel (P7)

41

Female Uneducated

Low

Mehdin (P8)

43

Male

Low

Seeking information; reading news; shopping; social networking (Facebook and Twitter) Seeking information; watching videos; gaming; shopping Seeking information; gaming; watching videos; social networking (Instagram and YouTube) Seeking information; shopping; social networking (Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Facebook) Seeking information; social networking (Instagram) Seeking information; social networking (Instagram and WhatsApp) Social networking (Facebook and WhatsApp) Reading news; social networking (Facebook)

Primary school

High

Low

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One of the researchers interviewed the subjects in Turkish at a location of their choice using a semi-structured questionnaire. Interviews were audio recorded, and subsequently transcribed and translated to English for analysis. The researchers used inductive coding to identify themes within the interviews, and the following findings report on themes that were repeated within the interviews. The main limitation of this study is its modest sample size (n = 8), although the data are able to address complex issues in a deeper way than that found in surveys of larger size. In addition, it is possible that the findings are idiosyncratic to the cultural/national context, and may not be suitable for generalization to other national or cultural contexts.

Findings Perceiving the Benefits of Internet Use All interviewees reported that Internet use enhances their life in some way; however, the advantages seem greater among those possessing higher levels of proficiency. Consistently, the respondents indicated that Internet use has a lot of positive effects on their offline lives, including (1) accessing information about subjects considered taboo within conservative Turkish society, (2) reducing the sense of isolation that sometimes comes with living outside major urban areas, (3) strengthening pre-existing interpersonal relations, and (4) generating economic opportunities. For example, Selami (P1), a 45-year-old male with a high school education, reports: Thanks to the Internet, my knowledge has increased a lot. I couldn’t go to school. My father was a poor man, but thanks to the Internet I learned a lot. I didn’t like research before the Internet. Now, the information is in hand, the knowledge of the human being is rising. When you wonder something, you can search and learn.

All those interviewed for this study indicated that their social lives were enhanced by Internet usage, and that they felt use of ICTs provided increased opportunities for social interaction among existing social networks, including family, friends, community, or professional contact. Respondents also mentioned that the availability of information via the Internet alleviated some of the isolation people sometimes experience in living in “provincial areas” such as Northeast Anatolia, which are outside

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of the major urban areas in Turkey. Living in an outlying province presents potential difficulties such as feeling more social pressure from community, difficulty in accessing information, constraining the social environment (leading to isolation), and distance from diverse cultural experiences (art, theater, etc.). Interviewees also indicated that Internet access makes it easier to reach to information about the subjects that are considered as taboo in a traditionally closed society like romantic relationships and sexuality. Respondents suggested that access to such information allows people to feel freer and less lonely. Speaking implicitly about sexuality, a subject off-limits in conservative families, Selami (P1) suggested: Parents used to tell the wrong things to their children because they were embarrassed or they didn’t know. For example, when a young girl got married, she would like to ask her mother something about marriage. Because we are conservative people we cannot explain everything to our children. On the Internet, there are videos, articles about everything. When you use the Internet, you’re alone with yourself. So you can investigate anything you want.

However, access to empowering information is not merely limited to taboo subjects prohibited by conservative society, but rather extends to other walks of life, as Oğuzhan (P4), a 24-year-old male with a Bachelor’s degree, indicated about the advantages he has experienced in intellectual and professional spheres: I can listen to a lesson at MIT when I’m at home. It has annihilated spatial and temporal barriers. I’ve been learning a lot on the Internet; especially foreigners share really good things on the Internet. There are not many Turkish resources in my field, so it is impossible to follow innovations in your field if you do not know English. Turkish literature is far behind the world. I graduated from a university in Erzurum. Thanks to the Internet, I haven’t fallen behind the world in my profession.

Similarly, Erdem (P3), a 19-year-old male university student, indicated that interactions with people he met on the Internet led him to be more broad-minded and tolerant. I know a lot of new people through the Internet. I made new friends while playing online games, I met my colleagues. There’s a more uniform human profile in Erzurum. It is very difficult to meet new people who have different

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interests, worldviews, and lifestyles in this city. The Internet has changed me a lot. It made me a more open mind person. Erzurum is a very conservative city; you cannot witness different lifestyles. On the Internet, I realized that there are other lifestyles which are very different from the conservative one. Being exposed to other kinds of lives made me a more tolerant person.

As these narratives show, even though users’ lifestyles, education levels, and ages vary, the Internet use has transformed the respondents’ lives in various ways. Nonetheless, the respondents also indicated that low skill for Internet use resulted in exclusion, a finding that echoes a variety of existing studies (e.g., European Commission 2017; Helsper et al. 2015; Hargittai 2002, 2010; House of Commons Science and Technology Committee 2016). While all subjects in the Turkish sample reported that use of ICTs enhances their social lives, among those with lower levels of proficiency, the benefits of Internet usage were exclusively social. In contrast, those with higher skill levels also experienced benefits in a variety of other spheres of life, such as financial, educational, professional, and religious. It is noteworthy that our low-skilled interviewees expressed that they were excluded from such benefits. Selami (P1) a 45-year-old man stated: Thanks to the Internet I have a profession. I’m a worker. I do additional work because my salary is not enough. On the Internet, I learned how to assemble furniture, learned furniture repair. Now, I’ve opened some retail stores in [my city]. That’s how I make money. I earn more than my salary.

In a finding confirmative of earlier research (see van Deursen and Helsper 2015) the high-skilled participants of this study are aware of the opportunities that are provided by the Internet in various aspects of life (as in Van Deursen and Mossberger 2018), and they also know how to protect themselves against Internet risks (as in Dodel and Mesch 2018). This hedging against risks makes them more willing to innovate. In comparison, low-skilled users are poorly versed at evading the risks of Internet use, which makes them reticent to expand their breadth of use. Generally, they do not lack motivation to use the Internet, but lack self-­ confidence and proficiency in using digital technology. Although the low-­ skilled group is aware that the Internet offers prospects for innovation, they are less informed regarding the range of opportunities afforded in the digital sphere. For example, Aysel (P7), an uneducated 41-year-old woman, described:

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I’ve never shopped online because I can’t. I wish I would know to use the Internet. My niece buys everything from the Internet. It’s cheaper, there is more variety. I would like to shop online.

Similarly, Asime (P6), a 26-year-old woman with a primary school education, noted, I’m afraid to share something on the Internet. I’m also afraid to take photos with my mobile phone. I don’t know how I can protect my privacy in the digital world. So I don’t prefer to take and share photos.

A key point is that those who have low skill in Internet use nonetheless maintain positive attitudes toward the Internet. They are aware that using the Internet is an essential condition for full participation in modern society, but they cannot use it because they have low skills. Aysel (P7) and Asime (P6) expressed their frustration, respectively: I’d like to use the Internet. Now, all life is based on the Internet. … The Internet is very good thing. I wish I could use it better. If I were single, I would like to use Facebook. My friends share posts on Facebook, and they talk about that. I cannot join their talk. If I were single, I would like to share photos, because I like to share photos. In fact, when I was single, I was afraid of my brothers, so I couldn’t share anything on the Internet.

While low-skilled users would gladly increase their digital facilities, they do not know how to acquire greater proficiency. However, the findings also show that having other high-skilled users in one’s social environment increases digital inclusion, as high-skilled participants encourage the Internet use among others around them. For example, Oğuzhan (P4), a highly skilled 24-year-old user, described how he encourages his parents’ Internet use: I want them to use the Internet more actively. The Internet use makes people stronger. The Internet is perhaps the only chance for a person who was born in [Northeast Anatolia] like me. The Internet means power for me. It shaped my life a lot.

Similarly, Samet (P2) a 31-year-old male high-skilled user encouraged his son’s Internet use:

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I watch experiments prepared for children with my son, then we do the same experiments at home. In this way, I have a pleasant time with my son, and he learns new things.

In contrast, low-skilled participants discouraged the Internet use of people around them, as they tended to fear the risks of Internet use. For example, Aysel (P7), a 41-year-old low-skill user, described: I have been raising my children alone. I’m a housecleaner. All day, I’m outside. I’m an afraid online game like blue whale. I don’t know how I can protect my children from the negative effects of the Internet. That is why I don’t have an Internet connection at home.

Indeed, participants are aware that their online experiences have been transforming their offline ones. Although they talked about the transformation in their lives very positively, they generally were concerned about the transformative effect of the Internet on children, women, and traditional social life, and thus they often advocated that the Internet needs to be more strictly controlled. The following section focuses specifically on attitudes toward women’s Internet use. Gendered Aspects of the Digital Divide Gender was also a very important variable, and in the patriarchal context of traditional Anatolian life, this is not entirely unanticipated. Respondents indicated that gender-based inequalities present in traditional Turkish patriarchal society constrain women’s Internet use. This issue hints at not only the cultural dimensions of digital exclusion, but also how these are related to pre-existing gender inequalities. Thus, the results suggest that men who used digital technologies, regardless of skill level, generally derived greater benefits than did women users, a finding that echoes previous studies on gendered aspects of digital divides (e.g., Bimber 2000; van Deursen et al. 2015; Wasserman and Richmond-Abbott 2005). What is different, however, is the patriarchal cultural context of traditional Turkish society in which men tended to think that women are more likely to view inappropriate content, and therefore that women’s Internet use should be monitored or controlled (similar as in the case of children). Mehdin (P8) a 43-year-old low-skill Internet user with a primary school education indicated he felt the Internet was problematic, because it provides too many opportunities to waste time.

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I don’t spend much time on the Internet. It’s a waste of time. Sometimes I go to Facebook, then I realize that the prayer time is past. The Internet makes people lazier. There are no handicraft persons today. When I was young, there were a lot. Now, the new generation deals with unnecessary things.

Women using the Internet face considerable social pressure from men, as their online behaviors are controlled and limited by men (e.g., fathers, husbands, or brothers). Both high- and low-skilled men interviewed stated that women should be controlled, and they establish rules concerning Internet use for the woman and children in their lives, indicating that women’s usage of ICTs should be different from men’s. For example, they believe that if a man wants to be a social media friend with a woman, he can send her an online invitation, but that the opposite is inappropriate. Similarly, they reported that who a woman follows on social media and her followers should be limited to close friends and relatives. Despite the publicity of many social networking sites (such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram), the men reported that women should exercise greater caution for their posts, compared to that required of a man. Clearly, women may also apply self-regulation for their Internet use; however, due to the patriarchal nature of traditional Anatolian society, existing gender inequalities are replicated in the digital sphere. Case in point is the situation described in the Turkish report “Comparative Gender Equality Scorecard for 81 Cities,” which determined that Northeast Anatolian cities are among those with the highest levels of gender inequality (Kavas 2018). Note the interplay between censorship by male family members and self-censorship reported by Aysel (P7), a 41-year-old woman with no education and low digital skills: My husband is in jail. I go to other people’s home to do cleaning. My neighbors gossip about me because I’m a woman on my own. I’m afraid to share a photo because it can cause more gossip. My husband’s family are from [a very conservative city in Southern Turkey]. My brothers-in-law are against sharing photos on the Internet. So I don’t share anything on the Internet.

Despite this patronizing attitude men may indicate toward women’s Internet use, the women interviewed reported having a positive attitude and high motivation toward Internet use, even if they had low skill. In contrast to the way men discussed women’s Internet use, the women

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interviewed did not mention their own use of the Internet as problematic. They reported that online experiences have positive effects on their offline lives, even in cases where its use is subject to limitations. For example, Asime (P6), a 26-year-old low-skilled woman with a primary school education, described her Internet use as follows: Thanks to the Internet, I can talk to my friends and family members. My siblings and lots of my friends are in Germany. I talk to them. All day, I’m at home. I couldn’t go to school, so I don’t have a job. I learn from the Internet a lot. The Internet makes me more open-minded.

All of the male participants (regardless of skill level) claimed that women had a very high tendency to access what they termed as “inappropriate” content on the Internet. In the traditional culture, there are norms determining how intimate relations take place, and these fall along the lines of traditional gender roles. In conservative society, there is a preference for such gender roles and expectations to be transferred within the family from one generation to the next. However, according to male participants, the Internet offers women opportunity to observe new lifestyles that are not compatible with tradition. It seems that men perceive women’s Internet use as a threat to masculine hegemony. For example, Samet (P2), a 31-year-old man with high Internet skill and a Master’s degree, reported: Your wife constantly watches the lives of others on social media. She sees that her friends went on holiday with their husband etc. People always envy the lives of others. Such small things accumulate and can cause explosions after a while. Before the Internet, we didn’t know how [other] people live (what kind of lifestyles they have), we were living as per what we saw from our family. Now because people know other people’s lifestyles they think, “Why don’t I have these [things]?” and “Why doesn’t my husband treat me like this?”

Thusly, male participants expressed concerns that exposure to the Internet might create unrealistic material pressure in their lives. For example, while Mehdin (P8), a 43-year-old low-skilled user with a primary school education, was talking about the Internet, he mentioned that he prohibited his wife and children from using the Internet, because it might make them feel relatively deprived. He reported:

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I have seven children, and I’m the only person who earns money in my family. If I let them use the Internet, they will see photos of people on holidays, with trendy clothes, and living different lifestyles. … And they will ask me for more, but I don’t have the opportunity to offer such amenities to my children.

While the interviewees consistently reported that Internet use enhances their lives in some ways, these enrichments went disproportionately to those with higher proficiency. Nonetheless, there was concern among male interviewees that, similar to the case of children, women’s Internet habits should be monitored and even limited.

Concluding Reflections Clearly use of ICTs has been changing people’s lives both online and offline; however, the respondents indicated that such changes were more substantial for high-skill users, especially men. In a paternalistic society, although women’s Internet use may be monitored and limited by the men, it nonetheless enhances women’s lives. Specifically, Internet strengthens offline relationships and helps relieve feelings of isolation that may come from living in geographically outlying areas. The in-depth interviews conducted for this study provide a nuanced understanding of how digital skills and Internet use transform people’s lives. The findings suggest that broader socioeconomic inequalities are intertwined with digital inequalities, and while the focus has been on inequality in the digital sphere, these cannot be separated from offline inequalities. ICT usage naturally depends on the types and location of access, interest and motivation, skills and support (Brandtweiner et al. 2010). The user-­ friendly qualities of social networking sites allow even low-skill users partial inclusion in the digital sphere, leading all users to report some benefit of Internet use. Despite deriving some benefits, low-skill interviewees were aware that their use was limited, and they also reported they lacked a way to improve their abilities. This finding is confirmatory of the central issue raised in third-level digital divide studies: that low proficiency in Internet use (i.e., the second-level digital divide as described since van Deursen and van Dijk’s [2009] article) does indeed lead to real-world disadvantages among low-skill users. Those without Internet proficiency will likely continue to be frustrated by their relative exclusion from the social benefits derived

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from skilled Internet use. This awareness of one’s lack of mastery in navigating the digital sphere is akin to “relative deprivation,” described by sociologist Robert K. Merton (1938), in which those who are disadvantaged are poignantly aware of their disadvantage via their contact with others who are comparatively advantaged. Such relative deprivation contributes to a sense of dissatisfaction and disaffection among those excluded, and may lead them to abandon hope that they might be able to overcome their deficiency. While low-skill users do indicate their desire to learn better digital skills, their continued frustration may lead them to adopt a blasé attitude toward the contemporary information society, as they struggle to keep up with rapid changes but continuously fall short. The technical and economic focus of building capacity in networks, coverage, and speed of access may have reached its limit as a driver of economic and social development, or so it seems in Northeast Anatolia. In Turkey, since 1990s research has been underway particularly by the Ministry of Development and the Information Society Department. Indeed, it has been a longtime goal of the nation to transform Turkey into an information society. Most noteworthy in the 2000s was the e-­Transformation Turkey Project, which is coordinated by the Ministry of Development and aimed at re-examining policies, laws, and regulations regarding ICTs in order to develop mechanisms for increased quality and quantity in utilization of ICTs (OECD 2004). Most recently, the 2015–2018 Information Society Strategy and Action Plan continued to focus on many first-level digital divide aspects, and therefore offered rather antiquated interventions, such as increasing the number of free public access points, providing discounted or free Internet for disabled citizens and poor households, and providing free tablets in schools (Information Society Department 2015). Similar to other developing countries, there has been a strong economic motivation behind Turkey’s policies since Information and Communications are considered vital sectors in the goal of achieving global economic competitiveness. Social inclusion has only been mentioned in relevant official documents as a secondary goal, and the fact that Information Society Directorate operates as part of the Ministry of Development is illustrative of this attitude. (Polat 2012: 592)

In the setting selected for this study, there is a need to assess and improve programming to build human capacity in the area of digital skills. Without

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such an endeavor, those who are currently excluded from the benefits of skilled Internet usage will continue to be excluded. A second area of the complex relationship between online and offline inequalities emerged in particular with regard to gender dynamics present in the traditional Northeast Anatolian context. The women interviewed sustain high motivation to use the Internet, despite social pressures to limit its use. Regardless of skill level, women respondents prefer to be passive consumers of online content, rather than producers. To extend the benefits of Internet use more generally to women users in Northeast Anatolia, it is necessary to provide skills development, and to cultivate greater social support for women’s use, as it is already known that skilled users cultivate skilled use by others in their social milieu. Researchers have already known about the influence of demographic factors such as age, gender, household income, and digital skill on digital inequalities. However, by means of in-depth interviews, it is possible to understand in more nuanced ways how Internet users derive tangible, offline benefit. The use of qualitative inquiry provides greater detail and helps clarify not only dynamics of Internet inclusion but also how these may be remedied to provide strategies for digital inclusivity. Though based on a modest sample, the present study provides new insight into the gendered dynamics of the digital divide in a traditional, patriarchal context within the developing world. Thus, additional research in this direction is warranted, both in regard to continued research in the Global South and in the area of gendered digital exclusion.

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SECTION III

Digital Inequalities in Africa

CHAPTER 10

Digital Infrastructure Enabling Platforms for Health Information and Education in the Global South Danica Radovanović, Georges Vivien Houngbonon, Erwan Le Quentrec, Ghislain Maurice Norbert Isabwe, and Josef Noll

Introduction Digital infrastructure, and particularly mobile telecommunication network, plays a key role in providing insights into people’s activities, opinions, and everyday lives. These detailed user-generated information-online streams offer a unique opportunity for individuals to engage,

D. Radovanović (*) • J. Noll Basic Internet Foundation, Oslo, Norway e-mail: [email protected]; [email protected] G. V. Houngbonon • E. Le Quentrec Orange Labs, Paris, France e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2020 M. Ragnedda, A. Gladkova (eds.), Digital Inequalities in the Global South, Global Transformations in Media and Communication Research - A Palgrave and IAMCR Series, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-32706-4_10

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communicate, socialize, and create sustainable infrastructures that lead to social development. However, at the global scale, there are almost four billion people without the Internet access,1 excluding them from access to basic information and skills for education and health. Many studies on inequalities focus mainly on differences in socio-economic backgrounds and in available resources, such as money or skills, or they focus on developing inequalities such as access to basic human resources including equipment, knowledge, or education. Those with more access to resources “use their relative advantage to increase the inequalities” (Meyrowitz 2008, p. 645). The present second- and third-level digital divides are also divides of literacy and skills (Hargittai 2007; Radovanović 2013; Radovanović et  al. 2015) and benefits gained from the Internet use (Ragnedda 2017). Although access is still seen as a necessary condition, many people could more practically engage the technology if they had the basic skills. Mobile smart phones are not prohibitively expensive and very often computers, even if somewhat older and under-powered, are still readily available for work. In the Global South, mobile networks are increasingly viewed as a means to deliver basic services, thereby yielding digital dividends (World Development Report 2016). In Sub-Saharan Africa, the tremendous success to mobile financial services is a case in point, providing access to millions of users previously unbanked and promoting financial inclusion (Mbiti and Weil 2011). Other areas where mobile phones hold promise are health and education, two social dimensions of human development still lacking in the region (see Table 10.1). Several initiatives rely on digital technologies to overcome these challenges, taking advantage of the fact that mobile networks have a far greater coverage than basic social infrastructures such as education and health facilities. They tend to overlook the limitations arising from digital divide, typically between urban and rural areas, as well as existing constraints such 1  According to estimates by the International Telecommunications Union, there were approximately 3.9 billion Internet users worldwide in 2018 against a population of approximately 7.6 billion.

G. M. N. Isabwe Future Competence International Ltd, University of Agder, Kristiansand, Norway e-mail: [email protected]

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Table 10.1  Key development outcomes in selected Sub-Saharan African countries

Case studies

GDP per capita, 2017 (Constant 2011 $US PPP) Child mortality (number of deaths per 1000 births) HIV prevalence (% of 15–49 with HIV) Gross secondary school enrollment rate (%) % trained primary school teachers Mobile penetration rate (%)

Côte d’Ivoire

Madagascar Niger

Senegal

Monitoring HIV patients Child vaccination Epidemic monitoring 3585.5

Training for primary school teachers

Tablets for learning (digital textbooks)

Disease Access to prevention health and information containment

1416.4

926.0

3142.7

2683.3

3488.7

64.2

32.7

48.3

32.7

38.3

51.5

2.8

0.3

0.3

0.4

4.5

4.1

49.7

36.9

24.6

45.4

25.8

42.8

100.0

14.9

55.6

69.7

99.2

62.8

130.7

34.1

40.9

99.4

69.7

74.7

Source: World Development Indicators, World Bank

Tanzania

Sub-­ Saharan Africa

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as low digital literacy and limited access to electricity. This chapter aims at documenting how these determinants of the digital divide are affecting the ability of digital infrastructure to be used as platform for health information and education in Sub-Saharan Africa. More specifically, the chapter draws from case studies in Madagascar, Niger, Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal, and Tanzania, four countries with significant challenges in health or education as suggested by Table 10.1 later. Some tested experiments have been successful but rarely scaled up, depriving part of the population—the poorest and those living in rural areas who “consume” few public resources—of opportunities to access improved education and health services. Along with the aforementioned challenges, we identified a need for the key performance indicators (KPIs) related to digital inclusion projects in Global South. In fact, most national frameworks in low-income countries conceptualize digital inclusion only around the idea of competency and skill, which is too narrow a set of competences often creating narrow KPIs. Sohail and Baldwin (2004) did a study in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) in which they offer 67 performance indicators for monitoring of micro-contract, including indicators related to socio-economic issues such as enterprise development, poverty alleviation, and empowerment. Despite the extensive research and progress in other areas, there is no general agreement on a set of KPIs for digital inclusion projects to-­date, and the current research in measurement for social issues is relatively limited. The chapter is organized into three sections. Section “Mobile Phone Usage in Education” presents how digital technologies are used to improve teaching and learning in Sub-Saharan Africa. More specifically, it reports on the outcomes of and the lessons learned from an experiment that trained teachers in Madagascar using mobile phones. This report helps emphasize the role of digital literacy and access to electricity in driving how mobile-based training can affect learning outcomes. The section also reports on the outcomes of an experiment about how tablets with educational resources can affect the quality of learning of junior secondary school students in Niger. Both experiments nevertheless raise questions about equity: the first shows that teachers living and practicing in the most remote rural areas cannot take full advantage of the device deployed because of insufficient coverage of the mobile network (2G). They underperform in the final assessment tests compared with those who can benefit from good network coverage, which is not without consequences on their career and the school performance of students. The second point is that the device tested is particularly promising for the girls who are the least favored in terms of economic opportunities and who live in rural areas. To deprive them of such a device only accentuates the differences in the appropriation

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of the public resources dedicated to education in a country where 80% of the expenses are concentrated into the urban areas. Section “Mobile Phone Usage in Healthcare and Disease Prevention and Containment” focuses on how the mobile phone and the data generated by its usage can be used to improve access to healthcare by human immunodeficiency viruses (HIV)-affected patients, birth registration and vaccination as well as epidemic containment. More specifically, this section takes advantage of two donor-funded programs in Côte d’Ivoire and a rich set of works that were conducted within the framework of the Data for Development Challenge, an open research initiative conducted by one of the largest telecoms player in Africa. A particular emphasis is put on the use of mobile data to prevent or monitor the spread of epidemics in Senegal and Côte d’Ivoire. In section “Designing Digital Health Messages in a Multi-Cultural Context”, we discuss a participatory design process to create digital health messages intended for rural villages in Tanzania. The problem space is explored through the context of use analysis, which focuses on understanding the people involved, including the primary target users, the subject-­matter experts, and other stakeholders such as the local authorities and health officials. The emphasis is on creating easy-to-use digital solutions, to allow people with low digital literacy levels to learn about a select number of diseases and protect their health. The implications of multiculturalism are discussed with regard to generating the content itself, translations from English to Swahili and vice versa, and the design and development of web and mobile applications for the messages. Finally, preliminary evaluation results are discussed along with recommendations on how interventions such as digital health messages could help alleviate digital inequalities in the Global South. The outcomes of this chapter are related to two strands of the social sciences literature. They complement the literature on digital divide by emphasizing how inequality in access to digital technologies limits the enabling role of digital infrastructure to be leveraged as a platform to overcome development challenges in health and education (Giddens 2006). Van Dijk and Hacker (2003)2 highlight four types of digital divide, namely mental, material, skill, and usage, and Fuch and Horak (2008) analyze the digital divide in Africa, emphasizing that technology alone cannot be sufficient to close the digital gap. Buys et  al. (2009) pinpoint the role of competition policy in closing the digital divide between countries in  Van Dijk, J., Hacker, K., 2003. The digital divide as a complex, dynamic phenomenon. The Information Society 19 (4), 315–326. 2

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Sub-Saharan Africa. The outcomes of this chapter also highlight the digital divide as a constraint to the concept of digital leapfrog (World Development Report 2016).

Mobile Phone Usage in Education The potential of mobile devices to affect education outcomes has long been experimented, with application in teacher monitoring in Niger (Aker and Ksoll 2015).3 Their computing power and communication ability not only support traditional lecture-style teaching but also promote information gathering and sharing, innovative teaching methods such as cooperative learning, exploratory learning outside the classroom, and game-based learning. Earlier experiments come from advanced countries with positive impact on learning outcomes, but with moderate effect size (Sung et al. 2016). While they tend to complement existing educational inputs in advanced countries, in the Global South they tend to substitute for poor educational inputs such as teachers’ skills and efforts, as well as text books. This section presents two original experiments conducted by the telecommunication operator Orange in Madagascar and Niger. These two countries are among the least advanced in the Global South. In particular, data from the World Bank show that only 15% of primary school teachers in Madagascar are trained, whereas in Niger only 25% of secondary school-­ aged children actually enroll at this level of education. Rising demand for teachers training following the implementation of universal primary education programs has encouraged government to explore how distance learning can fill the gap. While earlier distance learning programs rely on audio/video tapes and CD players, more recent ones are taking advantage of the large diffusion of mobile telephony to train teachers. In Madagascar, the University Agency of La Francophonie partners with the telecoms operator Orange and the French Development Agency (AFD), with support from the National Ministry of Education, to implement a pilot teacher training program between August 2012 and April 2013 in the central province of Amoron’i Mania (IFADEM). This program aimed at improving the pedagogical skills of primary school teachers of and in French using mobile phones. It targeted 436 teachers and 22 tutors, 80% of which are above 50 with at most a 3  See the report Digital services for education in Africa (https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ ark:/48223/pf0000231867).

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secondary school-level degree. Participants were equipped with pedagogical tool kits (training book, dictionary, grammar book), a mobile phone with an MP3 reader, and a solar panel (without battery) for access to electricity. Data collected from the program show that participation is driven by connectivity issues, previous ownership of mobile, and access to electricity (Gire and Le 2013; Lethuillier et al. 2014). Indeed, the overall participation rate was 40%, much lower for teachers in low connectivity areas and higher for those who previously owned a mobile phone. Smartphone users were constrained by the lack of access to electric solar panel. SMS usage was very low; most of the participants only used it for participating to multiple-choice-questions (MCQ) evaluation. Vocal files were the most preferred means of access to the training. Overall, teachers’ marks increased with the intensity of participation to the SMS-based MCQ, for both theoretical and practical evaluations. This pilot project highlights some important aspects that need to be taken into account in the design of mobile phone-based teacher training. First, low digital literacy is a barrier to taking full advantage of the technology even for teachers. Preliminary survey results, prior to the experiment, suggest that 13% of teachers cannot read an SMS, and 28% cannot send a text message. Second, devices need to be bundled with a source of energy, typically solar home system (SHS). Energy-intensive devices such as smartphones were not suitable in places that lack access to reliable electricity. Finally, mentorship is essential but could be made more effective by reducing the number of pupils per tutor. Ultimately, teachers in rural areas with poorer access to mobile network tend to participate less in the experiment than those in urban areas, suggesting that digital divide in terms of network access acts as a constraint to using the mobile phone as a channel for training. Regarding textbooks, AFD financed an experiment in Niger in partnership with Orange and the NGO “Aide et Action”, with support from the National ministry of education (Baron et al. 2015). This experiment aims at evaluating the technoeconomic feasibility and the adoption of digital textbooks. More broadly, it purports to assess whether hard copy textbooks can be substituted for their digital versions, an alternative that is more cost-effective and flexible, and how additional digital resources (applications, educational videos, and dictionary) fit into mobile devices

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such tablets.4 It focuses on fourth-grade high school students from two schools, one in the capital city Niamey and the other in a poorer and suburban area, Soudouré, and was conducted from March 2013 to June 2014.5 The experiment consisted in equipping 150 students and 20 teachers with tablets as well as SHS for those without access to electricity and Internet connection. These tablets embarked several pedagogical contents, namely a French-English dictionary, an application for the conjugation of irregular verbs, mathematics books, classical French authors’ writings, and the official civic and moral instructions textbook. Data collected from field surveys as well as tablets’ logs show that 70% of students used their tablets frequently, while 80% expressed great satisfaction. However, tablets usage suffered from a lack of maintenance. In fact, 15% of tablets were out of service after one year and a half, screens or chargers were broken, passwords were forgotten, or some devices were simply stolen. Usage of Internet connection, via “Dominos”,6 was less effective, because it was pre-empted by teachers, and the quality of network connection was particularly poor in Soudouré. Interestingly, the SHS benefited to neighbors and enabled cell phone charge, uses that come beyond the initial purpose of recharging the tablets. Overall, the findings of this experiment suggest that digital textbook can be an effective substitute for hard copy book, but governance, maintenance, and content issues are central. There is a need to get editors on board, set up a maintenance scheme, and ensure effective access to the Internet. They highlight the ability of digital textbooks to act as a lever of closing the gap between rural and urban areas. They also raise the issue of finding the most effective business model for digital textbooks. Shifting family expenditures in educational resources into digital books, providing public subsidy or loans to family through micro-credits, and promoting entrepreneurship for the provision of spare parts and maintenance services are potential avenues to making electronic books a viable alternative for hard copy books. In addition, the gap in usage and performance between the poorer suburban area and the urban capital city stems from difference 4  Electronic book as a more cost-effective solution for pedagogical resources because they lower variable printing costs while fixed cost can be further reduced by sharing the expenditures across several countries. In addition, it is flexible as it enables the updating/upgrading of pedagogical contents at lower cost. 5   Acker and Ksoll (2015) conducted a similar experiment but focused on teacher monitoring. 6  Dongle keys that convert mobile Internet into WiFi.

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in connectivity, suggesting that digital divide between urban and rural areas matter for using mobile technology as a platform for education. While this section emphasized digital means in educational programs, the next section will focus on mobile health in treatment and prevention.

Mobile Phone Usage in Healthcare and Disease Prevention and Containment As reviewed by Aranda-Jan et al. (2014), there have been several attempts of using mobile telephony in the provision of healthcare (mHealth). These attempts stem from the potential of mHealth to improve staff performance, patient healthcare, drug supply-chain and stock management as well as disease surveillance and intervention monitoring. The telecoms operator Orange has been involved in two mHealth projects in Côte d’Ivoire that take into account the shortcomings of previous projects. More specifically, on top of issues pertaining to access to electricity, these projects account for important dimensions of the digital divide, namely connectivity, low digital literacy, and the users’ need for privacy. They also get the key stakeholders of the health ecosystem, and particularly the Ministry of Health, involved in order to ensure ex-post appropriability and scalability. The first project aimed at strengthening the links between healthcare providers and people living with and affected by HIV through the use of mobile phone. It was funded by the UNAIDS (The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS) and the Global Fund in partnership with Orange and the Ministry of Health between March 2016 and 2017. It involved 1000 people living with HIV, including 300 sex workers and men who have sex with men.7 This project relies on mobile technology to ensure HIV patients’ retention in care and treatment adherence and to help break down stigma and discrimination. Indeed, the poor adherence to regular treatment is one of the major factors aggravating the health conditions of HIV patients, a situation that tends to be exacerbated by the lack of access to information and communication technology such as mobile phone. Enrollment into the program was voluntary and the information collected was anonymous 7  UNAIDS to collaborate on new mobile technology platform to improve data collection and advance the response to HIV. Retrieved: http://www.unaids.org/en/resources/presscentre/pressreleaseandstatementarchive/2016/march/20160308_mobile

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and full confidentiality maintained, particularly for homosexual patients. Another innovation of the project was to rely on a network of regular patients in order to enroll and monitor more reluctant patients. These regular patients served as mediators between the health worker and the more reluctant patients, thereby increasing the coverage of the intervention and reducing transportation costs. Communications relied on voice or text according to the level of literacy of the patient, and voice messages could be delivered in  local languages. They included messages on drug usage and medical appointments, personalized monitoring with the intervention of the mediator in case of emergency, and a dedicated phone number free of charge that patients can use to ask assistance from health workers. The successful implementation of this mHealth platform has raised interest from other countries such as the Central African Republic and Morocco. In addition, it is now extended to vaccination (mVaccin), with financial support from the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization in partnership with Orange and the Ministry of Health. The mVaccin platform aims at enrolling and monitoring pregnant women in order to generate an automatic vaccination card for each new born. Its ultimate goal is to improve vaccination rates through regular reminders of appointments by voice or text. On top of healthcare improvement, mobile technology is being used to prevent and contain diseases outbreak in Africa. A case in point is the Ebola outbreak between 2014 and 2015 in West Africa (Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone) involving 28,616 reported people, out of which 40% did not survive (WHO 2016). The Senegalese government, in partnership with the World Health Organization, relied on an existing mHealth platform to quickly implement a large-scale public awareness campaign by sending four million SMSs.8 This campaign aims at sensitizing the population about basic preventive behaviors such as washing hands, avoiding contact with people who are sick or died from Ebola, and refraining from touching or eating the meat of dead or sick animals. No formal evaluation was conducted but the fact that only one case was reported suggests that it helps limit the spread of Ebola in the country despite its vicinity with risky countries such as Guinea and Mali. However, in spite of its innovative feature, this campaign could be improved by targeting the right people in the right area through the use of call detail records (CDRs). 8   WHO.  Government of Senegal boosts Ebola awareness through SMS campaign. Retrieved: https://www.who.int/features/2014/senegal-ebola-sms/en/

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Indeed, the cellular nature of mobile radio networks makes it possible to know a user’s location and movements, as well as the type of media used (voice, SMS, data). In particular the CDRs, generally collected by mobile phone operators for billing and operational purposes, contain information on how, when, and with whom people communicate. They are the biggest databases available on digital technology users, although increasing penetration of smartphones means that platform providers such as Google and Facebook could provide better data in the near future. This wealth of information allows capturing different aspects of human behavior and stimulated the creativity of scientists from different disciplines, who demonstrated that CDRs are a high-quality proxy for studying individual mobility and social ties.9 For diseases, spatial propagation is largely dependent on human mobility. People move across several locations, both exposing themselves to infectious agents in these locations and transport these agents between them. Blondel et al. (2015) review several works that rely on CDRs and emphasize the facts that individuals tend to have highly predictable movements and that, as populations we act and react in a synchronized way. More specifically, research conducted in the framework of the Data for Development challenge highlights how CDRs can be used to improved disease containment in the African context.10 In Côte d’Ivoire, Lima et al. (2013) investigate how CDRs could be used to improve country-wide disease containment strategies. Using information on human mobility and social structure from the CDRs and an epidemic model, they find that mobility restriction does not delay the occurrence of an endemic state, but rather information campaign might be a more effective countermeasure. This finding stems from weak mobility, but strong communication between communities. In Senegal, Ciddio et al. (2017) rely on CDRs to investigate how mobility patterns affect the spread of schistosomiasis, a parasitic, water-related disease that is prevalent in tropical and subtropical areas of the world, causing severe and chronic consequences especially among children. Their analysis emphasizes the importance of considering transport pathways in order to elaborate disease control strategies that can be effective within a network of connected population.  See the Data for Development challenge.  The D4D challenge was organized by Orange in partnership with the University of Louvain, the MIT, Global Pulse, GSMA, and the World Economic Forum. 9

10

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Overall, poorer access to and usage of digital services, particularly between rural and urban areas, limit the ability to collect data in the poorer areas where disease monitoring is the most needed.

Designing Digital Health Messages in a Multicultural Context While the previous sections have addressed the importance of mobile phones in both education and health, this section focuses on digital health messages being provided to everyone in rural society via information spots. As of today, the majority of people in rural areas of Tanzania (1) cannot afford to buy a personal computer, (2) have no access to grid-­ connected reliable electrical power for using a standard computer, and (3) have no access to broadband Internet connection. However, access to mobile devices is constantly increasing, hence presenting an opportunity to get access to digital information. Internet access is a major concern to many policymakers and governments, and free access to information through information spots is the basis for digital inclusion in society. The information spots are deployed in rural Tanzania as part of the DigI project, focusing on societal empowerment through free access to information for everyone,11 to provide healthcare services through mobile applications. Understanding the Context of Use for Digital Solutions In recent years, several initiatives were undertaken addressing the digital divide in the Global South (Ayoo 2009; Chéneau-Loquay 2007; Mumporeze and Prieler 2017). However, many interventions may fail due to the lack of an understanding of the context, hence the needs of the people in the Global South. In this section, a participatory design process (Muller and Kuhn 1993) is implemented to create digital health messages intended for people in rural villages in Tanzania. The concept of participation posits on the expected benefits of involving the intended users, among other 11  The “Non-discriminating access for Digital Inclusion” (DigI) project is a three-year research and innovation project, running from 2017 to 2020. The focus is on the provision of free access to information for everyone (Internet Lite), and a freemium business model addressing the profitability of commercial operation of Internet Lite through information spots. http://DigI.BasicInternet.no

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stakeholders, as members of the design team at different phases of the design process. It is shown that one of the best approaches to meeting the users’ needs through a digital solution is to consider users as co-designers. Therefore, close collaboration and active participation of the people in rural areas are crucial. From early project stages, members of the DigI project engaged in the villages Mungere, Izazi, Migoli, Selela, and Esilalei (Tanzania) in order to meet and consult with relevant stakeholders including village leaders, school teachers, and the general public. The research team carried out a pre-test structured interview with a representative sample of users, followed by thematic analysis of users’ opinions. Key outcomes of such interactions were the requirements as expressed by the users. Further on, user studies were conducted for the evaluation of early stage digital prototypes, in order to better understand the context of use and solve any potential usability problems early on in the iterative design and development process. In addition to the face-to-face group meetings, the project team also conducted a baseline survey, which helped to identify all key stakeholders, their goals, activities, and levels of access to Internet and digital technology such as mobile devices. Focus groups meetings for our work included 30% women and 70% men during the data gathering for requirements phase. In the Arusha region, Northern Tanzania, in Selela and Esilalei villages, there were 15 participants, including community leaders and other members of the community. At the Arusha Regional Health Management office, there were 11 participants, while in the Iringa region, Mid-South Tanzania, Izazi, and Migoli villages, there were 15 people including community leaders and other members of the community. Usability testing included six participants who were involved (three women and three men) for the testing and evaluation of early stage digital prototypes. Through focus group interviews, it was brought to light that there are some smartphone users in the rural communities, the majority being influential people in the village, such as local leaders and business people. According to Reuters (2018), in 2017, “around 19 million Internet users in Tanzania accessed the world wide web through their mobile phones”. From the participatory design perspective, these are the kind of people who should inform the design team as to what kind of user interfaces they would like to see in their digital solutions. Given the multidisciplinary involvement in developing a platform for digital health information, a framework for context analysis was adopted:

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PACT (people, activities, context, technology) (Benyon et al. 2005). This framework allows to analyze the context of use in a more structured way: 1. People: Project involves information technologists, medical professionals, social scientists, local government officials, and the general public. The research allows representative samples of different categories to express their opinions and concerns with regard to the design of a digital health information platform. In addition to a very wide range of competence among all stakeholders, cultural differences are present in the design and implementation of this work. Although there are similarities within the two main categories of stakeholders (Western Europeans and East Africans), the understanding of cultural sensitivities cannot be taken for granted. It is always advisable to establish mutual respect early on in the project and establish the norms to guide communication: “culture, however, usually stands as an obstacle to communication if cultural characteristics are ignored. Language, beliefs, values, religion, history, political systems, and societal rules all together define the term culture” (Kyriakoullis and Zaphiris 2016). Research in the field of human-computer interaction (Alexander et  al. 2017; Jagne and Smith-Atakan 2006) indicates that cultural difference issues are well beyond design teams and users’ communication. 2. Activities: The envisaged platform is expected to support a wide range of activities, some of which are of the type of one-time activity and others which are recurrent. For instance, the medical professionals would want to be able to update the health messages and make adjustments where it may be necessary, as well as collect data on the information uptake. However, for the general population, the activities of interest include access to the information, using the platform to educate oneself on the target diseases either individually or as a group. 3. Context is concerned with the environments in which the platform is used. Primarily, users are expected to access the platform from designated information hotspots around several villages. The information spots should be housed in existing buildings such as the local government offices, schools, and health centers. 4. Technology: Following the “mobile-first” paradigm, the health messages are intended for use on a wide range of computing devices, including affordable, low-end smartphones, and tablets in the hands

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of an average villager. In addition to the consideration of low-cost access devices, the lack of Internet connectivity can be a hindrance to using the platform. Most of the villages in rural areas may have either intermittent connectivity or no connectivity at all. Therefore, the village information hotspot should contain all the health information off-line such that people have access without being connected to the Internet.

Designing Digital Health Messages The translation of health messages from the print media to digital formats requires an adaptation not only to the target audience’s digital literacy levels, but to the principles of information design for the web as well. There are suggestions that “digital formats encourage non-sequential reading across linked texts; skimming and superficial reading is common with web-based text; visual fatigue can arise through extended screen use; the kinaesthetic mapping of content in long texts is altered without pages to hold and turn” (Hess 2014). It is claimed further (Jabr 2013) that “reading on paper still boasts unique advantage”. However, the increasing access to digital technologies brings about several advantages such as providing information to larger sections of the society, catering for people with different learning styles and the immediacy of updating and distributing information. Hence, this project opted for chunking health information into smaller, easily digestible pieces of information: (1) causes of diseases; (2) transmission; (3) symptoms; (4) treatment; and (5) prevention. Each piece comprises a graphical, visual element and text written as a short paragraph, using easy-to-understand terms for non-medical professionals as shown in Fig. 10.1. In addition to creating shorts text and graphics, storytelling strategy was adopted in order to bring all key health messages together in one video. Digital storytelling has been proven a successful strategy in several educational settings (Alismail 2015; Kasemsap 2017; Moreau et al. 2018), since stories are likely to increase motivation to access the information and keep the audience’s attention. Such digital stories can also have additional benefits for communities with low literacy, given that historically humans are prone to learning easily from an engaging story as narrated by a more-­ knowledgeable other. The stories in this project were designed to implement micro-learning (Hug 2005), in a sense that each story is a complete

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Fig. 10.1  Example of a health message

unit of study on its own. Figure 10.2 illustrates frames from the story of tapeworms. Each health message video is 3–5  minutes long and can be supported by media players of the most common web browsers on smartphones, tablets, and personal computers. With a combination of short text messages, graphics, and short videos, the platforms attempt to cover the needs of a wide spectrum of learning styles (visual, aural, read/write), as well as measure the information uptake as a contributing factor toward knowledge creation. Users are invited to undertake a survey and a quiz on health messages, on one hand to reinforce information retention, and on the other hand to measure learning performance. Village Platform Development Following the “mobile-first” approach and responsive web design (Mohorovičić 2013; Gardner 2011), the village platform is intended for

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Fig. 10.2  Extract from the educational video on cysticercosis

use on a wide range of mobile devices, including affordable, low end smartphones in the hands of an average villager. The emphasis is on creating easy-to-use digital solutions, on one hand to allow people with low digital literacy levels to learn about a select number of diseases and protect their health, and on the other hand to effectively promote the use of Internet among rural villagers. The design and development process included human-centered design activities, which prioritize user involvement throughout the design

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process in order to produce solutions that meet the user requirements. The requirements elicitation included the creation of conceptual scenarios, development of use cases for two main categories of users: (1) enduser/villager and (2) project researcher/health personnel. Subsequently, functional and non-functional requirements were specified in order to proceed with prototyping of the village platform.  rototyping the Village Platform P The design and development process involved a series of design and test iterations. A digital prototyping tool, ADOBE XD, was used to show early models of the platform. The prototype allowed the design team and other project members to discuss possibilities and test the functionality before investments into developing a fully functional platform. Through discussions with all stakeholders, including those in Tanzania, the requirements were refined in a way that a common understanding was reached, in terms of both the web application and the multimedia content. Since a multidisciplinary team was involved, it was taking some time to agree on the appropriate terms to use on the user interfaces, attention to social-cultural elements, ethics, and the multimedia content. The final design of the village platform Yeboo.com consists of three areas: (i) information about the village, (ii) health information, and (iii) social network involvement. Through the village information (i) we provide the village executives and regional authorities the opportunity to reach out to people in the village. Our main focus addresses the health information (ii), as described earlier in section “Designing Digital Health Messages”. Answering the need of value creation for the community itself is addressed through the social network (iii) interaction, empowering among others announcements of events or novel services in the village. The platform itself is based on one local instance in each village, with a cloud backend for common aspects. Our expectation is that by providing a specific instance in each village, we will achieve a higher grade of identification to the digital content, and thus increase the trust in the information being provided. User Testing and Evaluation It is often challenging for designers to match the users’ mental models with regard to the intended use of an interactive system. It is imperative in a human-centered design approach to carry out user-based evaluation.

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User-based evaluations help in identifying usability problems and also improve the design at multiple levels, possibly including revising the design concept itself and improving the user interfaces accordingly. In the DigI project, several user studies were conducted, each time involving 5–10 purposively selected participants. However, user testing has so far considered English-speaking users. The next steps would also have to involve native Swahili speakers, especially to help with testing the cognitive affordances of the Swahili content. Since all health messages were first developed in English, it is important to ensure that the messages were correctly “translated into Swahili” rather than being “translated from English”. The main intention is to take into consideration necessary contextual elements including culture, beliefs, and experiences of the Swahili-­ speaking audience. It was indeed realized that since Swahili-speaking project members come from different social-geographical contexts, the translation was not always unanimously accepted by all native speakers. Preliminary test and evaluation results indicate that the platform is easy to use. Test participants suggested that the user experience is satisfying since the interaction styles and the user interface designs meet their expectations. Almost all test users managed to complete the given user tasks without difficulties and very minor errors. The post-test survey and interviews suggest that users “can learn how to protect themselves and stay healthy using the information on yeboo.com”, “the website worked the way they thought it would”, and “the information found on yeboo.com is accessible and the interface was functioning properly”. Further on, test users suggested that improvements on the interface appearance as well as physical affordances such as the sizes of navigation buttons form one key health message area to another. Given that the platform allows for easy access to digital health messages, its perceived usefulness and ease of use could contribute toward increased access to digital information in a broader sense. Although there are efforts to increase digital literacy in many African countries (e.g. ShuleDirect,12 The Digital Village13), very few programs may be targeting people with general low literacy. Programs such as Microsoft Digital Literacy Course claim to be for “anyone with basic reading skills who wants to learn the fundamentals of using digital technologies”. However, it can  https://www.shuledirect.co.tz/notes/list_notes/2/52811#52812  h t t p : / / w w w. u n e s c o d a r. o r. t z / u n e s c o d a r / i n d e x . p h p ? o p t i o n = c o m _ content&view=article&id=526:the-digital-village&catid=102:unesco&Itemid=490 12

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be challenging for an average villager to have natural interest to take a ­supposedly “technical course” on their own. Since one of the key factors leading to digital divide is the lack of sufficient digital literacy, more users in rural areas should be given access to platforms such as the village platform. The novelty of such a platform is to empower an average person to access easy-to-use digital tools on their own. This allows exploratory learning to take place, hence indirectly facilitating the development of individual digital literacy, without necessarily taking a course on using digital tools. It can be argued that, with such access, it would not take long to acquire the digital literacy skills necessary for meaningful participation in the digital economy.

Conclusion The strategic implementation of digital technologies represents the prerogative for overcoming the digital inequalities in the Global South. Free access to the Internet and information is the human right and a necessary condition for digital inclusion in low-income countries. In this chapter, we talked about digital divides in the Sub-Saharan Africa; we analyzed case studies targeted to under-connected people in Madagascar, Niger, Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal, and Tanzania, countries with significant challenges in health and education. We showcased the best praxis on how digital technologies are used to improve learning and health information usage. The findings from the first section related to digital means in educational programs suggest that digital textbooks can be an effective substitute for hard copy book but governance, maintenance, and content issues are central challenges. We indicated that the divide in usage and performance between urban and rural areas matter for using mobile technology as a platform for education. The second section focused on mobile health in treatment and prevention with the conclusion that poorer access to and usage of digital services limit the ability to collect data in the poorer areas where disease monitoring is the most needed. In the final section, we discussed a participatory design process to create digital health messages intended for rural villages and discussed the preliminary evaluation results along with recommendations on how interventions such as digital health messages could help alleviate digital inequalities in the Global South. From our analysis, we believe that it is not enough to suggest the obvious: more access to the technology and more digital literacy skills training. By considering how technologies are embedded in existing forms of

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digital divide, we believe that the selection of technologies and training ought to enable rural communities to get empowered to learn and benefit from the digital platforms’ usage. These cases indicate that in order to mitigate digital divide in the region of Sub-Saharan Africa, it is important to empower rural communities and include them digitally instead of focusing only to the central regions. We perceive that the current digital divide scholarly discussion that focuses mostly on three levels of divides (access, skills, and benefits) should also consider the following issues in the digital societal gaps today and include them to the broader theoretical discussion. These issues include weak political buy-in, challenge of navigating the complexity of digital cooperation, siloed approaches to digital issues, insufficient mechanisms for addressing policy aspects of emerging technologies, insufficient reliable peer-reviewed data, and evidence for informed digital cooperation. These being tackled would solve the issues in inclusive digital economy, capacity, human rights and human agency, governance, and digital trust, security, and stability. Along with the aforementioned recommendations, we suggest that since digital inclusion initiatives are dependent on socio-economic contexts and user experience, thus developing the key performance indicators (KPIs) around them is a necessity. There are no universal KPIs for digital inclusion measurement; therefore, there is an urgent need for framing and developing such KPIs. However, there are several issues here for the future researchers and developers to take into consideration, such as “(i) how social development is defined, and (ii) whether one is measuring the level of social development, or the consequent impact of the social development on aspects of society” (Radovanovic and Noll 2017). The institutional culture and infrastructural offerings of these and partner countries represent a key site for the diffusion and usage of new media technology. Legislation of the digitization and enacting a digital inclusion-sensitive approach might involve any number of strategies on a national and international level that are outside the scope of this article. For example, future experiments might clarify how rural communities use digital platforms for obtaining digital skills, knowledge, and digital entrepreneurship and innovation, and how with these obtained skills, they respond to others in their surroundings. Institution authorities might offer digital skills training and capacity-building opportunities while governments might provide sufficient mechanisms for addressing policy aspects of emerging technologies in the region.

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CHAPTER 11

Moving Beyond the Rhetoric: Who Really Benefits from Investments in Digital Infrastructure in Low-Income and  Low-­Literacy Communities in Malawi? Edister Samson Jamu, Tiwonge Davis Manda, and Gowokani Chijere Chirwa

Introduction The advent of the digital age has created a buzz by its promise of inclusion of people from different backgrounds to actively participate in various forms of life by reducing or eliminating physical communication barriers.

E. S. Jamu (*) Department of Psychology, Chancellor College, University of Malawi, Zomba, Malawi e-mail: [email protected] T. D. Manda Department of Computer Science, Chancellor College, University of Malawi, Zomba, Malawi © The Author(s) 2020 M. Ragnedda, A. Gladkova (eds.), Digital Inequalities in the Global South, Global Transformations in Media and Communication Research - A Palgrave and IAMCR Series, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-32706-4_11

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For instance, through mobile applications (apps), information and communications technology (ICT) has brought improvements in the agricultural value chain by providing access to market prices, weather forecasts, and farming advice, among others. ICT has been promoted or marketed based on social and economic benefits thereby occupying a central position in the knowledge economy. The role of digital technology in increased community engagement in political and social life has also been reported in health, education, and banking (Koss 2001; Bach et  al. 2013; Madise 2014). Despite the reported benefits of digital technologies, it is ironical that digital technologies marginalize other people who lack access thereby creating a digital divide, a case of the digital haves and the digital have-nots (Wong et al. 2009) or the ‘information rich’ and the ‘information poor’ (Lloyd et  al. 2000). Even in cases where access is possible, the issue becomes one of quality of use, content, and digital/ICT literacy (Wong et  al. 2009; Achieng 2017). This is particularly true for developing, resource-constrained countries such as Malawi. For instance, despite notable investments in ICT infrastructure access still remains a worrying issue (Nour 2017). Malawi, just like other developing countries in the global south which have low-income levels and low-digital/ICT literacy levels, need to go beyond the rhetoric of simply providing access to ICT and begin to focus on quality and type of online engagement in assessing the contribution of digital infrastructure investment. For example, a 2014 survey on access and usage of ICT services in Malawi (NSO 2015), which sampled 12,000 households, indicates that only 30 percent of individuals had phones capable of browsing the internet. There were also urban-rural disparities, as well as disparities across people with different levels of education and those who had mobile phones with internet browsing facilities. Furthermore, internet access and usage have largely remained the preserve of the wealthy and educated elite (Bornman 2016). A study on the use of the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) web portal found that demographic, social-­ economic, and locational (urban vs. rural, developed vs. developing country) factors affected people’s internet experience, their access to computing

G. C. Chirwa Department of Economics, Chancellor College, University of Malawi, Zomba, Malawi

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facilities, and experience in using the immigration service portal (Okunola et al. 2017). Empirical evidence also shows that deeply entrenched societal roles of women being primarily concerned with child-rearing and housekeeping have led to significantly lower technology participation rates among women compared to men (Antonio and Tuffley 2014). This entails recognizing that discussion of the digital divide is a complex issue when the quality of internet use is considered and that the real digital divide involves a schism in the intensity and nature of ICT use (Bach et al. 2013). Context is, therefore, a critical element to the discussion since quantity and quality of internet usage take place within distinct communities which experience distinct forms of social and economic exclusions that exacerbate the digital divide. The concept of the digital divide is used to describe disparities in the use of the internet and new telecommunications services across different social groups (Lloyd et  al. 2000; Korupp and Szydlik 2005). A more nuanced description of the digital divide is provided by Gomez (2018) and Ragnedda and Ruiu (2017) to exist at three levels, namely, access to digital technologies and to the internet (first level of digital divide), usage gap (second level of digital divide), and utility gap (third level of digital divide). Our primary focus in this chapter is on the first level of digital divide while extending to second and third levels of the digital divide. Although this technocratic approach to the digital divide which underlines inequality in providing access to technology is outdated (Ragnedda and Ruiu 2017), the ‘access gap’ remains very much a critical issue in developing, resource-constrained countries today. This chapter contributes to a thorough understanding of who really benefits from investments in digital infrastructure in Malawi, a low-income and low-literacy country in Africa. The choice of Malawi as a case is premised on the understanding that, as a least developed country, communities in Malawi experience telling forms of social and economic exclusions. These exclusions provide a better platform for a thorough understanding of the marginalizing nature of digital technologies. The rest of the chapter is organized as follows: The remainder of the ‘Introduction’ section briefly highlights the digital age’s promise of inclusion and an outline of the Digital Human Capital (DHC) framework (Bach et  al. 2013). The DHC framework is a framework that provides parameters for effective digital technologies interventions. The ‘Methods and Materials’ section describes the methods and materials used. ‘The Malawi Context’ section  highlights the Malawi context  in terms

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of demographics, legal and policy frameworks within which ICT is situated. The ‘Findings’ section, which focusses on investments and device access, is next. This is followed by the question of who really benefits from investments in ICT infrastructure by outlining the premises on which the majority of Malawians may not really benefit from ICT infrastructure investments, and the ‘Conclusion’ to the chapter. The Digital Age and the Promise of Inclusion Advancements in digital technologies have been made on the basis of promising inclusion to marginalized groups. For instance, in Malawi, digital technologies have provided a wide range of opportunities in education, health, agriculture, and industry. Where they have been used efficiently, digital technologies have facilitated access to markets for farmers in remote areas, they have made information accessible to those who live in hard-toreach areas, and they have helped in mobilizing masses to voice concerns through online petitions. The above notwithstanding, digital technologies have also widened the gap between the digital haves and have-nots (Nour 2017). Content, literacy, erratic networks, ownership of mobile devices that are not internet compatible, power outages, and poverty have been implicated in digital divide in developing countries (Bagula et al. 2011; Bornman 2016). It is therefore pertinent that governments and other key players in the digital world find ways of bridging or ameliorating the digital divide. To this end, Bach, Shaffer and Wolfson’s (2013) Digital Human Capital framework offers useful insights. The Digital Human Capital framework proposed by Bach, Shaffer and Wolfson (2013) is a combination and expansion of the concepts of human capital and the knowledge economy. It is premised on the notion that access to and use of the internet and other telecommunications services are rapidly becoming a common critical part of commerce, education, and social participation (Lloyd et al. 2000). The benefits of digital technologies are not, however, enjoyed universally because other communities have limited or no access to such technologies (Wong et al. 2009; Bagula et al. 2011; Gomez 2018). To make digital opportunities a reality to many people, political will and investments in information technology infrastructure have been singled out as a necessity (Koss 2001) for achieving wider access. However, access is only one part of the digital divide puzzle (Lloyd et al. 2000; Bach et al. 2013). Bach, Shaffer and Wolfson (2013) hold that universal access and computer literacy are not the keys to ending

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the digital divide. For instance, Wong et  al. (2009) postulate that any strategy to bridge the digital gap should go beyond offering public access and training. They observed, among other barriers in Taiwan, that areas that provided free access to the public were not convenient and friendly enough for those disadvantaged to become regular ICT users. Accordingly, discussion of the digital divide is more complex when quality of internet usage becomes part of that discussion. This, therefore, entails a discussion of the digital divide that moves beyond the first level ‘access divide’ and takes into account levels two and three of the digital divide. For that reason, the Digital Human Capital framework holds promise as it calls for a more rigorous and grounded response to the digital divide, making sure that communities have quality access but also that they possess the tools and skills to use the internet for social change. The framework proposes that participants to computer training workshops need to achieve four outcomes whose achievement is facilitated by four project values and competencies. Table  11.1 below details how the framework ought to be operationalized. The framework is structured in a way that demonstrates how participants to computer training achieve the four outcomes of civic engagement, influence on policy, social change, and economic advancement. The achievement of these outcomes in any training ought to be guided by four project values and competencies, namely, ideology/mission, partnerships, skills taught, and learning context. The framework is intended to serve two roles. First, it serves as a measurement tool for evaluating digital inclusion initiatives, particularly government-funded efforts. Second, it can also be used to guide existing broadband access projects toward more meaningful and sustainable outcomes for low-income participants. This guidance is premised on the objective of moving ICTs beyond the first- and second-level digital divides to a focus on bridging the third-level ‘utility gap’. It is this latter part on which the present analysis of the digital divide in Malawi is grounded. In attempts to isolate who really benefits from investments in digital infrastructure reference is made to the project values and competencies as well as the outcomes. For instance, while other people live close to telecenters in Malawi, utilizing the same is a challenge because of (computer) illiteracy levels and erratic internet connectivity (Nyondo 2013). This finding is similar to what Lloyd, Given and Hellwig (2000) observe, when writing about Australia, that relative high costs and poor quality service available to rural dwellers exclude them from enjoying the full benefits of digital technologies. Clearly, even for those who utilize

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Table 11.1  A tool for applying a Digital Human Capital framework to digital inclusion initiatives Project values and competencies

Digital Human Digital Human Capital outcome: Capital outcome: Civic engagement Influence on policy

Ideology/ mission

To involve participants in community issues and to produce meaningful experiences and explore solutions

Partnerships Include advocates for technology, health, education, and economic advancement; governmental entities Skills taught Video recording and editing, blogging, photography, online social networking, website creation Learning Public context computing centers and existing social service infrastructure (e.g. libraries, community development corporations, recreation centers, senior centers)

Digital Human Capital outcome: Social change

To influence policy and push for reform benefitting marginalized communities

To push for significant changes in cultural values and norms, which currently disenfranchise groups Realize positive Collaborative impacts on a efforts to push broad cross-­ for inclusive section of groups social programs and concerns and policies

Storytelling on digital platforms, sharing videos with policymakers, online petitioning Public computing centers and existing social service infrastructure (e.g. libraries, community development corporations, recreation centers, senior centers)

Source: Bach, Shaffer and Wolfson (2013)

Video recording and editing, blogging, photography, online social networking, website creation Public computing centers and existing social service infrastructure (e.g. libraries, community development corporations, recreation centers, senior centers)

Digital Human Capital outcome: Economic advancement To create opportunities for living-wage jobs and personal educational goals

Collaborative efforts to push for education, skills training, and other opportunities for living-wage jobs

Relevant software programs, online job searching, electronic resume creation Public computing centers and existing social service infrastructure (e.g. libraries, community development corporations, recreation centers, senior centers)

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the telecenters in Malawi, which are embedded in existing social infrastructures, the existence of the necessary values and competences as espoused by the Digital Human Capital framework cannot be ascertained. The following section describes the methods and materials used.

Methods and Materials This chapter uses the Digital Human Capital framework to illuminate our analysis of digital inequalities with a specific focus on factors that affect access and use of ICTs. We contend that these factors are likely to shape user experiences of the quality of use. In doing this we look at formal and specific ICT service-related knowledge. We further look at the differences brought about by income and geographical location (rural and urban). To achieve our objective we analyze data obtained from various official published sources, namely, the Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM), the National Statistical Office (NSO), and the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). The RBM, which is Malawi’s central bank, publishes data on financial services and uptake of electronic payments. The NSO publishes all kinds of survey-based statistics. In 2015 it published results of a survey on access and usage of ICT services in Malawi which it conducted in liaison with the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA). The survey captured individual and household data and information on critical ICT indicators as defined by the ITU and the World Summit on Information Society (WSIS). The ITU, as the United Nations’ specialized agency for information and communication technologies, is the official source of global ICT statistics. Indicators included in its database cover fixed telephone, mobile-cellular, fixed and mobile-broadband services, quality of service, ICT prices, revenue, investment, and data on ICT access and use by households and individuals. It also includes selected demographic and macro-economic statistics.

The Malawi Context Malawi has a population of 17,563,749 people, which represents a 35 percent increase in population between 2008 and 2018 (NSO 2018). The country’s population is predominantly rural based with 84 percent of the country’s population living in rural areas. The report further states that 51 percent of Malawi’s population is under the age of 18. The average

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household size is at 4.4 persons per household, a marginal drop from 4.6 in 2008 (NSO 2018). The country has a dependency ratio of 1.2, implying that there are 0.2 more economically inactive persons for every economically active person. The dependency ratio is high in the rural areas at 1.3 compared to urban areas at 0.9 (NSO 2017). The Fourth Integrated Household Survey (IHS4) 2016–2017 reports that a large proportion of the population in Malawi—61 percent—experienced high food insecurity during the week prior to being interviewed for the survey (NSO 2017). The challenge implied by these statistics in digital inclusion initiatives is that it is difficult for food insecure people to invest in self-upliftment and sustainably pay for ICT services. Malawi is reported to have had the world’s fourth-lowest gross domestic product (GDP) per capita of US $372, in 2016 (IMF 2017). The IMF reports that Malawi’s economic growth has been relatively strong between 2003 and 2014, averaging 5.5 percent per  annum, but slowed significantly to 2.8 percent in 2015 and 2.5 percent in 2016 (ibid.). Geographically, Malawi is a land-locked, low-income country located in southern Africa and shares borders with Tanzania (to the North and Northeast), Zambia (to the West), and Mozambique (to the East, South, and Southwest). Figure 11.1 shows Malawi’s geo-location. Concerning literacy and education, the Fourth Integrated Household Survey (IHS4) 2016–2017 reports that 73 percent of the population aged 15 years and over is literate. In terms of geographical distribution, 90 percent of the population aged 17 years and over is literate, compared to 68 percent in rural areas. The survey further reports that 70 percent of the population aged 15  years and above did not have any qualification. Additionally, 78 percent of the population aged 15  years and above in rural areas had no qualification compared to 40 percent in urban areas (NSO and ICF 2017). In terms of the policy and legal environment, Malawi has over the years enacted several policies to foster the utilization of ICTs and bridge in-­ country digital divide. Key national policies and legal instruments developed over the years, which promote and guide utilization of ICTs, include the 2006 Malawi National ICT4D policy (GoM 2006), the 2013 National ICT Policy (GoM 2013), the 2016 Communications Act, the 2016 E-Transactions Act, the National Access to Information Policy, the Malawi Digital Broadcasting Policy, the 2015 Malawi National Health Information System Policy (MoH 2015), the Malawi National eHealth Strategy

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Fig. 11.1  Location of Malawi

(2011–2016; MoH 2014), the 2018 National Agricultural Investment Plan (NAIP), and the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MGDS) III (GoM 2017). MGDS III is Malawi’s overarching medium-term development plan. The strategy has ICT infrastructure among its priority areas. It seeks to develop a safe, affordable, reliable, equitable ICT infrastructure, through the following outcomes: increased access to information and communications services; a well-developed ICT broadband infrastructure service provision; increased stock of ICT-skilled and industry ready workforce in public and private sector institutions (GoM 2017). The Malawi National eHealth Strategy (MoH 2014) and the Malawi National Health Information System Policy (MoH 2015) seek to guide

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ICT investments in health and empower citizens regarding the use of their health data. The 2016 Communications Act and the 2016 E-Transactions Act serve as regulatory and legal instruments within a growing environment of ICT investments and related regulatory and legal challenges. The 2013 National ICT Policy serves as the overarching policy that guides ICT investment and related policy development in the country. The ICT4D Policy has focused on eight thematic areas; namely: Strategic ICT Leadership, ICT in Human Capital Development, ICT in Governance, ICT’s Growth Sectors as identified in Malawi Economic Growth Strategy (MEGS), ICT Infrastructure Development, Community Access to ICTs, and responsive ICT Legal and Institutional regulatory framework (GoM 2006). It should be pointed out that the drafted ICT4D policy has had little impact in the way of shaping ICT investment and utilization in the country. Malawi faces challenges in the implementation of ICT policies due to gaps in policy planning, knowledge, and practice, as well as dependence on international donors in policy development and implementation (Kunyenje and Chigona 2019).

Findings Systematic tracking of ICT statistics in Malawi is challenging, as the country lacks a coherent, reliable, and up-to-date ICT database. The country lacks a unit focused on maintaining consistent ICT statistics. The country’s telecommunications regulator has an ICT for Development Department, to promote access to, and utilization of ICTs, but this too does not produce consistent ICT statistics, except for a detailed survey on access and usage of ICT services, conducted in 2014. More recently, the 2018 Malawi Population and Housing Census (PHC) report, released in May 2019, provides more updated ICT statistics. The report gives the following household statistics, at the time of the census: 51.7 percent had a mobile phone, 33.6 percent had a radio, 11.8 percent had a television, 4.2 percent had a computer/laptop/tablet, and 16.4 percent had an access to the internet (NSO 2019). The PHC report also indicates variations in access to ICTs across Malawi’s three regions— Northern, Central, and Southern. However, the PHC does not provide more disaggregated detail, rural versus urban or household versus individual level access to ICT, for example. It should be noted that access to ICTs is lower when one considers statistics at individual level, as reported

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in a 2015 national ICT survey (NSO 2015). There are also considerable urban versus rural disparities in access to ICTs. For example, according to the 2015 survey report, 85.1 percent and 40.2 percent of urban and rural households had access to mobile phones, respectively. These figures reduce to 69.4 and 29.2 percent, when considered at rural level. Tables 11.2 and 11.3 provide an overview of key statistics regarding access to ICT equipment/services for households and individuals. From the statistics above, it is clear that the rural-urban digital divide remains far from being eliminated. Additionally, it is apparent that generally many Malawians remain excluded from ICT services. The 2015 survey report (ibid.) shows that 64 percent of individuals and 54.5 percent households that were sampled had no access to mobile phones, a device considered as key to bridging the digital divide in low-income countries. Although the 2018 Malawi Population and Housing Census (NSO 2019) suggests a downward shift in the number of households without a mobile phone—48.3 percent—this number is quite high. Furthermore, the very low number of households with access to a computer/laptop/tablet (4.2 percent) and the internet (16.4 percent) means a majority of Malawians can still not ably participate in the information society. Investments ICT is widely recognized as a key enabler for development even in resource-constrained developing economies such as Malawi. The Malawi Growth and Development Strategy III (MGDS III: 2017–2022; GoM 2017) considers ICT as one of the key priority areas. The strategy recognizes that access to safe, affordable, and sustainable ICT is critical toward enhancing the economic competitiveness of the country. The above recognition notwithstanding, ICT continues to face several challenges that include affordability, cost of ICT services, and sporadic provision of services (Kapondera and Namusanya 2017). To this end, although Malawi is considerably investing in national ICT infrastructure and services aimed at empowering those that are marginalized, it is recognized that the potential of marginalizing those with little or no access to ICT remains high. Such a scenario is common across the Sub-Saharan Africa region. As Nour (2017) puts it, although the number of mobile-­ broadband subscriptions has increased 15-fold over the past six years in Africa, trends in the digital divide are still worrying. Such increases in subscriptions need not mask the Malawi case whose tele-density of 19

Numbers 12,000 1420 10,580

Source: NSO (2015)

Malawi Urban Rural

Total

% 45.5 85.1 40.2

% 1.0 4.2 0.5

% 44.5 61.7 42.2

Mobile phone Fixed phone Radio % 10.9 46.3 6.2

Television % 2.9 17.8 0.9

Pay TV % 1.4 8.2 0.5

Desktop computer % 2.6 16.1 0.8

Laptop

% 6.5 29.4 3.4

Internet

% 2.3 5.6 1.9

Family postal address

Table 11.2  Households’ access of ICT equipment/services, access, and usage of ICT services survey, 2014

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Numbers 12,000 1428 10,572

Source: NSO (2015)

Malawi Urban Rural

Total

% 34.0 69.4 29.2

% 3.2 6.4 2.8

% 65.3 61.8 65.7

% 96.0 97.4 95.8

% 17.7 58.4 12.2

% 4.1 19.2 2.1

% 6.9 25.4 4.4

% 5.6 24.3 3.0

% 16.1 30.1 14.3

Mobile phone Public phone Owns radio Listens to radio Watches TV Computer Mobile money Internet Postal service

Table 11.3  Individuals’ access of ICT equipment/services, access, and usage of ICT services survey, 2014

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percent is below the SADC regional average of 40 percent (GoM 2017). Part of the Malawi Government’s solution to deal with challenges in ICT is to increase coverage and utilization of ICT by ensuring universal access to ICT infrastructure, as well as policy and legal frameworks that facilitate investments in ICT. Further investments may be required in other sectors because other challenges facing ICT access and utilization include literacy, little content in local languages, frequent power outages, and cost of services in most low-income communities (Kapondera and Namusanya 2017; Mothobi et al. 2018). Device Access Malawi has experienced an exponential growth in mobile-cellular telephone subscriptions, rising from 0.43 subscriptions per 100 inhabitants in 2000 to 41.74 subscriptions per 100 inhabitants in 2017 (ITU 2019). This growth is partly due to the availability of affordable mobile phones on the market, made available by mobile telephony providers. In terms of other devices, only 1.4 and 2.6 percent of Malawians own a desktop computer and laptop, respectively (NSO 2015). Figure  11.2 depicts the growth in mobile-cellular subscriptions between 2000 and 2017. It should be noted that inasmuch as Malawi has made significant progress in mobile-cellular subscription, considerable disparities and challenges remain. A 2014 survey on access and usage of ICT services in Malawi (NSO 2015), which sampled 12,000 households, indicates that only 30 percent of individuals had phones capable of browsing the internet. There were also urban-rural disparities, as well as disparities across people with different levels of education. Forty-nine percent of individuals in the urban areas reported to have mobile phones with internet browsing facilities, compared to only 24 in rural areas. A key implication of these findings is that phones with no internet access cannot support app or web-based services, which generally provide more features and a better user experience. People with phones that have no internet are restricted to using Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) apps, which provide basic text-based interfaces and have time-out period of 180 seconds. With regard to education, more households headed by people with upper secondary or tertiary education had mobile phones capable of browsing internet than those in the other levels of education (NSO 2015). Access to devices, and the possibilities that these hold for bringing

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Fig. 11.2  Mobile-cellular telephone subscriptions per 100 inhabitants. (Source: ITU 2019)

connectivity to individuals and communities, has opened up opportunities for underserved communities. Cases in point are the potential that these have in education and banking which are highlighted below. Referring to education, Malawi faces significant challenges in trying to educate its population. Only 5 percent of females and 9 percent of males have completed secondary school or gone beyond secondary school (NSO and ICF 2017). These figures have implications on access to ICT facilities particularly those that are school-based. Challenges facing the education system include overcrowding in classes and weak management of education data, for longitudinal tracking of learner progress (Pitchford 2015) and guiding policy formulation. To mitigate such challenges, the country has trialed digital technology-supported learning in some schools, using tablets (Kucirkova 2014; Pitchford 2015). It has been observed that: Even in crowded or outside classrooms, mobile technologies, such as tablets, can deliver one-to-one interactive instruction, with clear objectives, in a consistent manner to all children, thus equating teaching quality across pupils. Children can repeat material as often as they need, thus the pace of learning is tailored to individual needs. Individual progress can also be monitored objectively and easily, using assessments built into the software. (Pitchford 2015: 2)

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Despite the potential of technology-aided interventions in enhancing teaching and learning, there are considerable challenges that need to be overcome if such interventions are to be scaled-up. First, a limitation with the reported studies is that they were conducted in urban areas, which are generally advantaged compared to underserved rural communities. Interventions such as those reported are also dependent on donor support; hence, scaling-up and sustainability become a challenge. Beyond the initial investment in hardware, such as tablets, there is need to fund maintenance and upgrading over time to ensure sustainability. It is also important to develop teachers’ IT capacity and also make available advanced IT capacity, to support technology-aided learning (Pitchford 2015). Rural schools are also likely to face significant challenges in the adoption of technology-­supported learning due to very low access rates to electricity. The rural access rate to electricity stands at 1 percent (USAID 2018). According to Bagula et al. (2011), poorly developed electrical distribution networks contribute to the digital gap since there are inadequate electrical power facilities to support ICT infrastructure in the rural areas. Having looked at the potential that ICTs offer to education, we then examine the promise and potential that ICTs provide to financial inclusion. Exclusion from the formal financial system is an impediment toward ending poverty (Donovan 2012; Finscope 2014). In Malawi large sections of the population remain unbanked and financially excluded (Madise 2014) such that two-third of Malawians lack formal financial services (FinMark Trust 2018). Other studies have also reported low levels of financial inclusion elsewhere (Akudugu 2013; Gabor and Brooks 2017). Lack of access to formal financial instruments limits poor people’s ability  to save, repay debts and manage risk responsibly (Donovan 2012), thereby compounding the third level of digital divide. In light of the above, digital financial inclusion, through non-bank services such as mobile money, have emerged as an enabler of greater financial inclusion (Berger 2009; Donovan 2012; Madise 2014), and a means to bridging the third level of digital divide (Ragnedda and Ruiu 2017; Gomez 2018). Malawi has experienced an exponential growth in mobile-­ cellular telephone subscriptions, rising from 0.43 subscriptions per 100 inhabitants, in 2000, to 41.74 subscriptions per 100 inhabitants, in 2017 (ITU 2019). The growth in mobile telephony subscription and international commitments such as subscription to the Maya Declarations, by the Reserve

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Bank of Malawi, has spurred growth of mobile money services to enhance financial inclusion. By December 2018, it was reported that the number of registered subscribers for Mobile Network Operators (MNO)-led mobile payments had risen to 5.6 million, representing an increase of 6.8 percent from the previous quarter. Tables 11.4 and 11.5 and Fig.  11.3 depict the distribution of mobile payments by volume of transactions and money transacted.

Table 11.4  Percentage contribution to total volume of mobile money transactions by type Cash in/out Airtime top up Peer to peer Utility payments Merchant payments B2B transactions Bank push/pull Loan repayments Third-party payments International remittances Other

40.6 42.3 6.5 4.2 3 1.5 1 0.2 0.2 0 0.4

Source: Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM 2018)

Table 11.5  Percentage contribution to total value of mobile money transactions by type Cash in/out Airtime top up Peer to peer Utility payments Merchant payments B2B transactions Bank push/pull Loan repayments Third-party payments International remittances Other Source: Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM 2018)

57.15 2.4 8.46 1.41 2.52 23.05 3.03 0.06 0.18 0.33 1.4

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Fig. 11.3  Mobile money transactions—fourth quarter 2018

The Reserve Bank of Malawi reports that despite the growth in Mobile money subscriptions, activity rates for subscribers continue to be low. Only 41.1 percent of the mobile money subscribers used the service during the fourth quarter of 2018 (Reserve Bank of Malawi [RBM] 2018). From the data provided, it can also be observed that the majority of transactions are cash in/out transactions, implying that the current structuring and use of mobile money services do little to encourage a culture of saving. A fundamental expectation of financial inclusion initiatives is to encourage savings among the poor (Donovan 2012). The failure to meet this expectation is a failure to bridge what Ragnedda and Ruiu (2017) call the ‘third level of the digital divide’ which focuses on the off-line outcomes and benefits that people get by using digital technologies. Despite the positive outlook narrated above, disparities in the utilization of mobile money services are rife. First, there is a gender-gap in subscriptions to mobile money services, with more male subscribers than females, although Malawi has more females (51 percent) than males. Second, the distribution of mobile agents remains heavily skewed toward urban and semi-urban areas, as 77 percent of them are in urban and semi-­ urban areas (Reserve Bank of Malawi [RBM] 2018). This is despite the fact that 84 percent of Malawi’s population resides in rural areas (NSO 2018).

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Who Benefits the Most from Digital Technologies? The Digital Human Capital framework offers a number of options for countries that seek to bridge the digital divide. Access to digital technologies at the earliest opportunity is one option. As a country, Malawi is making strides on access. From rural ICT centers to a subject in computers/ ICT in secondary schools that is examinable at school leaving certificate (equivalent to O-level exams) it is possible to extend the reach to those in primary schools. As things stand, the majority of students in secondary schools remain excluded in ICT by structural barriers. Only a select, elite schools that are beyond the reach of most Malawians can boast of tangible access to ICT either as part of their curricula or as teaching aids. Differences emerge when students start their university education. Anecdotes, provided by academics in the Computer Science Department at the University of Malawi’s Chancellor College, show that even among Computer Science majors those that come from privileged backgrounds and privileged secondary schools are ahead of their colleagues in their grasp of ICT knowledge. While policies exist to facilitate and safeguard inclusion initiatives the challenge remains one of financing these initiatives locally. Most notable initiatives are donor funded, through international development partners, thereby raising questions of sustainability. In view of the foregoing it is clear to see that many people remain behind and are still playing a catch­up game as far as benefits of ICT are concerned. When utilized correctly ICT eases the burden of providing some social services to communities living in low-income hard-to-reach areas. Financial inclusion through mobile money services is a case in point. However, there is a lot more that remains untapped by most communities owing to a myriad of factors. For a country that remains among the poorest in the world a lot has to be done to deal with the digital divide. While investments have been made, and continue to be made, there are still sections of the population that do not benefit fully from the promises of the digital age. Literacy levels, income levels, and geographical location are some of the factors implicated in the in-country digital divide in Malawi, leaving many behind. Clearly, more investments are required not only in ICT infrastructure but also in training the population in ICT utilization that is shaped or guided by clear values and competencies, as well as outcomes. To this end applying the Digital Human Capital framework would be a good starting

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point in determining the deliverables of any ICT training initiatives. When training providers talk of ICT training, such training should be more nuanced to result in ICT literacy that is more specific. For instance, given the cyber-security threats in mobile money initiatives, awareness of such risks and how to deal with them should form a part of the skills set of an ICT literate person, or if the objective of the ICT training is to enable people to civically engage then raising an online petition would be  an example of more nuanced skills to be acquired. In addition to skills required for optimal utilization of ICT, investment in hardware such as phones is an important consideration. Gadgets are an important means to access ICT. However, as it has been shown above, type and quality of the devices determine type and quality of services that one can access. In the majority of cases in Malawi individuals own phones that are not capable of browsing the internet. Such phones cannot support app- or web-based services thereby excluding owners from many ICT services that rely heavily on internet connectivity. Another key factor in the in-country digital divide is geographical location. One’s physical location becomes an important consideration alongside energy services, network coverage, and education. These factors exacerbate the rural-urban digital divide by excluding many in rural areas from accessing the majority of ICT services. For instance, although Malawi has established telecenters in order to bridge the rural-urban digital divide multiple challenges continue to limit utilization of these centers by rural communities, in a manner akin to the second level of the digital divide (Ragnedda and Ruiu 2017; Gomez 2018). Kapondera and Namusanya (2017) cite inadequate facilities, slow internet connection, high cost for some services, lack of internet searching skills, lack of support when using telecenters, and poor telecenter staff attitude toward users as some the challenges that telecenter users face. Effectively, the majority of Malawians in rural areas remain excluded from off-line outcomes and benefits that people get by using digital technologies (Gomez 2018). With regard to the benefits of usage of internet, it is clear that most poor people do not have the financial capacity to do so. Currently, one gigabyte of unlimited day bundle1,2 costs 1800 Malawi Kwacha (MK) (US $2.50) while the minimum wage is at MK 962 (US $1.33). This implies that a one-day gigabyte costs 187 percent of the daily minimum wage, which the poor can  https://www.tnm.co.mw/smart-data  https://www.airtel.mw/internetservice/databundle

1 2

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only use if they do not borrow beyond their daily entitlement. In other words, despite access to phones which can enable internet usage, the internet itself is beyond their reach.

Conclusion Digital technological advancements have come with them promises of inclusion for marginalized groups. However, the inclusion dream is far from being realized, particularly for developing countries such as Malawi. This chapter discusses the digital divide in the context of Malawi as shaped by education, income, and location. It focuses on such interventions as the development of telecenters and financial inclusion through mobile money initiatives. These examples are selected as they are common in other developing countries as a basis for narrowing the digital divide, particularly the first (access gap) and the third (utility gap) levels of digital divides. With regard to internet access it is observed that although it is generally expected that diffusion of mobile phones would enhance access to digital content there has been little progress in that direction. For example, NSO (2019) shows that 51.7 percent of households have mobile phones while only 16.4 percent have internet access. Furthermore, the chapter shows that people in urban areas and those with higher level of education are more likely to have phones with access to the internet and likely to benefit more from what ICTs offer. Similar observations have been made elsewhere outside Malawi. Although it is generally thought that telecenters would bridge the urban-rural digital divide the chapter shows that education and income are the important factors to consider. For instance, with most content in English, those with low levels of education are less likely to benefit from telecenters. Furthermore, low levels of income in rural areas restrict access and utilization of telecenters. Finally, the use of mobile money services has emerged as a key enabler for financial inclusion for unbanked rural communities. Such interventions have also exposed target beneficiary to fraud. Education and legal instruments are, therefore, seen as key in mitigating such challenges. To this end, the chapter also covers policy and legal instruments meant to enhance access and utilization of ICTs, thereby effectively drawing upon the recommendations of the Digital Human Capital framework in the way that interventions are designed.

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References Achieng, S. (2017). What Will It Take to Bridge Africa’s Digital Divide? Available at https://thenextweb.com/africa/2017/06/23/digital-divide-is-stillcommon-in-afrika-despite-rapid-growth-if-information-technology/ Akudugu, M.  A. (2013). The Determinants of Financial Inclusion in Western Africa: Insights from Ghana. Research Journal of Finance and Accounting, 4(8), 1–9. Antonio, A., & Tuffley, D. (2014). The Gender Digital Divide in Developing Countries. Future Internet, 6(4), 673–687. Available at https://www.google. com/url?q=https://www.mdpi.com/1999-5903/6/4/673/htm?utm_ content%3Dbufferd7352%26utm_medium%3Dsocial%26utm_source% 3Dtwitter.com%26utm_campaign%3Dbuffer&sa=D&ust=156024482431000 0&usg=AFQjCNHYydDFI6dqNsT5x_pzKuykqNb4uw Bach, A., Shaffer, G., & Wolfson, T. (2013). Digital Human Capital: Developing a Framework for Understanding the Economic Impact of Digital Exclusion in Low Income Communities. Journal of Information Policy, 3, 247–266. Bagula, A., et al. (2011). Bridging the Digital Divide: A Technology Perspective. Wireless Communication and Information, 7–28.  http://wireless.ictp.it/ Papers/WCI2011.pdf Berger, E. (2009). Expanding Outreach in Malawi: OIBM’s Efforts to Launch a Mobile Phone Banking Program. Washington, DC: SEEP Network. Bornman, E. (2016). Information Society and Digital Divide in South Africa. Information, Communication & Society, 19(2), 264–278. Donovan, K. (2012). Mobile Money for Financial Inclusion. Information and Communications for Development, 61(1), 61–73. FinMark Trust. (2018). Malawi Digital Financial ID Feasibility Assessment. FinMark Trust. Somerville, MA. USA. Finscope. (2014). FinScope Consumer Survey Malawi 2014. FinMark Trust. Available at http://www.finance.gov.mw/fspu/index.php/studies-reportsfspu/completed-studies/53-2014-finscope-malawi-consumer-survey/file Gabor, D., & Brooks, S. (2017). The Digital Revolution in Financial Inclusion: International Development in the Fintech Era. New Political Economy, 22(4), 423–436. GoM. (2006). Malawi National ICT for Development (ICT4D) Policy. Lilongwe: Government of Malawi. Available at http://unpan1.un.org/intradoc/groups/ public/documents/unpan/unpan033688.pdf GoM. (2013). Malawi National ICT Policy. Lilongwe: Government of Malawi. Available at http://www.macra.org.mw/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/ Malawi-ICT-Policy-2013.pdf GoM. (2017). The Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MGDS) III. Lilongwe: Government of Malawi. Available at https://www.undp.org/ content/dam/malawi/docs/UNDP_Malawi_MGDS)%20III.pdf

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Gomez, D. C. (2018). The Three Levels of the Digital Divide: Barriers in Access, Use and Utility of Internet Among Young People in Spain. Interacoes: Sociedadee as Novas Modernidades, 34, 64–91. IMF. (2017). Malawi: Economic Development Document. Washington, DC: International Monetary Fund. ITU. (2019). Country ICT Data (Until 2018): Malawi. Country ICT Data (Until 2018). 2019th edn. International Telecommunications Union. Available at https://www.itu.int/en/ITU-D/Statistics/Documents/statistics/2018/ Mobile_cellular_2000-2017_Dec2018.xls Kapondera, S. K., & Namusanya, D. M. (2017). Uses, Benefits and Challenges of Using Rural Community Telecentres as Tools for Development: The Case of Vikwa Community Telecentre in Kasungu, Malawi. Journal of Development and Communication Studies, 5(1), 1–21. Korupp, S., & Szydlik, M. (2005). Causes and Trends of the Digital Divide. European Sociological Review, 21(4), 409–422. Koss, F. A. (2001). Children Falling into the Digital Divide. Journal of International Affairs, 55(1), 75–90. Kucirkova, N. (2014). iPads in Early Education: Separating Assumptions and Evidence. Frontiers in Psychology, 5, 715. Kunyenje, G., & Chigona, W. (2019). External Actors in Forming National ICT Policy in Malawi: A Case for Concern in Low-Income Countries? The African Journal of Information Systems, 11(1), 2. Lloyd, R., Given, J., & Hellwig, O. (2000). The Digital Divide: Some Explanations. Agenda, 7(4), 345–358. Madise, S. (2014). Payment Systems and Mobile Money in Malawi: Towards Financial Inclusion and Financial Integrity. ANULJ, 2(2), 71–96. Available at https://ssrn.com/abstract=2531319 MoH. (2014). The Malawi National eHealth Strategy (2011–2016). Ministry of Health. Available at https://www.who.int/goe/policies/malawi_ehealth_ strategy2011_2016.pdf MoH. (2015). Malawi National Health Information System Policy. Lilongwe: Ministry of Health (MoH). Available at https://www.healthdatacollaborative. o rg / f i l e a d m i n / u p l o a d s / h d c / D o c u m e n t s / C o u n t r y _ d o c u m e n t s / September_2015_Malawi_National_Health_Information_System_Policy.pdf Mothobi, O., Chair, C., & Rademan, B. (2018). SADC Not Bridging the Digital Divide. Available at https://www.africaportal.org/features/ sadc-not-bridging-digital-divide/ Nour, S. S. M. (2017). Africa Bridging the Digital Divides. NAI Policy Note No. 4. NSO. (2015). Survey on Access and Usage of ICT Services in Malawi. Zomba: National Statistical Office. Available at http://10.150.35.18:6510/www. macra.org.mw/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Survey_on-_Access_and_ Usage_of_ICT_Services_2014_Report.pdf

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CHAPTER 12

Digital Inequality and Language Diversity: An Ethiopic Case Study Isabelle A. Zaugg

Introduction An often-overlooked facet of digital inequality is how language creates barriers for speakers of non-dominant languages. Digital technology was originally developed within the context of English. While support for other languages has expanded, this has been largely market-driven, excluding language communities too small or poor to incentivize commercial development of supports. There are approximately 7000 languages spoken today, and 98% of them are digitally disadvantaged, meaning they are not supported by the dominant operating systems, browsers, applications, and devices (Unicode, Inc. 2015). Computational linguist András Kornai (2013) estimates that at most 5% of languages will attain “digital vitality.” A lack of digital support for the vast majority of languages prevents their speakers from the full use and benefit of digital technologies. For speakers of digitally disadvantaged languages who are bilingual in a globally I. A. Zaugg (*) Data Science Institute, Institute for Comparative Literature and Society, Columbia University, New York, NY, USA e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2020 M. Ragnedda, A. Gladkova (eds.), Digital Inequalities in the Global South, Global Transformations in Media and Communication Research - A Palgrave and IAMCR Series, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-32706-4_12

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dominant language, the lack of digital support for their mother tongue incentivizes them to instead use a well-supported second language such as English when communicating via digital devices  (Benjamin 2016). This pattern of language choices in the digital sphere suggests that digital technologies are contributing to rapidly declining language and script diversity in the Global South. For monolingual speakers of digitally disadvantaged languages, the lack of digital support for their language may be an insurmountable barrier to many types of digital use. This chapter investigates the digital vitality of Ethiopian and Eritrean languages, within the wider African context. It concludes with policy recommendations and best practices to make digital tools accessible to a broader swath of linguistically diverse users. This chapter also considers how language diversity should be considered in relation to a theoretical framework of first-level, second-­ level, and third-level digital divides, while expanding the term “digital inequality” to encompass the ways in which digital tools are exacerbating offline forms of inequality, such as the rapid extinction of minority and Indigenous languages.

Digital Inequality and Language Diversity The term “digital inequality” represents an understanding that barriers to the use and benefit of digital tools exist on a spectrum, and are interrelated with other socio-economic disparities (Hargittai 2003; Robinson et  al. 2015; Stiakakis et  al. 2009). The term seeks to encompass scholars’ increasingly complex understanding of the many “digital divides” that separate the digital haves from the have-nots. Scholars have developed a theoretical framework for understanding these barriers by categorizing them in three levels. The first-level digital divide represents gaps in access to Internet and the tools required to harness it (van Deursen and van Dijk 2019). Second-level issues include gaps in digital skills (Hargittai 2002) and self-perceptions that limit digital activity (Robinson et al. 2015). The third-level digital divide captures the divergent outcomes and benefits that different individuals and communities are able to garner from digital use (van Deursen and Helsper 2015; Ragnedda 2017), while Burri (2011) argues that accessing relevant content within cyberspace is the third-level barrier. Gaps in digital support for the vast majority of languages are a digital divide issue, but their place in this framework depends upon our assumptions about the relationship of technology to human diversity. We could

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consider knowledge of a globally dominant language like English, which enjoys the highest level of digital support, to be a second-level digital divide “skill” that one must master to fully utilize digital tools. This, far too often, is the de facto assumption globally. Alternatively, as I would propose, we could elevate the idea that tools should be adapted to accommodate users rather than the other way around. In this case, gaps in support for language diversity fall under the first-level digital divide umbrella of “access,” paralleling arguments that digital tools should meet the needs of people with disabilities. Bridging this first-level digital divide will require the development of both language-specific tools, such as keyboards, and virtual infrastructure, such as software support for diverse scripts. Furthermore, considering that language barriers at the level of input and word-processing impact the ability to publish, find, and view content in a particular language, the linguistic digital divide can further be characterized as also falling within the third-level rubric, in Burri’s (2011) conception.

Digital Inequality and Language Diversity in Africa and the Wider Global South This full spectrum of digital inequality is relevant within the African context, starting from the foundational issue of Internet access. Internet penetration across Africa reached 35.9% in March of 2019, compared to a world average of 56.1% (“Internet Penetration in Africa” 2019). The Global South is home to rich language diversity, with Africa and Asia home to nearly two-thirds of all languages (“Ethnologue, Languages of the World” n.d.). I use “Global South” here as framed by De Sousa Santos (2016), extending to disadvantaged communities within the Global North. For example, rich language diversity among Indigenous communities in Australia and the U.S.A. fits squarely into this Global South frame. Africa is home to 2140 languages, 30% of the global total (“Ethnologue, Languages of the World” n.d.). While African languages are used at local, regional, and in some cases national levels, European former-colonial languages French, English, and Portuguese coexist and often dominate as lingua franca, the language of education and professional spheres, and in many cases as national languages across the continent. While in 1989 an estimated 90% of Africans had “no knowledge of the official language of their country even though it is presumed to be the vehicle of

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communication between the government and its citizens” (Mackey quoted in Romaine 2013, p.8), mastery of European languages remains a matter of wealth and privilege reserved for the elite even in the current era (Thicke 2012). In this context, it is clear that unless digital technologies provide robust support for Indigenous African languages, many Africans will not be able to fully benefit from them. Moreover, Luis Morais (2016) warns that “almost all African languages are endangered” due to users’ abandonment of them in favor of European languages in more and more domains for lack of digital support. It is also important to note the role of development activities in the context of the linguistic digital divide. Digital technologies have been hailed as tools for development, as characterized by the field of Information and Communications Technologies for Development, known more commonly as ICT4D, ICTD, or ITD, with linguistically diverse Global South communities as primary targets. While many ICT4D projects aim to bridge the first-level digital divide of access to digital tools, too often the step of localizing tools to a community’s language(s) is neglected (Fierbaugh 2017). This is symptomatic of the development field’s wider failure to understand mother tongues as essential to development goals (Romaine 2013, 2015, 2018; Mberia 2015). Even in the field of education, where multilingual mother tongue education has strong support from experts (Ball 2014; Benson 2014; Bühmann and Trudell 2008; Coleman 2011). There are signs that understanding and intention may be shifting. During the 2019 UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, a joint International Telecommunication Union and UNESCO event proposed: “ICTs can serve as a key tool for the empowerment of indigenous peoples, but only when the knowledge and digital economies are accessible in their own languages.” To have lasting impact on resolving linguistic digital inequality, this understanding must become common practice, spanning language communities, governments, the tech sector, development agencies, academia, and digital governance institutions.

Theoretical Framework What theories help us understand the relationship of language diversity to technology, of technology to language choice, and of these paradigms to questions of equality? Science and technology scholar Langdon Winner argues that technological design orders human activity in ways that

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“enhance the power, authority, and privilege of some over others” (1980, p.  3). Digital technologies—developed by primarily English and other dominant language designers, with profit motives of companies based in the U.S. and a handful of countries—provide robust supports for only a few languages, driving digitally disadvantaged language speakers towards what Mary Louise Pratt calls “languages of power” (2019), in order to gain the benefits of technology. Winner notes that technical devices typically introduce multiple ways of ordering human activity; over time, these become increasingly limited by material equipment, social habit, and financial investment. Winner argues that digital design has grave linguistic, cultural, economic, and political impacts, and deserves scrutiny to ensure it is shaped for the public good. Digital technologies’ physical design and code make it easy, inconvenient, or impossible to use particular languages and scripts. For example, while Android’s operating system supports the Ethiopian language Amharic, the choice to switch from the English default requires enough English fluency to dig through a phone’s settings. Many users are left to type Amharic—normally written in the Ethiopic script—in the transliterated Latin alphabet, further complicated by having Amharic words “auto-­ corrected” to unintended English words. Reflecting Winner’s concerns, we can see that a technology’s design will either create or ameliorate linguistic barriers for digitally disadvantaged language users.

Language Extinction and the Role of Digital Technology Linguists predict that between 34% (Temperton 2015), 50% (Harrison 2007), and 90% (Kraus 1992) of global languages face extinction this century. Factors include histories of colonization, global media, and transportation, oppression of linguistic minorities, and urbanization. Scholars are concerned that gaps in digital support may also be playing an increasing role in these patterns of language shift (Kornai 2013; Rehm 2014; Zaugg 2017, 2019). Multilingualism is common in many Global South communities, with different languages used within different domains (Fasold 1991; Fishman 1965, 1968). Linguists characterize as “high” those languages used in formal, professional, and educational domains, and “low” those used in private, familial, and personal domains (Fasold 1991, pp.  183–185).

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Language extinction is a process in which a “high” language, or what Bob Holman calls a “bully language” (Grubin 2015), replaces a “low” language within even the most personal domains. When the lack of a user-­ friendly mobile keyboard makes “low” personal domains of digital communication like texting/SMS or social media more convenient in a “high” language like English rather than an Indigenous African language, we see this type of shift happening in the digital sphere. András Kornai (2013) coined the term “digital extinction” to describe this process, delineating three prongs. First, when functions like email or texting are impossible or inconvenient in a person’s preferred language, those domains will be conducted in a well-supported “high” language. Alternatively, users may transliterate their language into the Latin script, because the QWERTY keyboard is typically default. In this case, the Amharic name ቴዎድሮስ might be spelled Teodros, Theodros, or Tewodros. Spelling inconsistencies make this approach haphazard, confusing readers and making functions like “search,” be it on the Internet or one’s own computer desktop, far less effective (Zaugg 2019). Second, when a language is not well-supported digitally, its prestige drops. Digital technologies like smartphones and laptops not only play functional roles in society but also denote wealth, class, and prestige (Kornai 2013; Rehm 2014). Lack of prestige lowers the desire, especially of youth, to be seen using that language, potentially even offline. The fewer people use their mother tongue online, the less content there is in that language for others to consume, creating a vicious cycle fueled by a lack of motivation to be seen using a low-prestige language. Third is the gradual loss of competence in a language and/or script. Particularly youth still mastering a language lose competence in the script, spelling, and overall ability to communicate in their mother tongue, if they are not using it digitally (Kornai 2013; Rehm 2014). Again, this impacts not only language choices online, but overall language survival. Beyond function, prestige, and competence, I propose a fourth category, “logic.” Digital technologies’ robust support for only a few languages perpetuates the “logic” of language hierarchy stretching back at least to colonialism and the advent of nation-states (Liu 2015; Tada 2018). This logic pre-ordains some languages, particularly “national,” “colonial,” or “global” ones like English, as the languages of modernity. Within this logic, these languages’ provincial cousins, spoken by Indigenous and minority communities the world over, appear inevitably doomed to the dustbins of history. A widespread acceptance that language extinction is

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inevitable (McWhorter 2009), despite the fact that in many societies its roots have been carefully engineered in the past and/or present through policies and punishments that privilege some language speakers over others, saps societal motivation to support language diversity. A fundamental question is, why should we care if up to 90% of languages face extinction over the next century? Linguists David K. Harrison (2007) and Nicholas Evans (2010) have documented the toll that language decline and extinction take on affected communities. One is interruption of intergenerational communication. This fracture in communal life creates gaps in knowledge transfer, the pain of devalued heritage, and the loss of a sense of belonging (Harrison 2007). Such rifts may even be a contributing factor to youth radicalization (“Radicalisation,” 2016, p. 8). Language extinction also affects humankind overall; there is more knowledge within oral traditions than that written in books or posted online. Knowledge of ecosystems, including medicinal species and climate-­ specific agricultural practices, typically expires with a language, at the detriment of humankind’s toolset to face future challenges (Harrison 2007). Script abandonment also diminishes access to historical knowledge  (Liu 2015); a stunning example of script and language continuity’s potential to provide access to knowledge is Chinese Nobel Laureate Youyou Tu’s discovery. During her team’s study of classical Chinese texts, she identified that artemisinin is an effective malaria-fighting plant, causing a shift in drug development that is saving millions of lives (Hatton 2015). Although the appeal of English and other “languages of power” cannot be wholly attributed to digital technologies, technologies’ language bias is being mirrored in Global South societies, with considerable cost to learners’ dignity and finances, and perpetuating widening gaps between privileged and underprivileged. As digital infrastructure expands and more and more communication moves into the digital sphere, concerns such as Morais’ (2016) and Zaugg’s (2017), that digital abandonment of African languages and scripts will lead to their extinction, become more pressing. As such, I propose that we expand our definition of “digital inequality” beyond our current framework of unequal access to and benefit from digital tools. We must expand this term to encompass the offline impacts of the choices, language and otherwise, as well as the “logics” that digital technologies perpetuate to the benefit of some and the detriment of others. As Winner (1980) argues, we must consider who is negatively impacted by innovations, often the most vulnerable, and correct course in time before these technologies become entrenched and society bends to fit them.

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Ethiopic Case Study: Linguistic and Historical Context To better understand how digital inequality is playing out in the context of African language diversity, this chapter explores the instrumental case of the digital vitality of Ethiopia’s languages, as well as the Eritrean languages that share use of the Ethiopic script. Simons et al.’s (2017) digital vitality measurement framework, which builds upon the work of Kornai (2013), is utilized and expanded upon. Ethiopia is an ancient civilization, with recorded history dating to Genesis 2:13 (The Holy Bible: King James Version, 2004). In the third century A.D., Ethiopia’s Axum Empire was one of four ancient powers, alongside Persia, Rome, and China (The wealth of Africa: The kingdom of Aksum, 2011). Ge’ez was the language of the Axum Empire. Its script, known in the West as “Ethiopic,” passed down to modern Ethiopian and Eritrean languages, much as European languages inherited the Latin script. The earliest extant Ge’ez writing dates to the third century A.D., and Ge’ez documents number in the hundreds of thousands (Weninger 2005). What is reported as the oldest recorded Bible, written in Ge’ez, was recently found in Ethiopia (Wabai 2019; “Ethiopian Bible is oldest and most complete on earth,” 2016). This is not surprising considering Ethiopia’s history of Judeo-Christianity stretches back at least as far as the Axumite Queen of Sheba’s visit to King Solomon, Ge’ez’s inclusion among the 72 languages spoken through the Holy Spirit’s revelation at Pentecost (Memhir Tesfaye Shewaye 1994), and King Ezana’s fourth century official declaration of Christianity as the country’s religion (Wabai 2019). Ethiopia is home to 90 living languages (Eberhard et al. 2019), including Semitic, Omotic, Cushitic, and Nilo-Saharan language families. Around six had taken on written form by the early twentieth century, all written in Ethiopic (Haile 1996, p. 569). Other language communities in Ethiopia and Eritrea are currently in the process of building a writing tradition based on either Ethiopic, or more recently, the Latin script. After the 1991 fall of the Socialist Derg regime in Ethiopia, ethnic federalism was promoted, in which dominant ethnic groups were given a high degree of regional self-governance (Mamdani 2019). Soon thereafter, the Oromia regional government decided to switch written Oromo from the

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Ethiopic script to the Latin alphabet. This was a political move to distance ethnic Oromos linguistically from other Ethiopian language communities using Ethiopic (Yimam 1992). The decision was justified, among other arguments, by the statement that Latin is better supported by digital technologies (Yimam 1992). This example illustrates how digital technologies’ language and script biases support a “logic” that expands beyond the digital sphere into other arenas of governance. A number of other Cushitic and Omotic languages have followed Oromo’s suit. Some communities have flip-flopped or use both scripts in different contexts. The language-to-script relationships below are based on Ethnologue’s 2016 findings (Lewis et  al.). At times, script has been dictated as a top-down decision, such as the Eritrean government’s mandate that Blin switch from Ethiopic to Latin; yet digital tools and digital use evident for Blin remain in Ethiopic, which many members of that community still embrace. Some language communities straddle the Ethiopia-Eritrean border, such as Afar, written in Ethiopic in Ethiopia and Latin in Eritrea (Lewis et al. 2016). Amharic, written in Ethiopic, is Ethiopia’s “national language,” while English is classified as its “international language.” Ethiopia was never colonized, and thus has a more recent history of English education, compared to African countries that were one-time British colonies. While English is the language of instruction in secondary and postsecondary education, many other professional domains function in Amharic or regional languages. Ethiopia has become a model of government support for mother tongue education, with 60 languages taught in Ethiopian primary schools as of 2017 (የአፍ መፍቻና እንግሊዝኛ ቋንቋ ትምህርት ልማት ዳይሬክቶሬት 2017). The linguistic and political history of Ethiopia and Eritrea is united over centuries. Eritrea was historically part of the Axum Empire and Ethiopia, but was separated as a distinct territory by Italian colonialism from 1890–1947. When Italian rule ended, Eritrea was annexed to Ethiopia. In 1991, Eritrea became an independent country by referendum, following years of armed independence struggle. Eritrea is home to 15 languages, 9 of them Indigenous, with multiple “official” languages. The Ethiopic script is ideo-syllabic. Each character represents a syllable, but also a religious and numeric meaning rooted in the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church. Portrayed as a syllabic script in Western literature (e.g. Haile 1996), Ethiopic’s conceptual and numerical

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meanings, rooted in the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, have been notably absent in English-language scholarship. Widely documented in Ethiopia’s native literature (Tsigie 2017; WaqiGira 2016; Yineysew Zebihere Gojjam 1951), awareness of Ethiopic’s tri-level functioning remains relatively scarce among the scripts’ users today, other than primarily Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church priests, as religious meanings and characters with strong religious association were suppressed during Ethiopia’s socialist regime from 1974 to 1991 (Muluneh 2017). The largest Ethiopian and Eritrean languages, particularly relative to other non-Latin African languages, enjoy a privileged digital history. The Ethiopic script was the first Indigenous African script to have its basic character set encoded in the Unicode Standard in 1999 as part of Unicode 3.0. Starting in the early 1980s, Ethiopic-based languages have enjoyed word-processors, fonts, keyboards, and content developed by passionate language advocates within Ethiopia, Eritrea, and its diaspora (Zaugg 2017). Amharic also holds a privileged place within the approximately 100 languages supported on Facebook and Google Translate. Nonetheless, two independent web crawls of the .et Ethiopian country-code top level domain found that English language content makes up approximately 80% (Tsegaye and Atnafu 2016) to 90% (Gelbmann 2017, personal communication) of the total content, while Amharic makes up 18% or 11%, and both studies found that other Ethiopian languages made up less than 1% of content, respectively. These proportions may shift in the future as Internet penetration in Ethiopia increases  beyond the wealthier, more highly-educated classes, which largely speak English as a second or additional language. As of 2019, only 14.9% of Ethiopia’s population of 110,135,635 have Internet access (“Internet Penetration in Africa,” 2019). A positive sign for linguistic digital access is that there are Wikipedias in five Ethiopian languages: Amharic, Somali, Oromo, Tigrinya, and Afar. Their sizes are medium, small, tiny, tiny, and micro/closed, respectively. Less encouraging is that the four active Wikipedias have a combined average “real article” rate of 29.75% (Kornai 2013). Also concerning is that the largest of the group, the Amharic Wikipedia, in 2017 enjoyed less than one-page view per Ethiopian Internet user per year. In contrast, in the fourth quarter of 2013—the most recent time period in which data is available—Ethiopian users visited the English Wikipedia 57 times for every time they visited the Amharic Wikipedia (Koll 2014, slide 23). These are signs that Ethiopians and Eritreans are publishing and accessing public web content primarily in English, but this is not entirely surprising

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considering that Wikipedia and websites can be understood as “high” language domains (Gibson 2016). Yet, for the many Ethiopians and Eritreans who are not fluent in English, a class of users that will grow as the first level digital divide is bridged and access to digital technologies expands beyond the highly educated classes, the lack of Ethiopian and Eritrean language content presents a barrier preventing them from accessing information.

Digital Vitality for Ethiopian and Eritrean Languages A foremost scholar investigating the digital divide in relation to language diversity, computational linguist András Kornai (2013) coined the term “digital vitality” to capture the extent to which languages enjoy a combination of “digital support” and “digital use.” “Digital support” maps onto first-level digital divide concerns about material access, “digital use” onto second-level concerns about people’s ability to utilize tools (Simons et al. 2017). Kornai developed a computational method to translate linguists’ EGIDS language vitality assessment into the digital realm. Kornai divides languages’ digital vitality into four categories: thriving, vital, heritage, or still. He concluded that at most 5% of languages have or may attain a “thriving” or “vital” level of digital vitality. While using multiple markers for digital support, for digital use Kornai chose Wikipedia as the best marker of publicly available, user-generated content in a wide variety of languages. Maik Gibson (2016) argued that Kornai’s conclusions of 95% language extinction might be too dire, due to over-reliance on Wikipedia rather than domains like social media and texting where “low” language use is more frequent. He also proposed adding categories of “emergent” and “latent” to the rubric, to capture signals for possible future digital vitality. In 2017, Kornai and Gibson collaborated with Gary F.  Simons and Abbey Thomas to build upon Kornai’s work, including Gibson’s “emergent” category. They utilize 20 indicators of digital support, including a keyboard supporting a language’s characters, Facebook support, Google Translate and Search, Microsoft Office support, and support within major operating systems. Wikipedia remains the indicator of “thriving” or “vital” use, but they also correlate tweets in a language collected by the Indigenous

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Tweets project as evidence of “emergent” use, and resources within the Open Languages Archive Community as indication of “static” use. In 2017, I used and expanded upon this methodology to assess the digital vitality of Ethiopian languages, as well as Eritrean languages that utilize Ethiopic. I combined the “latent” and “static” categories, and added three additional markers of support: Unicode support for characters, W3C layout requirements for a language, and Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) support for characters within top level domains. A script’s inclusion in the Unicode Standard can be considered the foundational step for any language written in that script, that is, a first step to bridge the digital divide (Anderson 2005). W3C layout requirements describe the proper formatting of text written in a language, and once in place allow websites to properly display a languages’ text; this is a key next step after foundational support for a language’s script. ICANN support for characters within top level domains indicates a first step towards a fully localized digital sphere, including the root domain of a URL being written in the native script of a non-Latin language (Bortzmeyer 2016). For digital use, I included languages with data within the Crubadan Corpus (Scannell 2007) as evidence of “static” use (see Zaugg 2017 for detailed methodology) (Table 12.1). Table 12.1  Digital support, digital use, and digital vitality of Ethiopian and Ethiopic-based Eritrean languages Digital support Thriving Vital

None Ethiopic: Amharic, Tigrinya Latin: Somali Emergent Ethiopic: Tigre, Ge’ez, Blin, Awngi, Basketo, Bench, Dirasha, Dizin, Sebat Bet Gurage, Suri, Gumuz, Harari, Konso, Me’en, Mursi, Zayse-Zergulla, Ethiopic/Latin: Afar Latin: Oromo, Sidamo, Wolaytta, Nuer

Digital use

Digital vitality

None Ethiopic: Amharic Latin: Somali

None Ethiopic: Amharic Latin: Somali

Ethiopic: Tigrinya Latin: Oromo

Ethiopic: Tigre, Tigrinya, Ge’ez, Blin, Awngi, Basketo, Bench, Dirasha, Dizin, Sebat Bet Gurage, Suri, Gumuz, Harari, Konso, Me’en, Mursi, Zayse-Zergulla, Ethiopic/Latin: Afar Latin: Oromo, Sidamo, Wolaytta, Nuer (continued)

Table 12.1 (continued)

Latent / Static

Absent

Digital support

Digital use

Ethiopic: Aari, AlabaK’abeena, HamerBanna, Kistane/Sodo, Male, Silt’e, Xamtanga Ethiopic/Latin: Kambaata, Koorete, Majang Latin: Argobba, Bambasi, Daasanach, Kacipo-Balesi, Komo, Kunama, Kwama, Libido, Nara, Nyangatom, Opuuo, Oromo Borana-Arsi-­GujiOromo, Oromo Eastern, Oyda, Shekkacho, Sheko, Yemsa Ethiopian sign language Ethiopic: Anuak, Borna, Burji, Gedeo, Qimant Ethiopic/Latin: Dawro, Haddiya, Kafa, Saho Unwritten: Anfillo, Arbore, Baiso, Busaa, Chara, Daats’iin, Dahalik, Dime, Dorze, Ganza, Gawwada, Gayil, Hozo, Inor, Kachama-­ Ganjule, Karo, Kwegu, Melo, Mesmes, Mesqan, Nayi, Ongota, Rer Bare, Seze, Shabo, Tsamai, Wolane, Zay

Ethiopic: Bench, Borna, Dizin, Gedeo, Harari, Hozo, Komo, Kwama, Me’en, Suri, Tigre Ethiopic/Latin: Afar, Dawro, Kafa, Kambaata, Latin: Borana-Arsi-Guji-­ Oromo, Daasanach, Eastern Orom, Gamo, Gamo-Gofa-Dawro, Gofa, Sheko, Sidamo, Wolaytta

Digital vitality

Ethiopic: Aari, AlabaK’abeena, Borna, Gedeo, Hamer-Banna, Hozo, Kistane/Sodo, Male, Silt’e, Xamtanga Ethiopic/Latin: Dawro, Kafa, Kambaata, Koorete, Majang Latin: Argobba, Bambasi, Daasanach, Kacipo-Balesi, Komo, Kunama, Kwama, Libido, Nara, Nyangatom, Opuuo, Oromo Borana-Arsi-­GujiOromo, Oromo Eastern, Oyda, Shekkacho, Sheko, Yemsa Ethiopian sign language Ethiopian sign language Ethiopic: Aari, AlabaEthiopic: Anuak, Burji, K’abeena, Anuak, Qimant Awngi, Basketo, Blin, Ethiopic/Latin: Haddiya, Burji, Dirasha, Ge’ez, Saho Gumuz, Hamer-Banna, Unwritten: Anfillo, Male, Mursi, Qimant, Arbore, Baiso, Busaa, Sebat Bet Gurage, Silt’e, Chara, Daats’iin, Xamtanga, Dahalik, Dime, Dorze, Zayse-­Zergulla Ganza, Gawwada, Gayil, Ethiopic/Latin: Haddiya, Inor, Kachama-­Ganjule, Kistane-Sodo, Konso, Karo, Kwegu, Melo, Koorete, Majang, Saho Mesmes, Mesqan, Nayi, Latin: Argobba, Ongota, Rer Bare, Seze, Bambasi, Kacipo-Balesi, Shabo, Tsamai, Wolane, Kunama, Libido, Nara, Zay Nuer, Nyangatom, Opuuo, Oromo Eastern, Oyda, Shekkacho, Yemsa Unwritten: Anfillo, Arbore, Baiso, Busaa, Chara, Daats’iin, Dahalik, Dime, Dorze, Ganza, Gawwada, Gayil, Inor, Kachama-Ganjule, Karo, Kwegu, Melo, Mesmes, Mesqan, Nayi, Ongota, Rer Bare, Seze, Shabo, Tsamai, Wolane, Zay

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Discussion What does this analysis reveal in regard to digital inequality in relation to language diversity? This breakdown shows that only a select few Ethiopian and Eritrean languages enjoy a significant level of digital vitality, while the vast majority have no detectable signs of active digital use within Simons et al.’s framework. The good news is that digital supports are in place for a larger number of languages than are seeing current use, so the hope is that as increasing numbers of speakers of these languages go online, they will be able to utilize digital tools in their mother tongue if they wish. Unfortunately, they will not be able to access content in their own language, unless peer production increases. For speakers of Ethiopian and Eritrean languages who don’t also speak a globally dominant language like English, French, Italian, or Arabic, access to content is currently limited or non-existent. The digital divide evident, that is, the gap between the digital supports and content that have been developed for a “thriving” language like English versus an “absent” language like Ethiopian Sign Language, could not be vaster. Fine-grained discussion of the data follows. In 2017, Simons et al. identified 29 languages globally with a “thriving” level of digital vitality. While no Ethiopian or Eritrean languages are included, 2 are among 188 categorized as “vital”: Amharic, written in Ethiopic, and Somali, a regional working language of Ethiopia and Somalia’s national language, written in Latin. That these languages are digitally vital is no small feat, particularly Amharic with its non-Latin script. This required advocacy for Ethiopic characters’ inclusion in Unicode, ongoing layout considerations at the level of word-processing, and so on. Despite the “logic” that Latin is more suited to digital technology, the work of many stakeholders—from early development of Amharic word-processors within the Ethiopian and Eritrean diaspora to companies like Google offering Amharic-English Translate and Search support, and Facebook’s Amharic interface—demonstrates that Ethiopic script is digitally viable when appropriately supported. While this chapter focuses on digital inequality, a glass-half-empty paradigm, it’s important to recognize the innovations digitally disadvantaged language users have and will develop as workarounds, adaptations, or brilliant alternatives to tools not designed for their needs (for more on Ethiopic digital pioneers, see Zaugg 2017, ch. 3). Third is the “emergent” category, indicating a hope for digital vitality. A language is considered emergent if it enjoys even 1 out of 20 digital

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supports considered. Most of these emergent languages enjoy only the most foundational support, a Keyman keyboard. Because “emergent” is a category of hope, Simons et al. decided that languages that have emergent support therefore have emergent “digital vitality,” even without a corresponding level of use. Only Tigrinya and Oromo are emergent in terms of digital use. Speakers of languages in this category would benefit from digital supports built higher on the “stack” beyond keyboards (Loomis et al. 2017). Fourth is the category of “latent/static” languages. My study combines Simons et al.’s “static” category, that is, a community not actively using their language digitally but with static resources available online, with Gibson’s “latent” category, that is, a community not currently using their language digitally but with two conditions for potential use: stable intergenerational language transmission and a font. Gibson (2016) suggests one should not assume digital vitality will not happen in communities just beginning to access digital technologies. A pessimistic stance may dissuade stakeholders from building supports, undermining latent chances for digital vitality in communities still actively  passing down their language. Digital supports for these languages require urgent attention lest their speakers face a complete barrier to utilize the digital sphere and access content in their language. The category of “absent” is straightforward. Notice the particular disadvantage that Ethiopian sign language and unwritten languages suffer in the digital sphere. This is partly because Simons et al.’s study focuses on text-based tools. Asynchronous audio messaging services on apps like Whatsapp, WeChat, and Viber, as well as tools like voice-activated Google Search and Assistant, if developed,  provide  new opportunities for communities without writing systems and illiterate users. Nonetheless, a signing or audio-only user faces a severely circumscribed digital sphere. Because multilingual people make language choices based on domain, Kornai (2013) and Gibson (2016) argue that measuring digital use of socially disadvantaged languages should look beyond Wikipedia to domains like social media and texting, the most familiar, personal forms of digital communication. In order to investigate Amharic’s digital vitality beyond Simons et al.’s framework, I conducted a non-traditional content analysis in 2017 of language and script choices on public Facebook comments. Even for digitally “vital” Amharic on Facebook, a platform with official support for the language in Ethiopic script, more than 50% of Amharic comments are written in Latin. The need for better and more

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convenient keyboards, both mobile and physical plug-and-play varieties, is evident, along with higher-level supports like integrated spell-checking, auto-translate, and so on (Zaugg 2017, ch 4).

Conclusion: Policy Recommendations Evidence signals serious cause for concern about the digital vitality of Ethiopian and Eritrean languages, and by extension the digital users who speak them. These concerns extend to the 95% of global languages Kornai (2013) posits will not achieve digital vitality. For countries like Ethiopia with low Internet penetration, we face a tipping point. If digital supports for Ethiopian languages are developed rapidly, they will be in place as language communities cross the first-level digital divide of access. If not, the lack of supports will help spur the increasing embrace of English and the Latin script. For those who downplay the impact of these shifts on development goals, identity, and wealth of knowledge, it is worth considering the impossibility of English and the Latin script replicating the tri-level meaning embodied within Ethiopic-based writing. Further, it must be remembered that only privileged Africans are in a position to master “languages of power,” allowing them to profit from existing digital tools. Paradoxically, delays in bridging the first-level digital divide may benefit Ethiopians and Eritreans in terms of the digital equality and vitality of their languages, but only if supports are built at this pivotal moment before access becomes widespread. As Winner (1980) argues, the design choices embedded within tools, and the language and script choices they shape, tend to ossify over time. Action must be swift. Although the African continent on average has higher Internet penetration than Ethiopia, this principle still applies continent-wide; as penetration reaches beyond cosmopolitan African cities, the language diversity of the populations going online for the first time will increase, as will the need for localized language tools and interfaces. What policies and best practices can promote digital equality for the Global South? And is policy the best approach? I advocate for a shift in norms, particularly in contexts of technological power like Silicon Valley, to increased valuation of language diversity and digital support for linguistically diverse users, embraced as a keystone of corporate social responsibility. Language communities can promote this norm by advocating for their needs, as my Silicon Valley fieldwork underscores that “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.” Needs can be framed as “accessibility;” just as

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people with disabilities deserve equal services, so do diverse language speakers. It also invokes responsibility to rectify the collateral damage technologies have had on language diversity, like holding corporations responsible to rectify environmental impacts. As many Global South countries like Ethiopia are seeing  expanding populations, growing GDP, and wider Internet access, market incentives are increasing for tools that meet wider linguistic needs. But even as “target markets” widen for the almost 60,000,000 Amharic speakers globally (Eberhard et  al. 2019) and others, there remain language communities too small or poor to drive markets. Therefore, governments should regulate digital supports for linguistic diversity, in both imported and locally manufactured products, as well as support academia to develop tools outside the market realm. Volunteers can also help fill this gap, with big tech playing a supportive role through incentives such as honorary titles or awards given to the top contributors they depend on for crowd-sourcing projects such as Google Translate. There is also a need in Global South contexts for institutions that bridge stakeholders—language communities, academia, government, big tech, local entrepreneurs, and Internet governance institutions—to forward digital equality. Models exist, like META-NET, supporting the digital vitality of European languages. I am investigating opportunities for this in Ethiopia, while thinking globally about ways to promote the digital vitality and equality of all communities’ languages in the digital sphere. Digital supports for language diversity are key for bridging second-level digital divides in terms of users’ skills and self-perceptions (Robinson et al. 2015), ensuring that linguistically diverse users can cross the third-level divide, benefitting fully from digital tools.

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CHAPTER 13

The End of the Public Sphere: Social Media, Civic Virtue, and the Democratic Divide Last Moyo

Introduction: Myths of Empowerment This chapter argues that contrary to the popular belief from the cyber optimists, the upsurge and use of social media in Africa’s poor economies like Zimbabwe have failed to produce a robust and vibrant public sphere due to the intractable problems of the digital divides. Indeed, social media may have broadened free speech and pluralized interactive spaces in poor societies, but the twin deficits of the democratic divide and social divide have effectively undermined the emergence of a public sphere that is characterized by rational and critical argument (Habermas 1992). The democratic divide is about the gap that exists between ‘those who do, and do not use the panoply of digital resources to engage, mobilize and participate in public life’ (Norris 2001: 13). Indeed, those who use the social media as technologies of freedom cannot do so effectively without the strategic critical literacies that go beyond technological skills for them to be fully functional and productive within the public sphere (Ragnedda and Ruiu 2017). L. Moyo (*) American University of Nigeria, Yola, Nigeria © The Author(s) 2020 M. Ragnedda, A. Gladkova (eds.), Digital Inequalities in the Global South, Global Transformations in Media and Communication Research - A Palgrave and IAMCR Series, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-32706-4_13

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In the context of the democratic divide, to be literate does not just mean the ability to interface with technologies for civic purposes, but more importantly to be ‘present and active in the struggle to re-establish a voice, history and future’ (Giroux 2011: 65). Literacy, as a critical and transformative concept, actually lies at the core of what defines the public sphere that, ironically, has always been normatively constituted as a reading public. It is directly connected to civic agency and democratic participation in the public sphere and broader society. It is also about the capacity to process the deluge of digital information into knowledge using critical thinking—the sine qua non of the public sphere. From the literacy perspective, the democratic divide can also be conceptualized substantively within a knowledge divide framework that in practice manifests through informed democratic choices and actions by citizens. In this vein, other scholars also view it as essentially about ‘strategic [social-technological] skills’ like ‘the ability of using [social media] as a means for [advancing social] goals’ (Van Deursen et  al. 2014: 261). Hence, the democratic divide is underpinned by social, technological, communicative, innovative, and informational/knowledge skills whose essence is direct and mediated citizen participation in public affairs. The social divide is about differences in access to social media between various social groups due to sociodemographic factors such as class, income, education, gender, age, race, ethnicity, and even caste (Norris 2001; Langran 2011). For example, Langran argues that even in some of the most connected countries in the developing world, digital divides continue to follow the contours of social stratification where connectivity benefits mainly ‘middle-and upper-middle class minorities’ (p. 1). It is important to draw connections between the social divide, knowledge divide, and the democratic divide. The knowledge divide is about those with or without critical literacy as a ‘higher order social and interpretive skill’ that is ‘necessary for reading [the word] and the world’ (Janks 2010: 22). As a higher-order social and digital skills-divide, critical literacy is not just about tech-savviness, but more significantly the information processing skills that are foundational to critical citizenship. In Zimbabwe’s collapsed economy and topsy-turvy politics, critical literacy not only impacts but is also impacted by the societal factors of digital divide like race, class, education, race, ethnicity, age, and gender. For example, it is mostly the poor uneducated black old woman who personifies the combined effects of the social and the democratic divide in Zimbabwe because

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of her social position and lack of digital skills for democratic engagement (Buskens and Webb 2009). To analyze the democratic divide, we used Zimbabwe’s burgeoning Twittersphere where so many now enjoy access, yet the benefits of critical engagement reminiscent of the Habermasian public sphere appear to be in doubt for certain classes. While Zimbabwe’s protracted economic crisis has undermined citizen livelihoods, it has pushed politics right into the center of everyday life. Nowhere is this everyday life politics more visible than in the social media like Twitter. It is practiced through social ‘media rituals’ (Couldry 2003) where the Zimbabwe netizen spirit manifests online in some kind of blind worship of ‘Internet-centricism’ (Curran 2012: 5). Consequently, Twitter use is growing relatively fast in the country. StatCounter, a website that provides information on social media usage around the world, put Twitter usage in Zimbabwe at about 18.43% of the country’s 17 million people as of May 2019 (StatCounter, 7 May 2019). Twitter is popular specifically for political blogging because politicians and civil society often use it as an alternative medium to directly connect with citizens. The main question this chapter endeavors to answer is: To what extent is democratizing the public sphere through Twitter undermined by the democratic divide? We argue that the democratic divide has a negative impact on the kind of public sphere that is created by Twitter, especially in relation to public debate as both a strategic process and civic resource of the democratic divide. The democratic divide is essentially about the content or meaning of citizen participation as a transformative process. Put differently, this chapter critically evaluates what democratic participation means within the context of the democratic divide as a strategic skills divide? As Carpentier (2011: 13) observes: ‘If they (i.e. citizens) access and they interact [on social media], do they really participate?’ Through the prism of the democratic divide, we can reflect on whether modern forms of digital participation in and through social media platforms like Twitter are transformative or illusory. Hedges (2009: 52) usefully reminds us that ‘the advances in technology…rather than obliterating the world of myth, have enhanced its power to deceive’. Theoretically, the technological deception is in the illusions of digital participation, digital inclusion, digital revolutions, and the advent of radical informed citizenship factors that imply a bridging of the democratic divide by social media. However, as exemplified by this Zimbabwe

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case study, the reality is often that of a deepening democratic divide characterized not only by continued political disenfranchisement and minimalist participation, but also by the growing schism between the information divide and the knowledge divide on the Twittersphere. The tragedy of the social media in Zimbabwe is captured in the failure by some citizens to cross from the information divide into the knowledge divide because they lack certain strategic skills and resources of the democratic divide in order to participate meaningfully. On the one hand, there are social groups who have access to information online, but are essentially ignorant because they lack the interpretive skills that are critical for participating in online public spheres and subsequent social democratic processes. However, these classes tend to believe they are knowledgeable and have civic agency. On the other hand, those who have ample digital and interpretive skills of the democratic divide are involved in some sort of middle-class social media monologue whose transformative impact is doubtful beyond that class is lean. As we argue later in this chapter, the knowledge divide is a product of an information divide where ordinary folks who have little critical (media) literacies that are strategic in bridging the democratic divide sometimes enjoy unfettered access and participation rights on a Twittersphere that is fast losing the values of propriety and civility.

Context and Background Issues Zimbabwe has been in a state of an acute political and economic crisis for nearly two decades now. The country is a de facto one-party state where the state violates the human rights of citizens and political opponents with impunity. This has led to economic sanctions and international isolation mainly by the developed countries. The country’s economy has collapsed from several years of bad economic policies and corruption. Although the crisis has exacerbated the many digital divides in the country, it has also spawned an enduring culture of digital activism by individual activists and social movements (Mutsvairo 2016). However, popular resistance online has often been undermined by many digital divides, especially the democratic divide as argued in this chapter. In June 2019, the Internet World Statistics, a website that relies on International Telecommunications Union (ITU) data, estimated that Zimbabwe had about 7 million Internet users who represented 50% of its 17 million population (Internet World Statistics, 14 June 2019). While

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telecommunications infrastructure in Zimbabwe was once among the best in Southern Africa, it has deteriorated due to economic problems (Jameson 2011). This has rendered universal access a moonshine dream. Zimbabwe continues to have only three mobile networks long after liberalizing its telecoms in the 1990s: Econet (private), Telecel (private), and Net One (state). While they operate in an open market, their competitiveness is constrained by very poor market conditions and state interference especially switching of their data services during protests. However, mobile penetration is estimated at over 90%, while mobile data subscriptions that are key to social media access are almost 60% (Newsday, 20 May 2019). The smartphone penetration has dropped to 26% due to the new 5% customs duty of mobile phones (p. 7) For the past 19 years, Internet growth has been one of the lowest in Southern Africa at 13% (World Internet Statistics, 14 June 2019). The government has recently developed a twofold strategic plan to bridge the divides. In 2018, it reportedly spent about US$13 million from its Universal Service Fund to develop Community Information Centres and refurbish old digital infrastructure. Several post offices have been converted to cutting edge digitized community centers while dilapidated base stations are also regenerated to improve connectivity.

Digital Divide Research in Africa The approach in this chapter deviates from the traditional approach to the digital divide in African. The digital divide has generally been understood as affecting people who do not have access to digital media. It has been conceptualized as being more about those that are excluded than included in the network society. However, despite greater connectivity of the previously excluded groups, millions of people with physical access still experience other more complex forms of exclusion related to effective use. With increasing numbers of people getting online in Africa, ‘use-based digital divides’ have become topical (Mutsvairo and Ragnedda 2019; Zerai 2019; Moyo 2017). Ragnedda and Ruiu (2017) refer to this kind of divide as the ‘third level digital divide’ that is about ‘the returning benefits of using the [Internet]’ (p. 22). Against this backdrop, this chapter seeks to fill such knowledge gaps and develop theoretical interventions that focus on the Internet user. It focuses on use-based divides for the following reasons. First, the digital divide picture is not complete without the analysis of the problems that are

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embedded to access and use. If people have physical access, it does not follow that they have sustained and effective use. Increasingly, research is moving toward a needs-oriented understanding of the divide where it ‘is no longer necessarily about universalizing access to computers, but more about how and why people use digital media gadgets’ (Moyo 2009). Second, African research on the digital media and the divides has been unnecessarily too optimistic. This misplaced optimism has failed to produce radical interventions to bridge the multiple divides. There are many reasons for this failure, but one of the most significant ones is that the African research is too subsumed in the instrumentalist paradigm that is characteristically too optimistic and irrevocably deterministic in orientation. Since the 1990s, a ‘born again technological determinism’ has been influential in digital technologies studies (See Morley 2006). Although it is now no longer totally silent about the social contexts of digital technologies use, it always fails to situate new technologies ‘within a much larger historical perspective’ (p. 3) and is often oblivious ‘of what ideologies are at work and whose interests are being served by the [technologically deterministic] discourse’ (Warnick 2008: vii). Consequently, what is often presented as revolutionary tends to be mere marketing gimmicks and technological hype that overlook deep use-based divides. The African research agenda on the digital divide has been somewhat coyishly submissive to the overbearing weight of the new wave technological determinism to the extent that it has been easy to ignore the stubborn African realities facing the user. This study seeks to break free from this problem.

Conceptual Framework The public sphere is one of the most enduring theories of the media even in contemporary society. Its relevance has transcended media ruptures associated with disruptive technologies like the Internet. The theory underscores four important points that are critical in theorizing the democratic divide: participation, non-discrimination, autonomy, and rational discourse. Rationality means that discussants pay fidelity to the ‘authority of better argument against hierarchy’ (Habermas 1992: 36). As such, it is epitomized by spirited debates in convivial environments where ‘non-­ violent controversies erupt’ (Keane 1996: 34). These non-violent controversies ought to be, in line with the public sphere ethic, ‘oriented towards inter-subjective understanding and consensus’ (Holub 1991: 8). There

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must be no use of threats to limit free expression and undermine its democratic potential. The principle of non-discrimination effectively means that the public sphere is structured as inclusive, participative, and discursive. It thrives from the diversity of political opinion and must be constituted of players who enjoy equality of rights. The public sphere is ‘distorted if not mutilated by imbalances of access, wealth, and power’ (Price 1995: 26). The autonomy of the public sphere is the basis for its democratic potential. It must keep ‘the state in touch with the needs of society’ (Habermas 1992: 31). It has an emancipatory value that is not limited to discussants, but extends to the general society.

Methodology The arguments in this chapter are built from a case study of 30 online interviews with followers of Zimbabwe’s top three Twitter microbloggers between March 2018 and December 2018. The findings of the case study merely offer some insight into the complexities of the democratic divide on Twitter in Zimbabwe. They are not generalizable. Furthermore, given the small sample of the participants the emphasis of the case study is the qualitative feedback from participants. Blogger A, is a former government minister who is also a renowned academic and opinion leader, had 474,000 followers. Blogger B, also an academic in the Diaspora, had 250,000. Blogger C, an activist leading a civic organization, had 60,000. They all blog mainly on Zimbabwean politics. Their content ranges from news to personal opinions about the Zimbabwean crisis. The research focused on public affairs issues they raised that triggered public debates online. These included (1) the alleged rigging national elections in July 2018, (2) corruption and poor salaries for teachers, and (3) the Matabeleland Genocide (Gukurahundi) of the 1980s. These issues became more topical after the November 2017 coup. The interviewees were drawn purposively from an initial sample frame of 50 people. The final 30 who were proportionally distributed among the 3 bloggers, indicated that they had at least 5 of the following characteristics: (1) they were very active on Twitter; (2) they either used a pseudonym or picture on their handle; (3) they were self-employed or employed in low income job; (4) their academic qualifications are anything between nothing and Ordinary Cambridge Level (O-Level); (5) they are were over 25 years of age and passionate about politics; and (6) they used vulgarity

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online. By tracking their language and online behavior, virtual and political identities, and digital competences, we were able to draw some analysis that could unravel complexities of the democratic divide on Twitter. Participants were also asked questions on digital skills, Twitter use habits, virtual and political identities, civic roles and attitudes, and their views on language in political debates.

Analysis: The Democratic Divide and the End of the Public Sphere The end of the public sphere is not used here as an apocalyptic prediction of a doomed Twittersphere, but a hyperbolic expression that highlights how techno-utopianism in Africa has mythologized the Internet in ways that obfuscate a deep-seated problem of the democratic divide. From Zimbabwe’s vantage point, this techno-utopianism is simply ‘an illusion, a rhetorical gambit and an expression of technological ignorance’ (Winston 1998: 2). Indeed, as argued in the next section, this is the picture one gets from tracking the online Twitter activities and analyzing how different facets of the democratic divide manifest among the 30 low income participants in the Zimbabwean Twittersphere. The Rustics Are Here and They Are Twitting The democratic divide within the public sphere has a potential to undermine its democratic functions and impact in society. Tettey (2013) argues that in the age of the Internet, information and media literacy is an important part of bridging the divide. It implies not only the citizen’s knowledge and understanding of the strategic role social media play in public debate but also the ‘ideal conditions under which [they] can fulfill this function’ (p. 4). The ideal conditions are numerous, but this study focused on online behavior of selected Twitter users in terms of language, class, civic attitudes, and virtual and political identities. At the language level, focus was on the use and prevalence of insults or disparaging speech that may indicate lack of the strategic social and digital skills of the democratic divide by users. The analysis of the language used by some of the 30 participants on Twitter suggests a huge democratic divide in terms of the normative social, interactive, and civic skills expected of citizens in online public spheres.

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Table 13.1  Insults, threats, and potential hate speech on bloggers Name of blogger

Insults, hate speech, and threats on blogger and other discussants

Blogger A

Ngochani (homosexual), imbwa yemhunu (you are a dog), Vara mukosho (close your anus/mouth), Shut up muNdebere, we need Gurahundi 2, Urihure remunhu samumz vako (you are a prostitute like your mum), That’s why we need to separate your neck from your body, Doti remunhu iri ngarikandhwe mubin (you are rubbish that belongs in the bin), Uyinja thula Shona lothuvi (you are a dog shut up Shona), a noisy homosexual must be hanged. Shut up mwana wehure (shut up son of a prostitute), imbwa mutengesi (sell out you are a dog), uriduzvi remhunu shut up (you are a pile of shit shut up), Ishona yinja (Shonas are dogs), etc. MDC sellouts we crash, Mata yamai vako nema Ndzviti ako (not appropriate to translate)

Blogger B Blogger C

Table  13.1 indicates a random selection of the epithets, insults, and in some cases hate speech that was targeted at fellow participants by some of the 30 participants under study. The bloggers and other discussants were subjected to name calling, insults, threats, and even hate speech such as you are ‘a noisy homosexual to be hanged’, ‘Shut up muNdebere, we need Gurahundi 2 (Genocide 2)’, ‘You are a dog shut up Shona shit’, ‘Shut up son of a prostitute’. The Shona and Ndebele are the two main ethnic groups in Zimbabwe. In the above cases, we see hate speech that ‘denigrates people on the basis of their…ethnic origin, [and] sexual orientation’ (Greenwalt 1995: 7). This is not some witty political banter that is typical of the public sphere’s heated exchanges, but is injurious speech. It is ‘not an invitation to dialogue, [but] is more like a slap in the face’ (Cortese 2006: 7). Such social media abuse represents the rise of an anarchic and dysfunctional public sphere on Twitter. It represents the negative and darker side of the democratic divide. Indeed, the ‘modern [digital] public sphere is in a near terminal state (Johnson 2006: 1). But how do insults and hate speech indicate a serious democratic divide? The insults and hate speech on Twitter epitomize the problem of the lack of social, communicative, and strategic digital media skills and resources that citizens need to navigate and debate public affairs. As Van Dijk and Van Deursen observe, the ‘digital divide as a whole is deepening [not because of lack of physical access], but because of the divide in the

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strategic [social, communicative, civic, and digital] skills’ (p. 8). It is hardly adequate for citizens to know how to operate Twitter, if they do not have the social and political engagement competences that create, nurture, and sustain productive exchanges in online public spheres. Consequently, the democratic divide extends to the ethics of communicative action in and through social media. An example from one of the participants may be instructive here: ‘Do I even care? I don’t care whether he is a former minister or not. He’s a dog, a prostitute, and a homosexual. We all know what we are talking about on Twitter. No one must think he’s better here’ (Participant 12: Interview, October 2018). This attitude does not seem to be consistent with the civic virtues that are constitutive of the democratic divide or ethical values that ensure rational debates as the hallmark of the public sphere. An ethical public sphere must always thrive to transcend uncivic behavior and other negative elements of the democratic divide in order to serve as a space for ‘speech practices [that show] progress towards a democratic society’ (Price 1995: 24). Although there is an increasing presence of the poor classes in online political debates on Twitter in Zimbabwe, some do so in an erratic way. For instance, while all the 30 participants stated that they depended on the Internet for information, they, however, engaged on Twitter debates occasionally. Their erratic physical access can be explained in terms of lack of material access, that is, the ability to afford ‘all costs of the use of computers, connections, peripheral equipment, and software services [in order to develop sustainable use of Twitter for debates and political engagement]’ (Van Deursen and Van Dijk 2014 : 267). Material access is closely interwoven with the class dynamics of the democratic divide, although it may also indicate other aspects like the information and knowledge divides (O’hara and Stevens 2006). For example, a study by Van Deursen and Van Dijk (2014) observed that there was a correlation between the level of education and the acquisition of the strategic social and digital skills of the democratic divide. They concluded that there was ‘a very strong indicator [that] operational, formal, information, and strategic internet skills [also depended] on the level of educational attainment’ (p. 88). Indeed, what seems to underlay the democratic divide problem on Zimbabwe’s Twittersphere is a deep knowledge divide where the less educated classes are entering public discourse without the necessary critical literacies that undergird civic virtue and civil interactions in the public sphere. In the case study, some participants said they felt challenged in

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online information processing skills. They said it was difficult to identify credible online sources and let alone make informed decisions about the political issues in the country: ‘Who can read everything on Twitter? It’s too much. Personally, I read what I respond to. I have no time for browsing, but also don’t want to be confused’ (Participant 11, Interview: 14 October 2018). This is not an exception, but the norm for certain classes in not only Zimbabwe but also Africa who are caught up on the weaker side of the information divide. The ‘challenge for many…is how to distill [online messages] into credible, accurate, and informative resources on the basis of which to exercise their rights and responsibilities as citizens’ (Tettey 2014: 2). It is important to note that Tettey frames the information divide within citizen rights and responsibilities: an epistemic perspective that is central to the democratic divide. Participant 11 is clearly overwhelmed by information and also under equipped to deal with it. ‘Unfortunately, an overwhelming proportion of Africans do not have the capacity to undertake [information] distillation exercise in a manner that is efficacious, as far as their contributions to socio-economic and political development, as informed citizens, is concerned’ (p. 2). This information divide extends to the knowledge divide and subsequently, the democratic divide due to the poor levels of critical (media) literacy. Following Potter (2001), critical literacy, which is central to bridging the democratic divide, underpins transformative agency in public affairs. It must transcend the basic functional literacies of reading and writing while preparing one to fully engage in public culture as ‘a particular, purpose-­ built solidarity, [and] a mode of interaction in which mutually depended private individuals seek to build enabling interpretations of their shared circumstances’ (Johnson 2006: 1). Social media literacies are part of the broader critical literacies needed by citizens in order to marshal digital resources toward bridging the democratic divide. Critical media literacies are about how citizens use social media in counterhegemonic ways. They entail the kind of spaces, content, and virtual interactions citizens create online such as discussion forums and online petitions. The views of the following respondent further provide evidence of the problem of a fragmenting public culture and civic consciousness that is symptomatic of the worsening democratic divide on Twitter in Zimbabwe. He states: ‘Who in Zimbabwe is not corrupt anyway? Mugabe was corrupt, why is he (i.e. the blogger) attacking President ED? Why ED every day?’ (Participant 21: Interview, 17 August 2018). This participant is not

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just partisan, but appears to defend political principals over democratic principles. Yet the democratic divide must be driven by the citizen demands for the democratic principles of transparency and accountability from power. Critical literacy as its extension is a civic responsibility. It must result in the ability to process information and distill it into rational and critical arguments in a public sphere that speaks truth to power. Whereas the Internet and social media are based on the myth of knowledge explosion and knowledge society, in reality in Zimbabwe the capacity to generate and utilize the deluge of online information and convert it to knowledge is highly concentrated in the hands of the educated middle classes. Those who are on the negative side of the knowledge divide represent misfits of the modern digital public sphere where higher-order interpretive and civic digital media use skills are needed. The poor in Zimbabwe may be active in elitist online public spheres, but in reality they are lowly ranked in the knowledge and information class structure as either unskilled or insufficiently skilled to thrive in the new cosmopolitan digital public spheres: ‘There’s too much news already on the Internet, Facebook, and Twitter. While I can’t digest it on my own, I speak my mind fearlessly. It doesn’t matter whether you are a Professor, I’ll tell you my mind’ (Participant 14: 15 May 2018). Although the poor classes can be said to be lagging behind in terms of informational literacies for democratic participation, in reality they are victims that serve as evidence of the deep manifestations of the information divide and knowledge divide. They symbolize the deficiencies of countries like Zimbabwe that are part of the global network of computers, but have failed to become part of the knowledge society. Indeed, countries that are not part of the knowledge society like Zimbabwe are epitomized by the traditionalization of modernity, ruralization of urbanity, subjectification of the citizen, and peasantization of the worker. In such a traditional-cum-modern set-up, there is no incentive for active citizenship or critical citizenship and for bridging the information divides, knowledge divides, and empowering citizens for democratic participation. What you end up with is a homogenous and undemocratic Twittersphere that tries to create inter subjective understandings and rational discourse between the rustics, urban peasants, professors, doctors, and even prostitutes. Although these can all partake in the new cosmopolitan online public spheres, they will, however, be separated by the knowledge divide characterized by lack of solidarity in structuring and defending their collective good as a public. In the case study, this democratic divide is evidenced by how bloggers attack each other in

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defense of power instead of furnishing online and offline solidarities against it. Despite the information revolution and the new digital tools it has provided for the public sphere, ‘the ability to build solidarities with strangers and to agree on the general significance of needs and problems appears to be under threat [because of the information and knowledge divides]’ (Johnson 2006, p. 1). Social media have no doubt created a cosmopolitan online public sphere in Zimbabwe, but one that is characterized by a middle-­class monologue on social change and ‘dyslectic’ civic virtue by the poor. As such, all the ‘emollient generalizations about the empowering technology of the internet often fail to consider [such] powerful democratic divide influences in the real world that can keep people disempowered [even with a computer mouse or mobile phone in their hands]’ (Curran 2012: 15). ‘Systemic’ Democratic Divides: Technology, Power, and Politics in Zimbabwe What are the limits of technicizing and commodifying the public sphere through personalized digital technologies for societies that are poor, have relatively lower literacy rates, and are deeply oral like Zimbabwe? How do personalized digital technologies reconfigure not only the questions of access and participation in public life but also the deliberative constraints that come with a technicized public sphere? This section teases out alternative conceptions of the democratic divide in Zimbabwe. We have called these ‘systemic democratic divides’ because they appear to be strikingly ideological, structural, invisible, hegemonic, and subtle to the extent that citizens can unconsciously serve as their agents. Whereas the previous sections discussed critical (media) literacy, class, and education as constitutive of the democratic divide, here we stress the role played by power, politics, and the digital technologies themselves in exacerbating the democratic divide. Although this is a deeply philosophical argument, it is still grounded on the feedback by interviewees. It is important to note that of the 21 participants who agreed to using the Internet more often, most (19) said they had used Twitter for political debates more during national elections in July. Elections constitute a political season when democratic divides are at play. However, most participants rated their technological competences as relatively average and affordability as being sometimes prohibitive. ‘Twitter is for you educated

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people with money. We use it, because we want to talk to politicians and clever people like you. For the povo, we talk everywhere, combis (taxis), buses, markets because most of us are on pay as you go even on a smartphone’ (Participant 9: Interview, August 2018). The rise of the social media has occasioned a new problem of the technicization and commodification of the public sphere. This stands against the very logic of the public sphere as non-discriminatory. A public sphere must be a natural place for bridging the democratic divide because of its notion of active citizenship as inherently critical, dialogic, relational, and discursive. Participant 9 suggests that she is more comfortable in the traditional public sphere of the spoken word like the marketplace than of convergent media. Downing (2003) has usefully advised us against the penchant to deify the technological and the ‘assumption that the local, the small-scale [media], represent [a waste of time]’ (p.  500). While digital technologies may now be seen as indispensable in the everyday lives of Zimbabweans, it may still be more useful to study how they converge and diverge with the traditional public spheres embodied in Africa’s rich heritage of orality and popular culture. In the hotchpotch ragbags of digital media and traditional media lies the potential of unlocking the democratic divide in ways that realize that communication and knowledge as strategic resources of the democratic divide are culturally contingent. Participant 19 highlights another important point: ‘I use cellphones, I saw Bob (Robert Mugabe) using a tablet the other day. These things (i.e. technologies) have no age, but I also think politics is getting childish. Did you see some of the videos on WhatsApp and Twitter during elections? They were so funny. So funny you will forget we are supposed to be serious about this’ (Interview, December 2018). This invites us to reflect on how the convergence of the new media of smartphones and brand politics may be further deepening the democratic divide. The advent of the digital media has occasioned a kind of brand politics where impressionism and perception politics have rendered critical citizenship as a resource of the democratic divide inconsequential. The public sphere that traditionally emerged as a logocentric space has been irredeemably technicized and deposed by a pervasive, superficial yet seductive visual culture that is associated more with consumerism than critical citizenship. Critical literacies that undergirded civic virtue and the birth of a knowing and reasoning subject are being marginalized in the new media ecologies. In their place, is a new emphasis on the image over the word, style over substance, spectacle over analysis, browsing over reading. The online browsing culture

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has displaced critical reading and interactive debates that were radically transformative to the democratic divide and knowledge divide. In other words, rather than the digital technologies and politics bridging the democratic divide, ‘we are [instead] witnessing an era of easy-come, easy-go politics where you are only ever one click away from a [kind of technicized brand politics that comes] with little commitment or even thought; where collective political identity has a memory that is short lived and easily deleted’ (Fenton 2012: 150). Therein lies the intractable problem of the new systemic democratic divide that is not just Zimbabwean, but also global in character.

Conclusion In this chapter, we argued that the Twittersphere in Zimbabwe is undermined by the intractable problem of the democratic divide. Whereas there is a significant growth of Twitter usage for political engagement, participation by the poor classes appears to be undermined by a combined effect of weak critical (media) literacies and a poor sense of civic virtue and responsibility. The use of insults and hate speech and lack of the strategic social and digital skills, demonstrated that while the 30 participants may have crossed the digital divide from the technology-have nots to haves, they still have not been able to cross the information divide, knowledge divides, and the democratic divide. Participants lacked civic commitment to the agora, the liberating power of knowledge, and the continued struggle for human freedoms in Zimbabwe. Their failure to cross the democratic divide means that their participation is social media spaces in minimalistic. Minimalist forms of participation do not express autonomous agency, but are constrained by the weight of ignorance, power, and hegemony: factors that undergird the democratic divide by undercutting opportunities for radical and transformative citizenship (Rosaldo 1994).

References Buskens, I., & Webb, A. (2009). African Women and ICTs: Investigating Technology, Gender, and Empowerment. London: Zed Books. Carpentier, N. (2011). The Concept of Participation. If They Have Access and Interact, Do They Really Participate? Communication Management Quarterly, 21(2011), 13–36. Cortese, C. (2006). Opposing Hate Speech. New York: Praeger.

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Couldry, N. (2003). Media Rituals: A Critical Approach. London: Routledge. Curran, J. (2012). Re-interpreting the Internet. In J.  Curran, N.  Fenton, & D.  Freedman (Eds.), Misunderstanding the Internet (pp.  30–33). London: Routledge. Downing, D. H. (2003). Where We Should Go Next and Why We Probably Won’t: An Entirely Idiosyncratic, Utopian, and Unashamedly Peppery Map for the Future. In A. Valdivia, A Companion to Media Studies. Malden: Wiley-Blackwell. Fenton, N. (2012). The Internet and Radical Politics. In J. Curran, N. Fenton, & D. Freedman (Eds.), Misunderstanding the Internet (pp. 149–176). London: Routledge. Giroux, H. (2011). Critical Pedagogy. New York: Bloomsbury. Greenwalt, K. (1995). Fighting Words: Individuals, Communities and Liberties of Speech. Princeton: Princeton University.. Habermas, J. (1992). The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society. New York: MIT. Hedges, C. (2009). Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle. New York: Nation Books. Holub, R.  C. (1991). Jurgen Habermas: Critique of the Public Sphere. London: Routledge. Jameson, J. (2011). The digital abyss in Zimbabwe. In P.  R. Leigh (Ed.), International Exploration of Technology Equity and Digital Divide. Iowa: Iowa University. Janks, H. (2010). Literacy and Power. New York: Routledge. John, K. (1996). Global Civil Society. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Johnson, P. (2006). Habermas: Rescuing the Public Sphere. London: Routledge. Keane, J. (1996). Global Civil Society. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Langran, E. (2011). Caste, class and IT in India. In P. R. Leigh (Ed.), International Exploration of Technology Equity and Digital Divide (pp.  1–19). Iowa: Iowa University. Morley, D. (2006). Media, Modernity, Technology: The Geography of the New. London: Routledge. Moyo, L. (2009). The Digital Divide: Scarcity, Inequality and Conflict. In G. Creeber & M. Royston (Eds.), Digital Cultures: Understanding New Media. London: Open University Press. Moyo, L. (2017). Rethinking the Information Society: New Perspectives on the Politics of Language Online from the Global South. In M.  Ragnedda & G. Muschert (Eds.), Theorizing the Digital Divides. London: Routledge. Mutsvairo, B. (2016). Digital Activism in Social Media Era: Critical Reflections on the Emerging Trends in Sub-Saharan Africa. London: Palgrave. Mutsvairo, B., & Ragnedda, M. (2019). Mapping the Digital Divide in Africa: A Mediated Analysis. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.

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Norris, P. (2001). Digital Divide: Civic Engagement, Information Poverty, and the Internet Worldwide. New York: Cambridge University Press. O’hara, K., & Stevens, D. (2006). Inequality.com: Power, Poverty & the Digital Divide. Oxford: Oneworld. Potter, W. J. (2001). Media Literacy. London: Sage. Price, M. (1995). Television, The Public Sphere and National Identity. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Ragnedda, M., & Ruiu, M.  L. (2017). Social Capital and the Three Levels of Digital Divide. In M.  Ragnedda & G.  Muschert (Eds.), Theorizing Digital Divides (pp. 21–34). London: Routledge. Rosaldo, R. (1994). Cultural Citizenship and Educational Democracy. Cultural Anthropology, 9(3), 402–411. StatCounter. Global Statistics. Available at: https://gs.statcounter.com. Accessed 7 May 2019. Tettey, W. J. (2013). Media and Information Literacy: Informed Citizenship and Democratic Development in Africa. Harare: ACBF. Tettey, W. (2014). Media and Information Literacy, Informed Citizenship and Democratic Development in Africa: A Handbook for Media/ Information Producers and Users. Harare: African Capacity Building Foundation. Van Deursen, A., & Van Dijk, G. M. (2014). Digital Skills: Unlocking the Information Society. London: Palgrave McMillan. Van Deursen, A. J. A. M., Van Dijk, J. A. G. M., & Ten Klooster, P. M. (2014). Increasing Inequalities in What We Do Online. A Longitudinal Cross Sectional Analysis of Internet Activities among the Dutch Population (2010 to 2013) Over Gender, Age, Education. Telematics and Informatics, 32(2), 259–272. Warnick, B. (2008). Critical Literacy in the Digital Era. London: LEA. Winston, B. (1998). Media Technology and Society: A History: From the Telegraph to the Internet. London: Sage. Zerai, A. (2019). African Women, ICT, and Neoliberal Politics: The Challenge of Gendered Digital Divides to People Centred Governance. London: Routledge.

SECTION IV

Digital Inequalities in South America

CHAPTER 14

The Digital Divide: Observations from the South About a Failed Dialog with the North Cristian Berrío-Zapata

Introduction Since Gutenberg’s printing press, the evolution of information and communications technology (ICT) gave Western countries 400 years to integrate their societies to the technological environment of industrialism (Breton 1991; Breton and Proulx 2002; Mattelart 1998, 2005a, b; McLuhan 1962). Now in the twenty-first century, ICT became a mechanism for perpetuating the dependency between the few and the many on a global scale. Elites appropriated the benefits of this technological innovation, deepening the existing unequal system of exchange-relations and consolidating themselves as “Center” of the world, while aligning the “Periphery” to their interests (Amin 1977; Di Filippo 1998; Dos Santos 1998; Prebisch 1986, 2008). Physical violence ceased to be a central resource for control, as information technology, fluxes and infrastructure C. Berrío-Zapata (*) Faculty of Archival Studies, Universidade Federal do Pará (UFPA), Belém, Brazil e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2020 M. Ragnedda, A. Gladkova (eds.), Digital Inequalities in the Global South, Global Transformations in Media and Communication Research - A Palgrave and IAMCR Series, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-32706-4_14

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provided by the “Center” acted as a “soft power” (Nye 1990, 2004), disrupting local cultures with doxas and symbolic violence (Bourdieu 1994; Bourdieu and Eagleton 1992) while expanding and controlling territories through cultural end electronic imperialism (McPhail 1981; Said 2011). Worldwide conflicts masked under modern myths (Barthes 2001): the grand narrative of the “good science” and “neutral technology.” They integrated into powerful metaphors, like progress, welfare and mankind unity. Electricity and ICT shrank the planet to a “global village” of tribes in conflict for domination (McLuhan and Fiore 1968); the rule of the strongest acts through networks articulating a hybrid reality (digital-and-­ physical) under “distributed capitalism” (Zuboff 2010, 2013). The Information Society as part of the digital utopia rejects any critical assessment, so rescuing the e-excluded became a creed and the digital, its religion. Under this paradigm, investment in ICT became a priority, legitimated by international agencies, powerful states and corporate “angel investors,” invigorating the stagnated economies of the developed countries, while consolidating their values and culture around the globe. The “included” became “clients,” not citizens: masses acting within a worldwide shopping center where all can be bought and sold. Every move is monitored, molded and controlled; free-thinking became a rarity. As the recourses of technology were guided to surveillance and consumerism, what could become a dialogical and fruitful integration between the North and the South turned into an alienating monologue of local, regional and worldwide elites. Latin America, as part of the Global South, suffers from this situation. In this scenario, we revisit the Digital Divide as discourse and soft power, using the perspective of the Theory of Dependency and the Center–Periphery Model (Amin 1977, 2011; Di Filippo 1998; Dos Santos 1998; Furtado 1981; Prebisch 1986), analyzing its effects in Latin America by using the concept of “Digital Capital” (Ragnedda 2018). Dependency erodes the development of offline “capitals,” that is, social, political, economic, personal and cultural (Ragnedda’s 5Cs), but at the same time the “Center” exports information technology that releases the possibility of building a “Digital Capital,” defined by Ragnedda as the capacity for using computing and online tools to generate valuable outcomes for society based on competencies for the digital (information, communication, safety, content-creation and problem-solving), all vehicled through ICT.

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When these abilities and aptitudes are not developed, or its external resources not provided (i.e. computers, connectivity, e-literacy), the cycle of social-and-historical transfer and accumulation of Digital Capital cannot advance, isolating the individual and community from the system, turning them into its victims by reinforcing inequalities and lagging that society in front of other. This recycles relations of domination and dependency at local, regional and global levels. Digital Capital fuels power accumulation in the hybrid world, mirroring the incapacities at the online with miseries in the offline. In this work we retrieve examples about this dynamic in Latin America, showing its complexities. The Digital Divide is not an independent phenomenon to facts that shaped our world as it is. When the Digital Divide states a neutral scenario of idealistic hopes, it is acting as discourse and turns into soft power perpetuating a dysfunctional dialog between the North and South.

A Latin American Perspective of Development: The “Center–Periphery” Model In the post-war scenario of 1948, Raúl Prebisch from the United Nations’ (UN’s) Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC/CEPAL) produced a critical analysis of the North–South relationship in Latin America, analyzing the distribution of fruits of the global technological-productive activity. This was known as the Center–Periphery model1 (Di Filippo 1998; Prebisch 1984, 1986). The “Center” would dedicate to paradigmatic change and innovation, dictating development standards by controlling the flow of technology assets. “Peripheral” regions like Africa, Middle East, Latin America and parts of Asia would deliver resources (labor, raw materials, intermediate goods and capital) to the “Center,” specializing in exploiting their natural resources or manufacturing intermediate goods. Such role would help harvesting conservative societies with low levels of specialization, maintaining productive skills generic and labor costs cheap. For classical economic theories, this was a natural division of international labor. Global markets would redistribute resources in a fair way, and technological developments should balance the contributions and returns of the entire system. Such assumptions proved to be unfounded as the 1  The terms “Global North” and “Global South” hereinafter will be exchanged by “Center” and “Periphery.”

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world economy grew more and more imbalanced, concentrating the benefits of technological-productive activity in developed countries. Market forces were distorted by a framework of power relationships, and technology in welfare terms became as destructive as constructive it could be. The “Periphery” returns most of its output to the “Center” through royalties, investment returns, imports and payments made with their depreciated currencies. Any pressure for increasing investment returns at the “Center” projects those demands on the “Periphery,” consuming any surplus generated by the reception of innovative technologies. Shortenings are compensated with local measures, such as currency devaluation, increased interest rates and stagnation of wages. Resistance is resolved by military means and the suppression of democratic guarantees. The “Center” exports “progress” in the form of “new products that seduce and change people’s lives,” becoming emerging needs in the “Periphery.” Much of this consumption is not productive but imitative behavior driven by publicity and fashion, so it drains additional resources. The “Periphery” became a deformed and superficial mimic of the “Center,” conditioned by their interests and standards. Dependence is expressed in the incapacity of the “Periphery” to compensate with their exports’ income, productive and superfluous imports from the “Center.” This is produced by frail knowledge capabilities, blind political adherence to the “Center’s” will, and cultural subrogation. This economic and socio-technical lag at the “Periphery” feeds its weaknesses, while strengthens the advantages of the “Center” (Pérez and Vélez 2012; Prebisch 2008). As the Center–Periphery structure became naturalized, capitalistic industrialism turned into an ideal to be achieved and a historical need (Dos Santos 1998). But the incomplete reproduction of this model produced more poverty and strong tensions between production, income and consumption, as overexploitation of natural resources is its pillar. Industrialism ceased to be a modernizing project as it proved its inability to meet the needs of future generations (Osorio 1995). But the “Periphery” insists on repeating the formula in its newest digital version. Technology is a monopoly guided by the interests of global elites that blocks any “Peripheral” appropriation of benefits and limits effective transference of knowledge. Importing technology imposes alien relations of production, builds monopolies and reinforces dependence (Amin 1977).

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Soft Power and Electronic and Cultural Colonialism in the Information Society Soft Power (Nye 1990, 2004) lies in seduction within a fragmented system, where conventional military power has limitations. States follow by co-optation, facilitated by international multilateral institutions aligned with the “Center,” and multinational corporations exporting popular culture, institutions and iconic images that legitimize the “Center’s” actions. The influence of dispersed actors, constantly redistributed by technological change, can be controlled. The ability to drag valuable data and capture the attention of public opinion becomes strategic, so information sharing and credibility are power. In the Information Society, utopian discourses about information technology are “soft power” as they shape a non-military dominance related to technology, commerce and consumption. Electronic colonialism is the socio-technical-economical-and-cultural evolution of the ICT paradigm, controlling information infrastructures, data flows and contents (McPhail 1981). Dependency is supported by the importation of ICT, embodying socio-technical packages that establish norms, values and expectations that devastate local cultures, concentrating power in the hands of powerful states and corporations. As “Peripheral” territories became an alternative to the saturated domestic markets of the “Center,” the takeover left no space for cultural diversity or public–non-­ profit interest; global media became the voice of the “Center” (McPhail 2004, 2010). Electronic colonialism is a global control structure built on ICT as soft power. Cultural imperialism (Said 2001, 2011) is a legacy of the nineteenth century. The “Center’s” scientists and artists study the “Periphery” and produce a representation that is inhabited by the world, creating an articulated colonial cultural reality. Culture is an efficient form of transparent control and integration of distant populations. Domination turns into an inclusive network of representations superimposed on geography, claiming that their nature is distinct from all their predecessors, so such is no imperialism. ICT provided a discourse of global integrationism and perpetual advance while it articulated the entire planet through networks that diffuse dominant cultures and their representation of the world. Dominated territories knuckle under and were absorbed under the “Center’s” representation of a networked society. Digital inclusion became soft power in the form of electronic and cultural colonialism.

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A Brief Historical Context of the Digital Divide In 1988, Albert Gore and Robert Reich developed the High-Performance Computing Act, enacted in 1991. The Act turned the US National Information Infrastructure into a central strategy supporting US supremacy in high-performance computing, defined as basic for the nation’s global predominance (US Congress 1991). The US was the biggest market and supplier of ICT in the world, and its industry played a central role for their national interests. In 1995, the US National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) reported that US economy was turning into computer-based (NTIA 1995) and produced a new expression: the Haves (those with access) and the Have-nots (those without access)—a huge population in small cities, undeveloped regions, rural areas, poor communities and ethnic minorities. In the 1990s, the term “Digital Divide” became popular through declarations from US public officers, the media, presidential speeches and notorious leaders (Barber 2006; Bulger 2007; Lohr 1996; Rapaport 2009). Technology would expand equality and protect US values under the guidance of private angel investors, which would act as boosters and guardians of the digital. The Divide was the new evil in the US, so Americans were called to mobilize against it (Berrío-Zapata et al. 2015; Clinton and Gore 1996; Poole 1996). NTIA began producing specific reports on the subject (NTIA 1998, 1999). In the year 2000, President George Bush concluded that the “Digital Divide” was closed, and broadband access turned into a demand-and-­ supply issue. No universal access would be granted to those who cannot pay. However, rather than solving digital inclusion, the market created a system of restrictions and inequality for the majority (Bulger 2007; Compaine 2001; Cooper 2004; Rapaport 2009). Profits cannibalized any social considerations while corporate consumers obtained all advantages at the expense of common citizens; providers became monopolies that compensated reduced corporate costs with high prices for low-demand users. These practices were the seed of e-exclusion exported to the world. Gore launched the Information Superhighway conference in 1994, Buenos Aires (Mattelart 2005a) and the UN declared war against the Digital Divide (Annan 1999a, b). A wave of digital idealism and corporate leadership began to take the world. In the year 2000, the group of the eight most powerful nations on the planet, or “G8,” supported the fight on the Digital Divide and recommended programs to stop it (DOT.Force

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2001). The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) took this mission and began reporting on the Digital Divide (OECD 2001). All these actors urged “Peripheral” countries to invest in infrastructure to fight this new scourge. The Digital Myth: The Grand Narrative of Digital Inclusion The digital narrative concluded that, for the “Periphery,” the only way out was sheltering in “technology.” Social problems became the marginal residue of technological problems, so technological redemption was continuously reinforced by the media and political establishments (Dorfman and Mattelart 1972; Mattelart 1998, 2000a, b). To be global it was necessary to be networked, and it became common sense that this was the future: a utopia of free flow of information supported by “entrepreneurial messianism,” synonymous to justice and equality. Global meant a unified administration of the planet “beyond ideologies,” in the hands of international agencies, powerful states and corporations (Mattelart 2000a). Worldwide culture was captured by the “Center’s” entertainment industry and subject to standardization of brands. Global extravaganzas were provided by the media, that is, the Olympiads, FIFA’s soccer World Cup; scientific discoveries and technological developments at the “Center” were broadcasted as triumphs from humanity. Marketing strategies fueled consumerism producing a hedonic and amnesic modernity free of social concerns. Limitless communication turned into unlimited progress, while networks exposed the planet to a new Westernization project. Embedded in the discourse of progress and the superficiality of media, humanity yielded to the fetish of digital efficiency and productivity (Mattelart 2002). The Information Society is the techno-utopia from the industrial modernity embedded in computing networks and globalization—a fresh beginning without ideologies, supported by technical progress and the arbitration of science. The planet became a global factory, organized by leading elites at the “Center.” Networks fused the local and global under an electronic vascular fabric based on soft power. The dialog between the few and the many became a collection of planned marketing images. Monitoring and controlling the network became daily components of soft power intelligence. Wealth is more concentrated, and the increased capacity of expression is crashed by the capabilities of governments and corporations to silence it (Mattelart 2005b).

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Knowledge and technology were not democratized; they are guided by financial returns. Economical and political performances reduced useful knowledge to short-term, profitable projects. The networked society turned into an instrument for monitoring and controlling performance. Information is a commodity, not a right, fueling the core of the productive system while creating a profound gap between “Centers” and “Peripheries.” Knowledge is concentrated in elites that move around the networked world without borders, following the scent of investors and profitable markets, protecting its fruits and restricting access to it (Latouche 2008; Lyotard 2004; Touraine 1969). Who Benefits from Digital Inclusion? Digital exclusion became the center of international attention not only because of its importance and the convergence of powerful actors around the issue, but also because of the ability of those involved in invoking such powers to produce a global agenda (Menou 2001). Luyt (2004) proposed four types of beneficiaries within “Information Capitalism”: 1. Offshore information services like data and call centers processing and supporting the “Center’s” operations from the “Periphery,” taking advantage of cultural synergies and low labor costs. 2. The “Center’s” technology corporations, extending to “Peripheral” markets, enjoying their high growing rates. 3. Local elites at the “Periphery,” leveraging from the well-recognized discourse of development, progress and innovation inserted into the digital narrative. 4. “Peripheral” governments legitimizing their policies following the “Center’s” development model by incorporating digital inclusion. Digital inclusion required massive importations of ICT and the instructional support from the “Center.” The Digital Divide provided corporate actors with the mantra of “global development,” key for articulating the “Periphery’s” productive and commercial efforts within the networked society. The new position of the “Periphery” as processor and consumer of information required the “Center’s” paid intervention to upgrade infrastructures and skills, forming an inexpensive, digitally trained labor force. However, the structure of intellectual property, innovation and key technologies remained locked-up at the “Center.” Development

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promotion became a complex bureaucracy financed by public resources, dedicated to marketing humanitarian goals within a fabric of interests that responds to soft power, weakening the influence of “Peripheral” citizens on their local governments (Luyt 2004; Ya’u 2004). Digital inclusion fighters never asked “inclusion for what” (Daly 2000). Rescuing the “Periphery” from the Digital Divide resulted in another humanitarian project financed by poor countries to build a techno-­ economic space where the “Center” benefits most (Cline-Cole and Powell 2004; Wade 2002; Ya’u 2004). The central question about digital inclusion is “including for what?” Without the participation of the “Periphery” in this debate, every act of inclusion remains a form of soft power and domination from the “Center.”

Digital Inclusion Arrives in Latin America The arrival of the Network society to the region began between the decades of 1980 and 1990, with the efforts of local universities to connect to international servers, most of them in the US and Canada (de Carvalho 2006; Garay 1999; Islas Carmona 2011). But the legitimacy of ICT came from the State, as the holder of a “meta-capital” (Bourdieu 1997) capable of implanting new paradigms into society through policies, laws and investment (Tamayo Gómez et al. 2009). Legitimacy also came from the discourses produced by the US and its echo in the G8, International Telecommunication Union, UN and OECD. No critical assessment was needed as global experts from powerful countries and multilateral agencies gave their support to the digital cause. As part of this process of legitimation, the UN World Summits on the Information Society (WSIS) in Geneva (in 2003) and in Tunis (in 2005) were replicated in Latin America by the Connectivity Agenda for the Americas at Quito (2002 and 2005), the declaration of Bávaro (2003) and the Regional Ministerial Conference for Latin America in Rio de Janeiro (2005), giving birth to the Action Plan for the Information Society in Latin America (eLAC) and the commitment of Rio de Janeiro in 2007. In Washington (2006), the General Assembly of the Organization of American States confirmed the incorporation of America (better understood as Latin America and the Caribbean) to the Global Information Society. In Santiago (2007) the XVII Ibero-American Summit of Chiefs of State and Governments supported eLAC and its renewal until 2010 (Peres and Hilbert 2009).

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The situation of the region during this period of legitimation, year 1995, was that OECD countries had 40 times more access to fixed Internet and 14 times more access to mobile Internet than Latin America. Those differences shortened in 2004 to 5 times for fixed Internet and 2.4 for mobile Internet, but developed countries were evolving to new technologies like a “moving bull’s-eye” and access was just the first divide to face. With time, the number of computers became less relevant than their connectivity and the volume of bits that they could exchange. Internet penetration in quantity without enhancing quality was imitative consumption of networks without their desired impact. In this regard, the average communication capacity from citizens of the OECD compared to Latin America was, respectively, 62 Kbps and 13 Kbps2 in 1996; in 2006 that difference grew to 756 Kbps versus 179 Kbps! Same consideration applies for the penetration of wideband, satellite and land radiofrequencies, computer processing power and storage capacity. If the Information Society is defined by the capacity to handle information, that capacity depends on a moving technological frontier that is fading away from Latin America. The lag with the “Center” shortened in relative terms but grew in absolute terms, deepening local, national and regional divides (Peres and Hilbert 2009; Perez 2000). Forcing the digital paradigm into an inexperienced population with poor technological means produced problems of appropriation, interoperability and efficiency. The dream was that ICT would achieve an equitable world, but networks were overlapped to unequal relationships and deep social disparities (Gonzalez 2008). Western world had 400 years to adapt to the Information Society; Latin America had less than 40 years, and its accumulation of the basic five capitals (5Cs)3 (Ragnedda 2018) was incomplete. Here we present some of the new divides in Latin American digital scenario.

 Kbps = Kilobytes per second (1024 bytes)  Economic capital (income, payment capacity, occupation), cultural capital (education, science and technology development, patents), social capital (ties, trust, integration), personal capital (self-confidence, motivation and purpose) and political capital (political engagement, democratic e-inclusion) (Ragnedda 2018). 2 3

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The Policy Divide While the US enacted the High-Performance Computing Act in 1991 as a central national policy, by the mid-2000s still there were countries in Latin America without ICT policies. Policies developed slowly or truncated, with more persistency in Colombia, Chile, Mexico and Uruguay. WSIS in 2003 and in 2005 impulsed the eLAC regional action plan from 2005, but continuity and coordination were difficult due to changes in governments, lack of consensus and political support (Guerra and Jordán 2010). Economic impact was limited, as from 26 Latin American countries with digital agenda, only 11 included their productive sectors and just 14 included small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Legislative advances related to information rights, e-commerce and cloud computing were interesting, that is, the Protection of Data in Possession of Individuals in Mexico, Brazil’s Access to Information Law, the Colombian Law on Information Access and Data Protection, and Argentina’s Personal Data Protection Law. Unfortunately, efforts are not moving fast enough to prevent the widening of the gap between the region and the developed world. The simple incorporation of ICT has not managed to close productive gaps in the region, which are wide and show no sign of reduction (CEPAL 2010; Rovira et al. 2013). Local political elites have problems in developing a strategic understanding about technological issues, and keeping updated about innovation. Frail cultural/ scientific capital on this regard is a big handicap as more and more politics and policies are divorced from a technical/scientific assessment of the social reality.  he Net Neutrality Divide T Net Neutrality4 contained abuses from powerful carriers and distorted market forces (Bustillo 2013). In December of 2017, the US telecom regulator repealed Net Neutrality rules. In Brazil, former president Temer was immediately called by local operators to reconsider the Net Neutrality bill within Marco Civil da Internet. In most countries of the region, regulatory protections shield Net Neutrality, that is, Chile’s Law 20,453; Peru’s Law 29,904; Colombia’s Resolution CRC 3502; Brazil’s Marco 4   This principle states that all Internet traffic must be treated equal, without discrimination.

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Civil da Internet Law; Argentina’s Digital Law in Argentina; and the Federal Telecommunications Law in Mexico. Change might not come rapidly, but the new peril is that the international data flux to the region will be limited over time as most of the Latin American Internet traffic passes through the US. This will open the door to prioritizing content for payment reasons and not public interest, creating a content divide supported by the dependency on the US. Slow loading or blocking nonprofitable content may boost the raising of zero-rating5 access (BNamericas 2017; ExpoAndina Link 2019 2019; Internet Society and Fundación Karisma 2015). Latin America built political capital in respect to a democratic Internet in respect to Net Neutrality, but elites at “Center” have decided to crush this, so satellite elites in the “Periphery” are moving. It is foreseen that this will worsen the feeble condition of Digital Capital in the region. The Internet/Broadband Divide Two forces configure connectedness: the proliferation of devices and the availability of networks. Latin America suffered an unbalance between the expansion of broadband infrastructure and the increase in Internet-based applications and services. Broadband is important because data can impact social value by improving decision-making and complex problem analysis. Value creation based on data flow is defined by three elements: the spread of broadband, the effective use of cloud computing and mastering big data analysis. The Internet/Broadband divide is wrongfully intended as one single entity, while in reality the adaptative performance of networks in a society depends on multiple associated structures that can perform in better or worst ways, that is, storage, bandwidth, upload and download speed, protocols, compatibility and so on. Here we present some of these components and the divides associated to them.  he Storage Divide T In the 1990s, the computing capacity of the region, although small, was ahead of its transmission and storage capacities. Between 2005 and 2010, broadband expansion allowed convergence in terms of networks, devices 5  This practice provides Internet access for free permitting access to certain websites only, subsidizing the service with advertising and collecting massive personal information for commercial use.

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and contents, but then, the bottleneck arose in storage, weakening the development of cloud computing applications. The diffusion and appropriation of wideband is incipient in Latin America despite its use by large organizations, public and private. By 2010 the region had a marginal position in regard to stored data, just over 50 petabytes of a world estimated of 7000 (Jordán et  al. 2013; McKinsey 2011). Storage reveals degrees of Digital Capital in a society, as well as its resources for autonomy, as being dependent on other territories to store own information implies serious weaknesses in social, political, cultural and economic capitals.  enetration Divide: Diffusion and Time of Existence P The average regional penetration of Internet in 2017 was 67.5%, Argentina being the best (93.1%) and Nicaragua the worst (30.6%) (Internet World Stats 2017). The region has big inequalities in penetration. In 2013 the average household access to fixed Internet was 35.5% while OECD countries had a coverage of 81.3%. Mobile 2G Internet was well spread in 2010 covering up to 90% of the region, but 3G came to those levels only in 2017, while 4G got near to 55% (Jordán et al. 2013; Rojas and Poveda 2018). These delays and imbalances in technology diffusion impact the increase in gross domestic product (GDP) per capita; social penetration of networks and their time of existence correlate with the increases in GDP per capita. Mobile 3G networks were installed in the world at the beginning of the 2000 decade, but they reached Latin America only four years later. In 2007 there were only six countries in the region with 3G services, and only until 2009 the service covered all countries (Flores-Roux 2013). A combination of shortages in the 5Cs lags the introduction of updated technologies and their diffusion in the region, causing a mixture of old and new incompatible technologies that disguise access divides and limit the massive creation of Digital Capital. S ocioeconomic and Cost Divide In 2013, in Chile, the richest 20% of the population had approximately 70% of Internet coverage, while the poorest 20% did not reach 10%. In El Salvador, the top 20% did not reach 30% penetration and the bottom 20% was non-existent. That is why in countries like Ecuador and Peru, Internet main access points are telecenters. Shared Internet access in places like work, school and LAN house is marginal in developed countries, but in Latin America is dominant: in 2013, 65% Peruvians accessed at work or

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public establishments while in Spain that was 17% of users (Barrantes et al. 2013; Katz and Galperin 2013). Fixed Internet connections and broadband are expensive for regional income levels. Comparing the cost of 1 Mbps of fixed broadband in 2013 as percentage of the GDP per capita, the UK, Japan, France, Spain, Italy and Portugal did not reach 0.20%. The cheapest countries in Latin America were Uruguay, Panama, Chile, Argentina, Mexico, Brazil and Costa Rica with 1 Mbps for 1% or 2% of their citizens’ GDP per capita. In expensive countries this turns into 11% in Guatemala, 16% in Nicaragua and 31% in Bolivia. For mobile Internet, the most competitive price in Latin America was Panama with 2.79% of their citizens’ GDP per capita, while Nicaragua was 21.65%; in Europe this was between 1.50% in France and 0.62% in the UK (Barrantes et al. 2013). A feeble economic capital in the form of low income and wealth concentration combines with weak currencies in front of the dollar. This produces a permanent struggle in the consumption of ICT.  he Speed Divide T In respect to speed, wideband distribution for 2013 in the UK was 92% for lines of more than 4 MBps (>4 MBps) and 40% for lines of more than 10 MBps (>10 MBps); in France it was 90% (>4 MBps) and 30% (>10 MBps). In Chile, the best performance in the region, this was 85% (>4 MBps) and 10% (>10 MBps). For Peru, Paraguay, Uruguay, Venezuela and Bolivia, the number of (>4 MBps) lines was below 26% and 0% for (>10 MBps) connections. Up to 20% of 256 kbps lines still were working. Broadband speed of connection, geographical coverage and affordability are far from good (Rojas et al. 2016). Communication Dependency There is a huge dependency of the region in regard to wideband connections on the US: more than 80% Latin America traffic goes through that country, while Asia has less than 43% and Europe is below 20% (Barrantes et al. 2013). Backbones between Latin American countries are rare, even among neighbor nations. Most remote hosts are based in North America. Such inefficient use of resources leads to high costs (de León 2013; Katz 2013). Wideband is not competitive in Latin America because of lack of economies of scale, concentrated distribution of income, low buying capacity and devaluated currencies paying for imported ICT in dollars. As the market is small, operators in the region have little competition compared to

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the Northern Hemisphere. Costs of transmission may go down but not on the levels seen in Asia or Europe (Katz 2013). The economic, political and cultural capitals have been insufficient to produce an attractive and competitive market. Cybersecurity Divide The digital interconnection of national infrastructures, that is, citizens’ databases, petroleum companies, water and electricity commissions, ports and airports, became basic in the Information Society. This created a wide range of risks ranging from unauthorized access to cyberattacks. The benefits of the digital society grow if public networks are trustable, reliable, integral and safe. Digital security became a global challenge. Military or criminal use of ICT for abusive or belligerent purposes requires optimizing strategies to avoid or reduce cyber threats. Unfortunately, developing countries fall in the category of territories with significant ICT infrastructure linked to public services, but with lack of effective policies and resources to defend them (Wegener 2001, 2012, 2013). In this area, digital infrastructure exceeds Digital Capital, due to non-strategic application of technology. Online activities got out of control from offline capacities. A first threat comes from local governments involved in cyber espionage for political reasons, or criminal groups like drug cartels and guerrillas using databases to target citizens. Colombia and Mexico are salient examples in the region: Colombia has a history of government secret agencies involved into wiring and tapping citizens, and paramilitary or guerrilla groups using databases to identify victims. The result is that despite Colombia’s regional leadership in e-Government, such has no impact as citizens are resistant to use these tools due to mistrust (Berrío-­ Zapata and Berrío Gil 2017a, b). Social/personal capitals are affecting Digital Capital. Mexico suffers from significant illegal hacking, identity theft, credit card fraud and online pornographic exploitation of minors. Drug cartels use the Internet as a tool to control, manipulate and disseminate information. Seven cartels (Sinaloa, Los Zetas, Tijuana/AFO, Juarez/CFO, Beltran Leyva, Gulf and La Familia Michoacana) have been identified as systematic users of Internet intelligence, creating the figure of narcohackers: IT-specialized personnel in charge of locating and eliminating any opposition to drug traffic using ICT. Vulnerabilities to cybercrime relate to wrongful configuration of software platforms, lack of updated versions,

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unspecific legislation and low budgets for cybersecurity (Muggah and Thompson 2017; Parraguez Kobek 2017). The cultural/symbolic capital produced by poverty legitimates crime and violence as a way for social mobility and economic capital. Digital Capital gets appropriated by these bands that weaponize information. The third and final example of this divide is Brazil. The revelations made by Edward Snowden regarding global e-espionage from the US National Security Agency (NSA) involved Brazil as a victim of surveillance, the president and the state petroleum company Petrobras being the affected ones. This event showed the weakness of Brazilian information systems in front of the capacities of countries like the US, Canada, Great Britain or Australia (Bessa 2014; CPI da Espionagem and Senado 2014). Once again, cultural/scientific capitals do not feed Digital Capital, so the risk of being spied with total impunity is high. E-Government or the Democratic Divide The design of online government policies in the region began by the end of 1990s launching documents like the Livro Verde on the Information Society in Brazil (MCTIC and Takahashi 2000), presidential directives like Agenda Conectividad in Colombia or Agenda Digital in Chile, or national initiatives like Sistema Nacional e-México (CONPES 2000; Rovira et  al. 2013). The challenge, besides providing updated equipment and infrastructure to all government offices, including remote posts, was to educate public officers and citizens on an alien technological paradigm, structuring a technical discipline so state agencies and citizens could have interoperability (Berrío-Zapata and Berrío Gil 2017a). On the e-Government demand side, differences in Internet penetration were an impediment, mainly in small cities and rural areas. In the year 2000, the Internet champions of the region had a poor penetration rate: Chile, 26.2%; Uruguay, 11.2%; Peru, 9.7%; Argentina, 6.9%; and Costa Rica, 6.8%; other nations had the rates between 0.5% and 2.0%. Regional estimated access to the Internet in 2002 was just 8% and broadband connections, most of them digital subscriber line (DSL), were 0.3% (ECLAC and UN 2003; Salzman and Albarran 2011). Mobile connections were much more extended, but their width of band and speed were low. The access divide reduced with time; ten years later Argentina, Uruguay, Chile and Colombia had a penetration between 66% and 50.4%, but in big populations, that is, Brazil and México, it was between 37.4% and 30.7%;

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Honduras and Bolivia had low rates, respectively, 11.8% and 12.1% (Criado and Gil-García 2013; Internet World Stats 2011). Although penetration kept growing, other variables like speed, width of band and storage capacity did not grow, so from an access divide we evolved to a faulty experience of the Internet that reduced the quality of e-Government, configuring a second level of divide. By 2010, a second wave of e-Government took place with the Alliance for Open Government, promoted by the UN and US President Barack Obama, in association with Mexico, Brazil, Norway, the UK, South Africa, Indonesia and the Philippines. Other 11 Latin American countries joined between 2011 and 2012 (CEPAL 2016). This movement pledged for transparency, control of corruption and increased citizen participation in governance through ICT (CLAD 2011). Only three countries of the region had a remarkable evolution in regard to e-Government services supply, and entered the group of the 50 most evolved e-democracies in the world: Colombia (43), Chile (39) and Uruguay (50). When analyzing e-Government supply and demand with the UN e-Government Index, Latin American governments do better in the delivery of online services against its demand from their citizens. That is the case of Colombia, Chile, Salvador and México. The opposite case, where supply of e-Government services is weaker than the demand of citizens, is in Argentina, Cuba, Panama and Uruguay. The citizens’ cultural/personal capitals seem to be stronger than what can be served by the State (Criado and Gil-García 2013). The region is at serious risks of consolidating a democratic divide (Norris 2000) due to marginal ICT access, the irregular quality of connectivity, lack of trust, lack of e-literacy and legal knowledge. Following the tendencies at the “Center,” governments invested more in Digital Capital, for the supply of public e-services, than in infrastructure, literacy and economic wealth distribution. The Rural Versus Urban Divide The limited diffusion of high-speed networks outside big cities has a negative impact on coverage, quality and the price of broadband. The rural also shows a low rate of ICT actualization, that is, flower farmers in Colombian rural areas surrounding Bogotá, during the 2000 decade, used predominantly computers with 32-bit processors from the Intel 80386/80486 range, developed between 1987 and 1994. That implied using the

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outdated Windows 95 Operating System and a “black market” of used hardware spare parts that would cost four or five times the cost of new incompatible hardware. This implied no licensing at all, minimum virus protection and expensive low-computing-power equipment. The instruments to deploy infrastructure and mitigate regional imbalances in access are insufficient to meet the increasing connectivity needs of households, businesses and public institutions. The intervention of the State became vital for broadband, although insufficient. Examples of these policies are Argentina Conectada in Argentina, in Brazil the Plano Nacional de Banda Larga, in Chile the plan Todo Chile Comunicado, in Colombia the plan Vive Digital and in México the Agenda Digital.mx. In developed countries, the priority is increasing quality while in Latin America it still is geographic expansion and increasing access. The investments produced by the privatization of telecommunications sector have concentrated in urban areas and medium-/high-profile users, which are the profitable. The gap in access for rural localities and low-income consumers is being perpetuated (Galperin et  al. 2013; Grazzi and Vergara 2011). Gender Divide Being a female household reduces by 6% the chances of Internet use in Latin America (Navarro and Sánchez 2011). In 1995, the UN Fourth World Conference on Women, in Beijing, launched a Platform for Action that was adopted by Latin America; one goal was eliminating women exclusion from ICT-related activities. In the year 2015, CEPAL/ECLAC reviewed the advances made in the region, concluding that the measures were cosmetic and the situation of gender exclusion, including women access to ICT, remained (CEPAL and ONU 2015). Women exclusion is seen in access, negative differences in wages with men at the ICT industry, declining number of women forming into ICT-­ related careers, cultural restrictions for girls in regard to ICT socialization activities at home, cyberbullying in Internet communities, and the production of social and psychological states that erode technological self-­ efficacy and induce the idea that women are determinate to be inferior to men in mastering ICT (Berrío-Zapata et al. 2017, 2018). Cultural capital heritage of patriarchy implicated a gendered division of activities that disqualified women, cannibalizing their Digital Capital.

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Ethnic Divide Ethnic groups in Latin America, despite being 10% of the population, still remain invisible (Hoppenhayn 2006; Pesce 2010). ICT initiatives developed by ethnic groups exist, that is, the Organización de Mujeres Aymaras del Kollasuyo (OMAK) Aymara network in Bolivia, the Internet campaign of information and supplies request produced by the Zapatista Movement in México, or the Ashaninka webpage in Peru. All these initiatives are supported internationally and located in virtual hosts out of the region. Local support for ICT empowerment of indigenous communities is almost non-existent (Pilco 2000). Non-indigenous groups have five times more probability of having a computer at home than ethnic communities (Calcagno Hernández 2003). In countries with significant indigenous population, gaps associated with mastering Spanish language in childhood have been detected: in Peru, only 8% of non-­Spanish speaking childhood citizens used the Internet compared to 40% in those whose childhood education was in Spanish (Katz and Galperin 2013). Cultural capital has implicated exclusion of some groups, based on appearance and language. The 5Cs interaction with Digital Capital in this sense is destructive. The Education Divide During the decades of 1990 and 2000, the number of children entering and completing traditional primary school in the region raised faster than in any other part of the developing world. Governments were committed to reaching universal alphabetism, and in numbers, some of them did: in Argentina, Uruguay and Chile, alphabetism is higher than 95%; Peru, Paraguay, Mexico, Ecuador, Dominican Republic, Colombia, Brazil and Bolivia are around 90% (SITEAL 2010). But almost no progress was made in improving quality and reducing inequality in schools. Latin America scores at the bottom of global tests for student achievement, that is, Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) or Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS). Children from poor families are far in scores from middle- and upper-class children. Although girls do better than boys in basic education, children from indigenous and Afro-Latin backgrounds still receive less education (PREAL 2005). Major educational priorities for the region remain on desertion rates, limited access, and low quality and insufficient training for teachers. Due

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to these inequalities, the priority of ICT plans for education was compensating exclusion. In the decade of 1990, four programs were referenced: Red enlaces (Chile), Proinfo (Brazil), Red escolar (México) and Programa de informática educativa (Costa Rica), followed in 2000 by educ.ar  – Conectar igualdad (Argentina), Colombia aprende (Colombia), Huascarán (Peru) and Plan Ceibal (Uruguay). Three models were applied: computer lab, desktop in the classroom and notebook/tablet based. Last model impacted strongly public opinion, as the State would give out an equipment to each student. Mobile learning has been developed timidly in programs like Supervisores Mendoza (Argentina), Alfabetización de Jóvenes y adultos (Colombia) and Minha vida móvil (Brazil). Major obstacles were the provision of equipment one-to-one, the cultural rejection about giving mobiles/tablets to schoolchildren and the availability–affordability of broadband and 3G/4G. In regard to content, barriers were funds for productions and availability of content, copyright restrictions and cultural objections to certain topics, that is, sexual education (Lugo et al. 2015). Programs integrating ICT in education have little effect on the students’ academic performance. Incorporating ICT at school “failed” in the spontaneous creation of Digital Capital. There was little monitoring and coaching during implementation as policy makers and bureaucrats assumed that the process would roll by itself. The media was satisfied with process evaluations, that is, number of computers given or number of schools covered, but impact measures were neglected (Barrera-Osorio and Linden 2009). Schools failed to provide children with the cultural, personal and scientific capital needed for economic and personal success and active citizenship articulated to ICT. Focus is on quantity and not on quality (PREAL 2005). The digital in education became a form of political propaganda without systemic changes or accountability for failure (Barrera-Osorio and Linden 2009). The Productive Divide ICTs are pieces of a complex thread in which they have to create synergies with different elements. Slow motion improvement in absolute terms implies stagnation in relative terms, as technology and connectivity in the world advance at a higher rate than it does in the region. Latin American ICT policies have forgotten areas, that is, those related to the generation of “complementary assets,” such as cultural/scientific capital in organizations. That prevents the expected results in economic capital, that

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is, productivity and performance. There is poor coordination between the different areas and actors required for intervention. Policies for ICT incorporation into firms are not integrated into national development plans, and initiatives for their efficient use are discontinuous (Rovira et al. 2013). Increases in ICT expenditure as part of the GDP do not necessarily reflect in improvements on productivity (Cimoli and Correa 2010; Grazzi and Vergara 2011). The contribution of ICT in improving organizational performance occurs through innovation activities (Koellinger 2006), and in Latin America innovation is feeble due to its strong extractivist tradition. Latin American SMEs incorporated ICT through minimum investments in administrative procedures, standardizing operational routines. Benefits were expressed in light automation of simple procedures and reduction of internal transaction costs. Sophisticated uses only happen in multinational or large companies, creating a divide between small and big firms (Rovira et al. 2013). Political leaders do not risk their political capital in clashing against the extractivist economy, neither SMEs adopt ICT with the necessary intensity, or create knowledge assets to develop an innovation economy. An organization divide is produced due to differences in Digital Capital between SMEs, multinationals acting in the region and local corporations.

Conclusions E-machines became central to the generation and appropriation of economic value, but their social impact depends on their articulation to communities within the social regime that they produce. Such articulation sprouts into history, values, beliefs, competences and geopolitics. Any theorization that separates the appropriation of technology from this context produces simplifications that turn into in discourses rather than knowledge. Our representations about the Information Society and how ICT would serve to the benefit of mankind were deeply affected by the constructions of myths, containing grandiose narratives taken from modern industrialism. Research and empirical analyses during the past two decades let us understand that such notions were simplifications and biased by economic and political interests. The decade of 2000 was prolific on “studies” about what ICT would achieve, feeding the myth of technology as precursor of development and justice. Developed countries legitimated

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this myth, inducing massive acquisitions of ICT in the “Periphery,” regardless of any assessment about the accumulation of the 5Cs in regions like Latin America. The technological layer over-imposed on a context full of asymmetries and needs, exacerbating some of these problems and deepening dependence. Digital inclusion turned into a discourse and soft power in Latin America. Here we examined samples of divides produced in different levels by this dynamic. These divides are a self-fed vicious circle, like loops. History and time are important to break them and accumulate Digital Capital; there are no shortcuts or miraculous solutions. Previous mechanisms of power integrated to technology and renewed their dominance. ICT evolved as a sophisticated capacity for domination within domination for distant relations. Active functions of the system are, for example, monitoring, control of investments and returns, data surveillance, cultural domination and consumerist e-marketing. Passive functions are, for example, technical dependence or backbone structure. Both are soft power exerting discursive alienation and co-optation. Non-profitable populations are outcasted, that is, rural or indigenous communities; those misbehaving get blocked, harassed with legal suits or even imprisoned, for example, WikiLeaks or Sci-Hub. Up to what extension Latin American regional policies are imitative consumption? Such is not an easy question. In this research we have seen an increasing amount of studies based on empirical information and not on the opinions of social influencers. CEPAL/ECLAC has been extremely active and valuable on that. With increasing empirical data, we will be able to differentiate discourse from fact. But even in the presence of well-­ supported studies, the reconsideration of certain policies still will be subject of the political and economic interests of the powerful elites at the “Center.” A clear example of this is the Net Neutrality denial in the US, and the waves that it is causing in Latin America. The region has championed the penetration of social networks like Facebook and WhatsApp and fallen into the “Post-Truth” regime. Colombian and Brazilian political elites have shown high levels of Digital Capital in producing fake news, to affect with success the result of political elections and plebiscites. This was not included in the revision about cybersecurity but it is certainly a matter to be considered, as political/ religious extremists and mafias are harvesting such Digital Capital. Knowledge in the region remains restricted to those communities that accumulated offline capitals, mainly economic and social. Digital Capital

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reinforces the position of these elites, who identify themselves with the “Center” elites. Their proximity and community of interests reinforce the Center–Periphery structure at all levels. Their power feed on the multiple divides that restrict the upraise of independent actors that might challenge their position and defend a welfare state. The question “including for what?” shows the importance of considering the Center–Periphery dynamic. If Digital Capital will boost productive enhancement, costs in royalties and copyright limitations may swallow such benefits. If Digital Capital will turn citizens into participative democrats, online propaganda and fake news may alienate them. If Digital Capital will integrate Latin America with the world, then espionage and remote surveillance would be well served by that. The gravitation of local and global “Centers” should never be neglected. Latin America is not the only territory suffering networked consumerism and citizen indifference. The Information Society is replicating the same phenomenon around the world, producing similar effects in developed countries. If no critical perspective refrains the tyranny of profit as the universal creed, the Center–Periphery model will keep replicating with increasing force, even in developed countries. Since the 1990s, distributed capitalism impulsed a process of “Third-worldization of the First world,” shifting local industries to maquilas in “Peripheral” countries, to take advantage of cheap labor cost, regardless of the problems of unemployment and recession that it caused. Other examples are digital labor platforms, where global freelancers from developed and developing countries share the same fate: working without minimal labor rights. The accumulation of power from the “Center” elites remains the problem, regardless of the territory where the activity takes place in the “global village.” The Digital Divide was born as simplistic discourse, but research and theorization showed us a growing complex picture that is pinpointing the future of humanity. This work tried to be a contribution toward understanding some of its implications, by applying the Digital Capital concept to the analysis of the different divides in Latin America.

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CHAPTER 15

Social Inequality, Technological Inequality and Educational Heterogeneity in the Light of the Conectar Igualdad OLPC Programme (Salta, Argentina, 2015–2017) Alejandra García Vargas, Laura Golovanevsky, and María Rosa Chachagua

Introduction. Mapping the Gaps, Minding Digital Inequalities and Educational Policies in Salta

the Bridges:

Which role may the development of digital technologies play for education in particular and not-metropolitan locations, within Latin America? What has been done so far and what could be done in the short run to bridge digital inequalities related to education in the northwestern area of Argentina? This chapter bridges both questions in order to analyze them A. García Vargas (*) • M. R. Chachagua CESDE-CIITED (UNJu-Conicet)/Universidad Nacional de Jujuy (UNJu), San Salvador de Jujuy, Argentina Universidad Nacional de Salta (UNSa), Salta, Argentina © The Author(s) 2020 M. Ragnedda, A. Gladkova (eds.), Digital Inequalities in the Global South, Global Transformations in Media and Communication Research - A Palgrave and IAMCR Series, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-32706-4_15

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via quantitative and qualitative data referring to a specific context and on a specific educative policy: the Programa Conectar Igualdad (Connecting Equality Programme—CIP) as a social policy applied in an urban and a rural secondary school located in Salta (Argentina). Both in Latin America and in Argentina, inequality is deeply rooted in the socioeconomic structure (Kessler 2010). In turn, the social uses of technology constitute an important field of debate, and the technological equity conditions during childhood and adolescence are part of most of the political and educational agendas of Latin American countries (Becerra 2015; Reygadas 2008; Rivoir 2009). The concern is repeated, as well, in the public discussions at local and national levels (Morales 2015; Benítez Larghi and Winocur 2016; Ficoseco 2019). In this chapter, we focus on digital inequalities in northwestern Argentina, the region to which Salta belongs. We analyze the implementation of the Connecting Equality Programme (CIP) both in a rural and in an urban secondary school from the province of Salta. In this chapter, we address the outcomes, problems and needs of specific and vulnerable populations (young students located in critical areas), because we believe that this is the best way to design and sustain digital policies related to socioeconomic and sociocultural well-being (Van Cuilemberg and Mc Combs, Helsper 2012). With an interdisciplinary approach that combines quantitative and qualitative data, this case study allows us to generate evidence on digital-inequality issues facing adolescents living in low-income communities, lacking access to quality basic services, and promotes evidence-informed policy change for the improvement of the access, the use and the implementation of information and communications technologies (ICTs) for educational, social and cultural development (van Dijk 2005). The notion of “digital divide”, which is widely addressed in the literature on technology (Di Maggio and others 2004; Bonder 2008; Benítez and others 2011), arises from a double distinction, as the conditions of inequality of technology access relate to a first-order gap, and the differences in the significant appropriation of ICTs involve thinking in a secondorder gap. As numerous studies refer (Camacho 2005; Rivoir 2009;

L. Golovanevsky CESDE-CIITED (UNJu-Conicet)/Universidad Nacional de Jujuy (UNJu), San Salvador de Jujuy, Argentina

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Benítez and others 2011), the second-order gap contributes to investigate how to and why access the technologies, allowing to go beyond a mere quantitative analysis of computers and Internet connections. In addition to the existing gaps in the material access to the Internet, van Dijk states that it is necessary to distinguish between different types of access that involve a complex appropriation of new info communication technologies: motivational access, physical or material access, skills and, finally, the use. Moreover, the combination of economic and material factors, and the different modes of access and social uses of the Internet, determines very clear gaps in Latin American countries (Becerra 2015). Rosalía Winocur (2007) adds the symbolic dimension between those who understand and appropriate its advantages and potentialities, and those who perceive it as a quasi-magical artifact that could illusorily avoid them a new kind of social exclusion that is perceived as increasingly threatening. According to Danani (2008), the question of re-citizenship as a specific way of inclusion depends on social policies that allow institutions to recover their democratizing nature, through the removal of the welfare logic and the revision of their conditions of use and quality, far beyond mere access. In this sense, it is important to incorporate the rights perspective as a fundamental contribution to discussing the re-citizenship and the inclusion of specific actors in school, digital and social inclusion processes. In educational debates, the concept of “inclusive exclusion” emerges, which aims to alert about the set of dimensions specific to discrimination in contexts of mass schooling, leading to a process of social segregation, inside and outside the institutions (Gentili 2009). In Argentina, massive access to education in parallel with the increase in inequalities and poverty generated the formation of differentiated school circuits according to the social origin of the student body, hence conditioning the appropriation of socially relevant knowledge by subordinate social groups (Tenti 2007; Gluz 2006). In this sense, the analysis of the school is important to explain the mechanisms of domination and legitimization of social inequality, both overlapped with digital inequality (Bourdieu 2002). In that sense, the CIP announced that it conceived the school as a privileged means to democratize access to knowledge. Thus, the state assumed the responsibility of preparing the educational system to train its students in the comprehensive and critical use of new technologies. So not only does it refer to the instrumental access and use of ICTs, but it also involves the learning of digital skills and the appropriation of these new devices. Our study seeks to illuminate the complexity of some relations between access, skills and technological abilities on the basis of the effective

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variations produced by an educational policy of digital inclusion based on the educational system that was developed in public schools attended by secondary school students located in socially vulnerable spaces (CIP). We understand that these schools, as social and technological spaces, condense critical features of inequality: they serve youth from popular sectors that are geopolitically located in the Latin American Southern Cone; nationally, in the province of Salta, which is part of NWA (a peripheral region in Argentina); and, territorially, in low-income urban areas and rural areas. In terms of sociotechnological dynamics, the work performed observes the diachronic variations in the device access by income levels, with a mode of statistical analysis that allows to weigh the importance of the CIP (2011–2017), given that we systematize the available statistics based on microdata for households income and not in the usual terms of public information, which even if they provide a (usually national) panorama, they invisibilize the provincial and local particularities and underestimate the class inequalities. Field work, in turn, allowed us to observe the social experiences of these students, not only in terms of the presence/absence of the new devices in schools and homes, but also in what the CIP implied in terms of enlargement, reproduction or innovation associated with the uses and domestication/normalization of said devices. Multiple scales are involved in the analysis when we intend to study digital inequalities in Salta’s experience, in its particular education and institutional environment. On the one hand, the global scale is concerned due to the importance of the Latin American experience in the general debate on information technologies and information and entertainment flows (Beltrán 2009; Mattelart 2009; Miller and Kraidy 2016). On the other hand, this global scale has to be considered in combination with national and local scales, because educational policies designed by the federal government are also applied by local governments as well. The global scale of operation of Information and Communication Technologies is an added complication to any situation of digital inequality: while the distribution of every resource is affected and determined by Latin American structural inequality, the information and communication activities are governed not only by relatively endogenous conditions specific to the history and present conditions of the countries of the region, but also by a certain kind of interconnection that is global and supposes the presence of institutions and both industrial and financial actors of an also-globalized system (Becerra 2015). In that sense, the “peripheral” Latin American position in that system is related to previous

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situations, even if the digital layer renews and modifies the discussions about freedom and equality in the streams and in the linings of infrastructure that are part of, for instance, the initiatives of non-aligned countries in the New World Order of Communications and Information of the 1970s and 1980s (Mattelart 2009). Such discussions resulted in a central critical contribution from the southern hemisphere to the theoretical discussion of the fields of communication and development, and fed the international politics debates promoted by different international organizations that culminated in the Mac Bride report (Beltrán 2009). In this regard, among the many differences between those debates and those from the World Summit on the Information Society, Mastrini and Jays (2004) point out: the absence of references to the concentration of ownership and its related harm to the plurality of voices in the multimedia panorama; the displacement of the international debate about communication from cultural institutions such as UNESCO to a technical body such as the ITU, which implies the transformation of central notions: the replacement of “communication” for “information”; the emergence of the “enabling environment” as a privileged model where the State is confined to a subsidiary role; the reference to the “technological neutrality” national states should respect; the emergence of new interlocutors for the States such as the private-­ sector corporations and, to a lesser extent, the civil society organized around the human right to technologies; the emergence of the notion of “digital divide” and the need to bridge such gap (the Declaration of the WSIS); the proposal of the “Digital Solidarity Fund” that transfers the cost of the global disbalance to the consumers themselves, waiving the responsibility of the rich countries and their big corporations; the absence of a unified interlocutor (such as the “non-aligned” block in the earlier discussion) and the independent consideration of each of the peripheral countries as “economies in transition” (returning to the model of development and modernization by stages). In positive terms, the role of the Civil Society has contributed to this debate the concern for human rights related to information and communication, community media and audiences in opposition to media concentration, free software versus proprietary software, the public domain against the intellectual property, the Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs), the respect for cultural diversity and participation over access, among other topics. Mastrini and de Charras (2004) conclude that neglecting the aspects outlined earlier can lead us to lose sight of the fact that we are faced with

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phenomena that, rather than technological, are actually cultural and social and, therefore, necessarily political. The attention to global inequality, then, has weight in the debate on the technologies of the information and the flows of information and entertainment, but intersects, in turn, with the national scale in terms of educational policies designed within state institutions of the Argentine federal government in combination, as well, with the provincial states that make it up. So the approach to digital inequity from the precise educational-­ institutional situations experienced in Salta invokes all these scales. Regional inequity is an important issue in Argentina (Manzanal 1999). Digital escapes are part of persistent and structural spatial inequalities, which affect the public education system. Even within a federal framework, educational policies—as the whole industrial, economic and cultural environment at national level—are marked by deep gaps between metropolitan areas located in the central region and the rest of the country. From their beginnings, these inequalities are related both to the World-­ system dynamics and to national markets and the development of economic and technological policies. Svampa (2005) poses that the neoliberal map of Argentina shows three main areas. From better to worse living conditions, these are a central area, an intermediate area and peripheral areas. Salta is part of the latter, shaped by low-developed economies, lack of basic services, low income and with dangerous expansion of mining and intensive agrofrontiers which impact the environment. Therefore, our first concern is about this national unequal condition, as part of the specific digital inequalities of Salta, signed by lack of access and infrastructure (first digital divide). The second point seeks inequalities “within” the area, at least in two senses: the deep division between rural areas and urban areas, and the intersectional patterns associated with gender, generational and ethnic inequalities. Thus, in Salta, this structural national division (associated, mainly, with income gaps) is combined by the aforementioned inequalities that distribute different educational rights associated with national infrastructure unequal distribution and rural/urban location gaps. These inequalities imply a deep digital divide and are associated with educational policies. During the “progressive turn” in Argentina (2003–2015), Kessler (2014) indicates that inequalities have been reduced, but with persistence of critical nodes associated with regional and urban/rural locations and intersectional disadvantaged groups (class, gender, age and ethnicity

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minority groups). Women, young people and indigenous people from northwestern and northeastern regions are the most disadvantaged groups. In this critical context, Kessler remarks—as one of the main equality policies associated with the population of adolescent students during this period—the Conectar Igualdad Programme. Many studies concur with this general consideration (Benitez Larghi et al. 2013; Chachagua 2019; Ferrante 2013; Marés Serra et al. 2012; Saintout 2015). In Latin America, the first fifteen years of the twenty-first century were characterized by many transformations in the field of public policies that attempted to advance in the democratization of the access to well-being, in general, and to education, in particular (e.g. in Argentina, the Asignación Universal por Hijo, as a minimum income distributed per child; or the Educational Audiovisual Services Policies, which included TV channels Encuentro and Paka Paka, and Educ.ar digital platform). In countries such as Argentina, such policies managed to reduce poverty but had relative and changing impact on inequality (Gluz 2012; Feldfeber and Gluz 2011; Kessler 2014). Such period matches with the stage which Artopoulos and Kozak (2012) call “the mobile phone era” in the educational policies of digital gap reduction. This stage proposes the integration of equipment in the classroom to be used in daily teaching activities. Within this general perspective, variants that differ in the way of working with mobile phones such as networked classrooms, mobile laboratories, the use of digital tablets and One-on-One models (one computer per child) of small computers or netbooks are distinguished (Moyano 2006). The latter, the One-on-One models, consist of the distribution of portable computer equipment to students and teachers on an individual basis, for them to have personalized, direct, unlimited and ubiquitous access to information technologies (Marés Serra et al., 2012). This system guarantees simultaneous access and connection to each other and to other networks in a time that exceeds that of school attendance. It is also considered to facilitate interaction, group collaboration, networking and the participation of all nodes. During the “progressive turn in Latin American governments”, broadly since 2006, programs based on the One-to-One model have been developed in different countries in Latin America.1 In most cases, these were 1  In 2006, the pioneers were Bolivia and Uruguay; in 2008, Peru, Venezuela and Colombia; in 2009, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Brazil and Chile; in 2010, Argentina, Paraguay and Ecuador; in 2012, Costa Rica; and in 2013, Mexico.

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state initiatives (national, provincial and/or municipal). Exceptionally, there were experiences in which non-governmental institutions or organizations, international organizations, foundations or companies collaborated in the funding. Ana Rivoir (2009) notes that most of these OLPC programs were based on the belief that the distribution of computers in schools or among students would solve the issue of digital inclusion. Susana Morales, on the other hand, argues that these initiatives have different objectives: economic, from which it “is proposed that ICTs and investment in human capital are crucial to the economic competitiveness of the region”; social, linked to the need to “reduce the digital gap and to promote equity”; and educational, from which it is understood “that ICTs can improve the quality of education” (Morales 2015: 38). However, that set of objectives remains linked mainly to access to the device as a major concern. For the Argentine case, CIP was created in 2010 as a public policy of digital inclusion based on the One-on-One model for the incorporation of ICTs in education. The program was shaped, executed, started and funded by the Federal Government. According to the foundation of the program, its main objective was to revalue and reposition the public school through a strategy aimed at reducing the social, educational and digital gap, improving the learning processes, updating the forms of teaching and strengthening the teaching role. The CIP explicitly stated the links with rights to education and the political and pedagogic ties between ICTs and human rights. In this way, the CIP was linked with three main factors: universal policies, pedagogic strategies and resources distribution (Da Porta 2015). The CIP posed Federal Government responsibilities on this link between education rights and CIP broad social availability. The “digital inclusion” was set up with the idea of being inside or outside the system, but, somehow, it was the trigger to think about the policies related to the inclusion of the most vulnerable or most disadvantaged peoples in the educational agenda. CIP was massive and had a federal scope: the devices (netbooks) were handed over to all students and teachers of public secondary schools in Argentina. Besides, digital mobile classrooms were provided to public teacher training institutes, everything fully funded by allocations from the national state budget. School was presented as the main place to democratize knowledge, educational and digital rights.

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In December 2015, the change of administration and political party of the National Government implied the modification of a number of policies, especially those linked to education, audiovisual communication services and technological convergence. Within this framework, CIP was transformed, suffering changes that ranged from massive layoffs of program workers to the program’s administrative-bureaucratic relocation. Finally, on May 2, 2018, CIP was dissolved by decree 386/18, which created the Connected Learning Program (PAC, given its initials in Spanish). The norm points out that, eight years after CIP was created, the digital gap (that they restrict the term to the concept of “material access” or first gap) “was resolved”, so it “mutates” to digital literacy, focusing on learning how to use computers and to create educational content. In this way, the new federal government ignored the multiple tasks of the CIP and stretched it to its device distribution objective. However, even when many recent studies on OLPC programs in Latin America insist on the limitations of device distribution policies in disconnected areas, and this has been one of the main arguments for cancelling CIP in 2018, recent discussions about the consequences of these politics reveal in what terms they had a positive impact on education toward equality. In this sense, Alderete and Formichela (2016) relate the availability (or unavailability) of the devices to the performance of the students in PISA educational and learning tasks evaluation. Thus, this chapter focuses on the impact of the Conectar Igualdad Programme (CIP) in Salta looking for the precise transformations associated with this policy in a critical geographic area, in order to highlight both the contributions and the limits of this policy in low-income urban and rural areas, and to contribute to further digital rights policies associated with education and the youth. The possibility of rebuilding a material geography of the presence of the ICTs in the territory of Salta appears to be necessary to observe, later on, both the heterogeneity and the inequalities of their multiple social uses, hence visibility a part of the diverse forms and possibilities of access in our country. In order to describe and analyze processes, forms of material and the symbolic constitution of practices connected to the CIP program, the task was divided into two areas. Even if these areas are interlinked, the first one mainly answers the first-digital-gap concerns via quantitative microdata, while the second one deals with the second-­ digital-­gap issues based on field work in a rural and an urban school.

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So, the work with comparative public statistical information during the 2011–2017 period, which is introduced in the first part of the article, allows us to address the presence/absence of various technological devices in Argentine households, pointing out the differences between regions and specifying the situation for the province of Salta. The (lack of) distribution connected to regional and geographic areas was reconstructed based on the analysis of micro-statistical information. This type of micro-­ information is available but not processed in national statistical reports, so there are not specific maps of the “inner country”. The work with comparative public statistical information during the 2011–2017 period is introduced in the first part of this chapter, and it allows us to address the presence/absence of various technological devices in Argentine households, pointing out the differences between regions and specifying the situation for the province of Salta. It is related, mainly, to first digital divide. In the second part, the said statistical information is combined with field work to approach the role, the valuation and the differential use of technologies according to contexts, regions, location and diverse socioeconomic conditions. In order to do that, the aforementioned statistical information is combined with the fieldwork in an urban school and a rural school, the latter being mediated by technologies in the province of Salta (2015–2017). Fieldwork was conducted in an urban and a rural media school of Salta (these schools are introduced in the second part of the chapter). These schools were selected among others because they reveal some specific characteristics, which are detailed in the second part of the article. The fieldwork was conducted from 2015 to 2017 and was oriented to register and analyze educational practices and narratives that combined CIP issues as well as representations on technologies, public schools and everyday life in context. These narratives are based on in-depth interviews to the selected school’s students, teachers and staff. Based on interviews to members of each school, the senses of digital inequalities connected to the possession of technologies in both the school and daily life of adolescents were recovered. This material was collected and systematized from specific field techniques: direct and indirect observations (field work notes); surveys of students and teachers (sixty-four cases); and in-depth semi-­ structured interviews to students, teachers and headmistresses of schools, and to managers and coordinators of the CIP in Salta (twenty in-depth interviews).

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To this end, interviews and surveys were conducted, which sought to interpret different perceptions of young people and teachers regarding ICTs and specifically the CIP as a public policy. The mode of approach was a follow-up of the interpretations around the netbook, from its arrival to schools until its further moving to other spaces of sociability of the youth, meaning the use at home, at clubs, in the neighborhoods and so on. This work was formed from a triad of central themes: youth, technology and public schools. The interpretations of students and teachers on these three central themes allowed us to analyze the dynamics and characteristics of the CIP and the eventual relations of the digital divide with the existing multiple dimensions of inequality in the province of Salta, from the perspective of the actors involved in its development. In this way, it was possible to detect those “unintended results” in the CIP, which nevertheless meant ICT-appropriation strategies not explicitly contemplated in the program. The public school as an institution was chosen because we consider it a relevant meeting space to investigate the perceptions, representations or limitations generated by the policies of technological dissemination in young populations.

Technological Availability and Income Inequality This section aims to describe the presence of ICTs in households, considering its location. Household surveys are used as they provide us with data on the daily life of families in the domestic sphere, inviting us to denature it and to analyze the presence of ICTs in the structuring of the social space (Aguilar 1999; Becerra 2007; García Vargas 2017; García Vargas et al. 2014). In particular, this approach relies on data from the 2011 National Survey on Access to and Use of Information and Communication Technologies (ENTIC, given its Spanish initials), and the 2017 Module of Access to and Use of Information and Communication Technologies (MAUTIC, given its Spanish initials), which was performed within the framework of the Permanent Survey of Households (EPH, given its Spanish initials). ENTIC intends to collect information about the available ICTs in households in order to be able to analyze aspects relating to digital inclusion in the country’s households (INDEC 2013). Its implementation

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was carried out along with the Annual Survey of Urban Households (EAHU, given its Spanish initials).2 The complementarity between the data of the ENTIC and the MAUTIC with the household surveys is key, given that, this way, the information on access to and the use of ICTs can be linked to demographic, housing, educational, migratory and income variables. This work fundamentally appeals to an observation of households according to income quintiles. We shall address the geographical and income variations of two technology sets which are present in households: computers and the Internet. Both the contrasting of the presence or absence of devices and connections among households with different incomes and the consideration of the coexistence of these groups or sets of technologies in them can provide empirical support for thinking, planning and managing democratizing and right-equalizing educational and communicational policies. The “digital gap”—a denomination that appeals to technological inequity—includes the distance between those who have access to digital technologies and those who do not (first digital gap), but also mentions other dimensions (digital skills or abilities, uses and appropriations of devices and networks). ENTIC 2011 enables the addressing of the first point: access to fixed or mobile computers, understood as the presence of such instruments in the household. This way, we can observe that, in Salta, 43.2% of the population owned desktop and/or laptops in that year (see Fig. 15.3 in Annexes). Obviously, the greatest possession to computers occurs in middle- or high-income households. The inequality among households is, in turn, severe in Salta (like in other provinces belonging to northwestern region), where computer ownership among fifth quintile households reaches 65.1 and 51.2% within fourth quintile households (against 22.6% in the first quintile). None of the provinces of the region, in none of the income quintiles, reaches the national average percentages of computer-owning households. In relation to this technology, the digital access gap (in terms of household possession) adds to the characterization of NWA as one of the structurally most disadvantaged regions of Argentina in the persistence of inequality  EAHU (Spanish acronym for Annual Survey of Urban Households) collects information from 31 urban agglomerations in the country, regarding households living in smaller cities. It was carried out in the third quarters between 2010 and 2014, based on a probabilistic sample. 2

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(Kessler 2014). As could be presumed, this indicator changed significantly after the implementation of the CIP in 2010.3 Taking MAUTIC data for the fourth quarter of 2017, a clear difference in access can be observed (as shown in Fig. 15.4 in Annexes). By comparing the data based on which Figs. 15.1 and 15.2 were constructed, we can see that, in most cases, the increase in the presence of a computer in the households in the provinces/agglomerates of NWA which are included in the graphics was significantly higher than what happened in the country as a whole. Growth has been particularly noticeable in the quintiles 1–3 of household per capita income, generally resulting fairly lower

Fig. 15.1  Villa Mitre secondary school (Salta city) 3  From 2010 (creation of the CIP) to 2015, almost 5,315,000 netbooks were delivered nationwide through this program (www.conectarigualdad.com.ar).

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Fig. 15.2  Case study rural schools’ location in Salta (Argentina)

in quintiles 4 and 5. These results of clear improvement in household computer access could be largely attributed to CIP, because this program was destined to these families’ media school students. Internet access is also analyzed. This is a means of communication, interaction and social organization (Castells 2001) of such importance that political and educational agendas incorporate the distance between who can and who cannot access it as a vital component of the concern for the “digital gap”. The data crossing carried out herein allows us to measure quantities of connected and disconnected households, comparing results of ENTIC 2011 with that of MAUTIC 2017. We can observe that by 2011 (Figs. 15.5 and 15.6 in Annexes) 27.9% of Salta’s households managed to access the Internet, an intermediate value in the NWA region. As expected, the largest number of households that could connect to the Internet belonged to quintile 5 (52.7% in Salta). Compared to the country as a whole, the NWA region was lagging behind, as, for example, 26.2% of households in the first quintile (the poorest) in the country had Internet connection in 2011, values that were only

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exceeded—with exceptions—by the households of quintiles 4 and 5 (the ones with the highest income) in NWA. By 2017, the situation had changed dramatically. In addition to the aforementioned comparability issues, it can be observed that while among households in the first income quintile of the country as a whole the percentage with Internet access had increased from 26.2 to 68.4% (i.e. it was multiplied by just over two and a half times), in Salta it had gone from 5.9 to 82.1% (being multiplied by almost fourteen times). While both increases are very noticeable, the case of Salta is shocking, since, among the secondincome-quintile households, those with Internet access skyrocketed from 19.7 to 88.4%, and, this way, the incidence is always on the rise, but less noticeable as the household’s income quintile is increased. In any case, although the availability of Internet in the household has nothing to do with CIP, it is a sample of the pace that Internet connectivity acquired in everyday life. The data we have does not make it possible to distinguish whether it is access from a landline or a mobile phone, although it is presumable that most of it corresponds to the latter (a situation corroborated in the field work experience). Field work included a school question survey that revealed that 62% of students owned a mobile phone. Some teachers combine these mobiles with the PCI devices for school work (as making multimedia presentations to social and humanities areas).

The Implementation of CIP in Two Schools from Salta In this section, we address the experience of CIP implementation in two schools from Salta. The urban School is located in a peripheral neighborhood of Salta city called Villa Mitre, a residence area for families largely with low-income levels, which means that Internet access (broadband) is almost non-existent in those households. Rural experience corresponds to an ICT-Mediated Secondary School.4 Both cases are developed in depth in Chachagua (2019).

4  In 2013, a cooperation agreement was concluded between the educational authorities of the province of Salta, UNICEF and Conectar Igualdad to create virtual classrooms. This policy is called “ICT-Mediated Secondary School”.

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The Urban Experience Villa Mitre is located in the eastern part of Salta city, and the school in which the field work was conducted is the only secondary school in a distant area from downtown. The institution has three shifts: morning, afternoon and evening. All shifts belong to secondary school, and received the corresponding netbooks and CIP equipment. Although both students and teachers had already had contact5 with other desktop computers, whether belonging to their family or to the school, and also with personal laptops, testimonies in general highlight that the CIP’s netbook was their first own device, both for students and for teachers. The school’s Technical Reference says that the institution generated digital literacy projects in response to some “resistance” from teachers to the use of the device. Thus, results were progressively achieved through collective work. Among the teachers, there are conflicting positions: some consider the Internet as a threat or distraction, while others see it as a resource to investigate and to access content. In 2013, upon the initiative of a history teacher (aged fifty-eight), an exhibition of photographs of Salta city and historical places was held. The exhibition was awarded by the Ministry of Education of the province for innovation and creativity in the use of ICTs. In addition, this institution participated in several technological projects, winning awards for “Best Use of the Chamilo Educational Platform” (2013) and “Use of ICTs at School” (2014). It also presented videogame-programming projects, with the support of CIP. We can say that the collective work associated with institutional initiatives characterized the CIP experience in this school, so it was recognized and rewarded as one of the most innovative in Salta. The Rural Experience The new format of the ICT-mediated school contemplates virtual classrooms that were located, in Salta’s case, in the different venues of thirteen sites, all of them with the characteristic of being in regions far from the capital city and in which there was no possibility of attending to secondary 5  Having had contact with computers before CIP does not imply that the computer is specifically theirs. In many cases, the desktop computer was shared by the family or belonged to the school’s IT lab.

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school. Virtual classrooms were installed in the primary institutions in these areas, where young people take lessons, having the same schedule as a traditional school. The ICT-mediated secondary school is an institution where teachers plan their lessons and then upload them to a virtual platform, which is accessible to both tutors and students from the venues. They have facilitators to guide students in the development of the activities proposed by teachers. Students have CIP netbooks and other digital tools such as mobile phones, screen, projector, loudspeakers and memory sticks in order to access virtual environments and to communicate. The secondary school students share a large, multi-year room, that is, students of all years in the secondary school are in the same physical space, just like in primary level. The classrooms are equipped with big tables, corresponding to each year, the chairs are located around them and the room has several plugs and extensions to connect the devices. Wires are seen everywhere. A teacher from the school located at Salta city headquarters (forty-­ seven years old) believes that this secondary school model transforms the lives of young people from rural areas, and she also highlights that “it is a constant challenge, in a daily basis”. A fourteen-year-old student thinks that “otherwise we would not be able to study, and we would have to devote ourselves to something else. This opportunity we have is very valuable and we cannot miss it”. Another teacher (forty years old) says that “it is a very positive but lacking system”. In fact, due to their geographical location, the venues have no access to the electric grid, but they have solar panels and a generator that produces electricity and water for each institution. The water in the area is not drinkable and the lack of electricity complicates connectivity. The coordinator of one of the venues (twenty-nine years old) says that “the light works during the day until 10 pm because the generator is turned off to save electricity for the following day, at best, since the problem of electricity and connectivity happens every day, at different times”. Not only teaching is ICT mediated and there is plenty of digitized material available, but there is also a very complete library, donated by UNICEF, where material for all areas of study is available. These are shelter schools, but field work shows that, for instance, a student who lives very nearby and does not sleep in the hostel, takes her netbook to her home every day to share some video, film or simply music with her family at night. Another student prefers to charge her mobile phone at school and to leave the computer there. In these rural areas,

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access to ICT implies not only an educational experience but also the possibility of connection and communication for students, their families and other inhabitants. Fieldwork Findings As noted in the statistical part, there are regions and sectors that remain disconnected and digital services that were accessed only by the highest-­ income sectors. This disconnection has a growing weight in inequality (Golovanevsky et al. 2018) and is perceived as an unmet need among the surveyed populations. In this context, the policies developed in Argentina, particularly CIP, seem to have had a significant impact in Salta. In this expansion, the differences among sectors of different income levels persist, although the temporary variations 2011–2017 indicate that the availability of a specific device incipiently reduced the material access gap associated with household-computer availability, affecting the gap between connected and disconnected people in a variable but positive way. Field work shows that such connectivity—mainly linked to CIP—is restricted to the school environment (with difficulties intersecting with previous infrastructural deficiencies in the same field) or else it is related to previous strategies of the less-affluent sectors to overcome it. Other spheres are excluded from this program. In rural areas, connectivity is still an infrastructure problem and one of the most present deficiencies such as electricity or drinking water, but the resolution area, partial and limited, is the public school mediated by ICT. The evidence mainly points at CIP’s potential to transform the classroom practices and at the multiple and heterogeneous forms of appropriation and domestication among the various actors of the institutions in Salta such as teachers, students, headmasters and headmistresses. In the case of the secondary schools studied in Salta, field work allowed to observe that, in spite of the changes that CIP has suffered since the end of 2015 until its recent dissolution, the devices encouraged and enabled projects that enriched the classrooms. The urban school shows a strong commitment to innovation and creation, especially in programming. Alongside CIP, they implemented several proposals: workshops and conferences on digital literacy for teachers, open workshops for students, the Chamilo platform to improve the connectivity issue, participation in contests and so on. In the case of rural schools, the use of the netbooks is

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indispensable to access secondary education yet; in addition, the population of these areas accessed the Internet for the first time from the school, which was transformed into a space of public meeting for the general population. A space made possible by the national state and by an international body linked to education. In turn, the surveyed experiences among students of the urban school show a virtuous articulation between the device’s availability and previous and extended strategies of less-affluent urban sectors for use and connectivity, complementing, for example, with the cybercafés (premises that offer Internet connection, repairing and sale of spare parts or used or refurbished electronic devices at low cost, in the neighborhoods) in the development of the digital experience (Prieto Ñañez 2017). So CIP devices brought innovations along, which are not enough to solve the multiple dimensions of digital inequality, but were also creatively integrated with previous digital experiences (García Vargas 2017). The CIP devices were part of all these students’ areas of sociability, articulating the technological and digital resources and skills of the youth and less-­ affluent sectors with the experience of Conectar Igualdad, in a daily intergenerational, family and neighborhood participation. This extra-­ school IT knowledge and capital was combined with that provided by the school to be part of the heterogeneity of uses and to reduce or increase inequality. However, this kind of virtuous circle depends on previous family digital capital and connection strategies. Fieldwork indicates the specific forms of the digital gap between different age bands, since schooling involves the meeting of teachers and students, but it also highlights the intergenerational household experiences with the devices, which give prestige to those who received them (the adolescents of the family), placing them in a place of know-how to do online paperwork or activities. Unlike other technologies, especially in urban areas, the CIP netbook enables these young people to use them without time restrictions from adults because of their relationship to school (as shown by Winocur in México, 2007). At home, these students are also committed to help by using these devices in everyday family economies. The use of netbooks to disseminate or sell products from the popular economy (such as handicrafts) or to solve bureaucratic formalities linked to targeted social policies also shows the inclusion of CIP in specific social circuits, among families which are strongly conditioned for consumption due to their low income.

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While the digital gap among young people is smaller than that among older groups in these families, it still exists. And fieldwork also points out that netbooks took part in the generalized ways of poverty and gender reproduction of these young people. For instance, traditional gender roles that tie women to children care are shown in the use of the devices to entertain siblings or children by the female students, while their use among male students is also playful, but in terms of personal entertainment.

Conclusions and Future Work Our analysis indicates that the technological dissemination policies developed in Argentina, especially the CIP, seem to have had a relevant impact in the educational system, accompanying a general ICTs broadcast process. In this expansion, differences persist between sectors of different income levels and of rural or urban localizations, although positive variations indicate the extent to which public policies may positively influence the reduction of the material dimension of access (first digital gap). Fieldwork indicates that, even if the digital gap is narrower among the youth than among older-age groups, and among male students than among female students, it still persists. Furthermore, the analysis shows that there are regions and sectors which remain disconnected, that there are digital services that are accessed only by the most favored sectors and that this disconnection has a growing weight in the general configuration of social inequality in Salta. Thus, the availability of a specific device incipiently reduces the structural fragmentation between incipiently connected and disconnected people, while it solves neither the connectivity issue nor those issues derived from previous unequal digital literacy processes and the social uses of such technologies. So, digital capital idea from Bourdieu (2002) allows us to sustain that digital inequalities are part of social inequalities, but social inequalities (and opportunities) are part of digital gaps. The case study shows that provincial and regional inequality is further deepened in rural areas far from urban centers. The specificity of technological inequalities cannot be explained only by the division between those who have or do not have access to ICTs, although this dimension remains part of the problem in this specific context. Digital inequalities are increasingly extensive and complex, covering also the digital competencies or skills, the uses and appropriations of both the digital devices and the Internet. In urban areas, CIP was a step forward that encourages to continue to think those policies related to the inclusion of the most

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disadvantaged sectors of the educational policy agenda. In the rural locations, CIP, combined with UNICEF’s plan, ensures the secondary cycle in ICT-mediated schools. As a consequence, the continuity of the program is imperative. The comparison with the incidence of cellular telephony, completely distributed and managed by the market, reinforces the distance in the possibilities of access with rural areas that are not profitable for private companies, and, at the same time, it minimizes the inequalities of access in urban areas where there are greater possibilities of connection, although these depend on the families’ consumption capacity (Golovanevsky et al. 2018). If we think, then, in terms of equal access and in the efficiency that the public education system has shown in disseminating computers under the one-to-one model in urban and rural areas, perhaps it is time to consider public schools as connectivity nodes complementary to other public institutions, such as digital points and cultural centers. Fieldwork with students and teachers reveal us a heterogeneity that shows, on the one hand, a strong commitment to the training and application of these “new” knowledge, but, on the other hand, the persistence of the unequal contextual conditions that house these institutions and these young people (lack or reduced availability of basic services, like water or electricity). The research shows that an inequitable social structure affects the conditions of access of part of the society to info communicational goods and services, even in cases of policies that guarantee material access to the device. These are key resources to wellbeing and that increasingly condition the relative social positions of individuals and groups. CIP innovations are added to previous technologies, but at an uneven pace that, while slowing down the material dimension of the gap, it does not eliminate its persistence. Therefore, the digital inequality is superimposed on prior geographies of inequality, and it renews them at the same time: Northwestern Argentina is technologically uneven, and much more unequal than the rest of the country, reaching the second place in inequalities within the country (Calvo and Moscovich 2017); the rural areas suffer higher degrees of digital inequality than urban areas; income is still the determining factor for connection in the urban areas; age and gender are persistent axes on digital inequality. This study, by critically describing part of the heterogeneity of experiences of digital inequality in specific territories, will contribute to the provision of the necessary empirical support to think, plan and manage democratizing and right-equalizing digital and communicational policies based on public educational system.

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Annexes Statistical Microdata on computing-owning households and Internet access in Argentina, northwestern region and Salta

Fig. 15.3  Percentage of computer-owning-households according to the household’s family income per capita quintile (taking into account the income of each province). NWA region. 2011. NWA region: it includes the provinces of Catamarca, Jujuy, Salta, Santiago del Estero and Tucumán. (Source: Our own elaboration based on microdata of ENTIC and EAHU (INDEC))

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Fig. 15.4  Percentage of computer-owning households according to the household’s family income per capita quintile (taking into account the income of the jurisdiction). NWA region. 2017. (Source: Our own elaboration based on microdata of MAUTIC and EPH (INDEC))

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Fig. 15.5  Percentage of households with Internet access (fixed or mobile) according to the household’s family income per capita quintile (taking into account the income of the jurisdiction). NWA region. 2011. (Source: Our own elaboration based on microdata of ENTIC and EAHU (INDEC))

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Fig. 15.6  Percentage of households with Internet access according to the household’s family income per capita quintile (taking into account the income of the jurisdiction). NWA region. 2017. (Source: Our own elaboration based on microdata of MAUTIC and EPH (INDEC))

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CHAPTER 16

Afro-Creole Nationalism and the Maintenance of the Digital Divide: The Case of Jamaica Nova Gordon-Bell

Introduction Many countries in the North can speak of the evolution of their societies from agricultural to industrial economies then to the current information age, that is, the knowledge economy. The economic arrangements served by rapidly converging and evolving digital technology development were imposed on these societies without any concern for context (McChesney 2004). These societies were never allowed to contend with the real issues of their own context, evolution, history and culture and generate solutions born from their own internal social dynamism (Sankatsing 2016). “What powerful colonial, imperial and modern countries have widely acclaimed as development in numerous variants and tastes, in the last half millennium was its exact opposite, namely envelopment, a process of enclosing, of wrapping up, of molding from outside through transfer and N. Gordon-Bell (*) University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2020 M. Ragnedda, A. Gladkova (eds.), Digital Inequalities in the Global South, Global Transformations in Media and Communication Research - A Palgrave and IAMCR Series, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-32706-4_16

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mimicry” (Sankatsing 2016, p. 43). Sankatsing further describes envelopment as “the paternalistic, disempowering control of an entity by an external locus of command at the expense of its internal life processes and ongoing evolution. It typically boils down to overruling the creative search of others for genuine responses to challenges through the imposition of context-free models and yardsticks that claim universal validity. The direct impact of envelopment is alienation and disruption by frustrating, blocking and aborting ongoing and potential life processes” (Sankatsing 2016, p. 43). Societies in the global south were compelled to accept economic directives for their economies from global organization: the World Trade Organization (WTO), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. People who were themselves the means of production for the first wave of globalization, whose raw, unskilled labor provided the wealth the North earned from sugar production, are now mandated to speedily upgrade their human capital in order to survive collectively and individually in a new knowledge economy. This desperate pursuit of development typically elides acquisition of technologies from the North with progress, and very little attention is paid to social and historical context, the priorities that must be served first before meaningful change can be realized. That institutions and cultures must be sufficiently altered for the benefits of new technologies and systems to be realized is generally not considered. This chapter presents an overview of the digital divide in Jamaica, an island nation of just under three million people. First, this chapter outlines how global discussions on digital divide are evolving beyond concerns with mere hardware access and connectivity. It then reviews internet penetration data on Jamaica which is largely restricted to hardware access and connectivity. The implications of this limitation in light of more evolved understandings of the digital divide and digital inequality provide a platform to discuss the historical and socio-political contexts that not only influence internet use in Jamaica but the systems necessary to evolve and develop the human capital necessary to measure and study the phenomenon. Using the concepts of plantation economy (Levitt and Best 1975) and Afro-Creole Nationalism (Hintzen 1997, 2001), this chapter then describes institutional and ideological factors that maintain the colonial legacy of inequality. This chapter concludes that human capital development and access to social and cultural capital is  important to closing the  gap among internet users individually and collectively  and moving societies like Jamaica out of social crisis, economic stagnation and endemic social inequality.

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Perspectives on the Digital Divide Discussions about the digital divide have moved on from how many people have access to the internet and how many do not (DeHaan 2004; DiMaggio et  al. 2004; Hargittai 2003; Van Dijk and Hacker 2003; Warschauer 2002). Discussions now evince a more critical engagement with digital inequality among internet users (DiMaggio and Hargittai 2001; Hargittai 2003). As internet penetration rates increase across the world and within countries, researchers have turned their attention to the nature of internet use among users and the individual and collective benefits the users produce (Choung and Manamela 2018; DiMaggio et  al. 2004). Discussions of the digital divide now present the phenomenon as requiring three levels of analysis (Ragnedda and Ruiu 2017). Beyond the first level of concerns with access and connectivity, there are concerns with how (or if) connectivity or access is being used and why. People who use the internet present with differing levels of motivation, knowledge and skills in the use of the internet (DeHaan 2004). They join, create or participate in social networks and interactions, access relevant knowledge and develop skills and experiences in internet use at different levels. They use hardware and services that differ in quality. At the third level, among those who are using the internet, to what extent are they using the internet and its services productively, to create benefits individually or collectively? At this third level in analyzing the divide, researchers are concerned with how abilities vary in the productive use of the internet (Hargittai 2003; DiMaggio et  al. 2004) to produce tangible outcomes (Choung and Manamela 2018; DiMaggio et al. 2004). Since inequality presents as differing access to and benefits from capital—physical, social, cultural and human—discussions about digital inequality now contend conceptually with the emerging construct of digital capital, the resources persons can acquire from the use of internet and the related modes of digital communication, information and skills (Ragnedda and Ruiu 2017; Roberts and Townsend 2015). The discussion increasingly recognizes that access to and use—especially specialized use— of the internet provides a new frontier of human social interaction and with that interaction a new domain for human acquisition of various types of skills and resources of “value.”

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Jamaica and the Digital Divide Lack of adequate resources and funding pose a significant challenge to research and the generation of quality statistics in most developing countries. This includes the recruiting of staff capable of managing the complex requirements for measurement in a rapidly converging field (Hamilton 2010; Teltscher and Cervera-Ferri 2009). Lack of resources also creates significant social divisions, lack of trust and potential hostility. Researcher access to some communities is limited and safety is often an issue where residents distrust researchers and perceive them as state agents (Hamilton 2010). Jamaica’s Statistical Institute (STATIN), the state agency responsible for collecting and producing statistical information, reports that internet penetration in Jamaica has been steadily increasing (Statistical Institute of Jamaica 2017). In 2006 internet penetration in the island was just over 39%. By 2017, 53% of households had internet access. In the same year, 58% of Jamaicans connected to the internet from computer, tablet or mobile phone. The state’s public information service, the Jamaica Information Service, reported government plans to increase Wi-Fi access through state provision of secured free Wi-Fi in popular public spaces across the island (Jamaica Information Service 2016). Providing internet services, computers and tablets to a wider cross section of citizens has typically been the state strategy for addressing the divide (Dunn et al. 2011). This state response to the digital divide as a matter of access to hardware and connectivity is not unique to Jamaica (DiMaggio et al. 2001; Van Dijk and Hacker 2003). The challenges of measuring internet access notwithstanding, some researchers are investigating Jamaica’s digital divide beyond the first level of access and connectivity. Dunn et al. (2011) report that while internet penetration rates have been increasing, overall internet usage was low across the island. The study attributes this low usage to the high cost of equipment and services. The same study also found that internet usage— like mobile phone usage—has “concentrated around social activities, with very low applications to economic and educational endeavors” (Dunn et al. 2011, p. 1). Dunn et al. (2011) found that cost and location of internet service appear to affect consumer uptake of internet service and suggest that government fiscal policies would need to address these concerns. Jamaica has a heavy tax regime which comprises a 25–30% income tax, a consumption tax (16.5% up from 15%) and a special tax on fuel and

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telecommunication services. There is also an education tax. In 2001, the government of Jamaica announced the waiver of what was then the 15% consumption tax on computers, software and computer peripherals. The intent was that “ordinary persons” would have access to the information highway and would encourage overseas donors, who were concerned about duties (“Computer tax confusion,” 2001). The policy was reversed when in 2009, the tax was reapplied to computers with the exception of computer purchases for educational institutions. At the level of the state, then there appears to be no consistent policy in regard to facilitating computer ownership. The Jamaican government reaps significant revenue from digital technology use. The state negotiates licenses, revenues and taxation and sets rules and prescriptions for local players and consumers (Dunn and Minto-Coy 2012). As the first level of the digital divide in Jamaica, just over 40% of the country have no access to the internet. Limited studies, not particularly large enough to be representative, have been done that demonstrate the need for extensive and more evolved enquiry into the digital divide at the other two levels and for a more nuanced research into digital inequality among users. In research done among Jamaican youth who are typically the most active users of these technologies (Dunn et al. 2011), these studies find overwhelming use of technologies for informal social networking and entertainment and limited use for tangible outcomes such as content creation, origination and production (McKoy 2014; Kelly 2007; Daley Morris 2013). McKoy’s 2014 study is of particular interest as her sample was drawn from a group of young Jamaicans enrolled in an undergraduate digital media production degree program. While the youngsters were being trained in industry skills for media production, very few of them reported using internet/digital resources for content production outside of class assignments and learning activities. Jamaica’s national development plan—Vision 2030—references limited activity at what this chapter considers level 3 of the divide. The plan speaks to the island’s low level of information and communication technology (ICT) adaptation and the insufficiency of the ICT skills in the island even for this low level of ICT adaptation (PIOJ 2009). The state planners implicate the education system at all levels for their “products”—students with limited skills and sub-par competencies not only in ICT skills but also in English language (PIOJ 2009, p. 222). The state planners here identify the intersection between specialized ICT skills and skills typically regarded as cultural and related to human capital. The plan reports, further, that the

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island’s export of ICT services is extremely limited and offers mainly low value-added services. The planners note the limited access to capital for ICT sector expansion and suggest that local investors seem largely uninterested in the development of the local industry and equally uninterested in outsourcing opportunities. Much of the activity in the sector is driven by foreign direct investment, and Jamaica currently has the largest call center industry in the region. As the document speaks to the low level of ICT adaptation in the country, it acknowledges the state’s own limitations in its inability to conclusively measure the impact ICTs have on the island’s productivity. The state planners point to the apparent lack of interest among local investors in the development of the local industry. Jamaica’s public and private sector institutions remain largely traditional in their focus on traditional markets and traditional methods. Historically an import-oriented economy, local owners of capital and local consumers still valorize imports over local products to the detriment, often, of viable economic and financial opportunities. The Plantation as Context The plantation economy model (Levitt and Best 1975) proposes that Jamaica’s historical experience of plantation agriculture, the growing of a single crop, sugar, under the British mercantile system, influenced not only the form and content of the society but the culture and the development of its institutions. Britain provided a guaranteed market for West Indian sugar, and although this arrangement did not benefit the islands’ local economies, it became the accepted mode of trade and economic operation. Sugar plantations in Jamaica and the British West Indies were the primary mechanisms for British exploitation of the region. These economies evolved in contrast to those countries in the region that were subject to conquest for settlement. Very different social institutions emerged from the two contrasting spaces (Levitt and Best 1975; Sokoloff and Engerman 2000). Acemoglu et al. (2001) statistically confirmed the relationship between the settlement and conquest motives of imperial powers and the growth and development of those economies and the institutions. The plantation economy model, an outgrowth of OIE—Original Institutions Economics—focuses on institutions and the norms they maintain. Institutions typically represent inertia and resistance to change. As

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institutions manage the economy and the society, they also determine limitations and opportunities (Neale 1987). Political independence would not automatically change how institutions framed problems and sought solutions. The modes of trade, the markets and the nature of the economic negotiations the island inherited from colonial rule remained largely unaltered in independence. While mainstream economic thought seeks to universalize and treat country and cultural specificity as irrelevant, OIE recognizes institutions as products of individual societies’ histories, culture and social norms shaping how we understand and define problems and propose solutions (Ayres 1961, 1962; Commons 1931). As an example of how the plantation economy model shaped institutions post-independence, Levitt and Best (1975) show how Jamaica’s financial sector evolved directly from land inequality associated with large-­ scale sugar production in the plantation economy. Going into independence, that sector offered limited support for the large number of peasant farmers involved in domestic agriculture. Elliott and Palmer’s (2008) study of land tenure found that a clear policy bias existed in favor of owners of large assets who were involved in agriculture for export. Levitt and Best’s articulation of the plantation economy model was generally dismissed by mainstream development theorists for its inability to empirically connect the plantation economy to the island’s continued lack of economic growth and pervasive social and economic inequalities post-independence (Richards Elliott and Palmer 2008). “Prediction” and “universality” along with developed empirical tools (Parada 2001, p. 58) are required for mainstream theory acceptance. However, the failure of market liberalization and globalization—and the digital tools deployed in their service—to bring growth and development to the developing world (Khor 2000) has again reawakened interest in perspectives that foreground institutions, history and context. In hypothesizing the relationship that inequality, institutions and limited growth are related, Richards Elliott and Palmer created models for assessing the sources of inequality and the sources of growth based on the following variables: income inequality, education (primary and secondary school completion rates), relative shares of arable land still devoted to sugar production and economic freedom, the share of investment in gross domestic product (GDP), labor force participation rate and a number of policy variables that reflect those used extensively by the Jamaican governments to stimulate growth, for example, interest rate, the real exchange rate and the size of government (Richards Elliott and Palmer 2008 p. 197).

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The researchers found that education facilitates wealth distribution. The researchers qualify their findings about observation. The quality of education, or the school, is generally not considered when analyses are made about enrollment in school and successful completion. Richards Elliott and Palmer (2008) consider that it is likely that it is “skills” and not formal schooling that results in growth. The results show further that inequality has a negative effect on growth: asset inequality, policies that serve narrow group interests, systems that allow for the unequal accumulation of personal wealth and a culture that is accepting of inequality. These findings are consistent with other studies into inequality (Easterly and Levine 1997; Bloom and Sachs 1998; Birdsall 2001, 2006). The variables used and the findings represent measures of human capital (education), social capital (group interests and connections) and physical capital. These are generally consistent with those variables identified as important in addressing digital inequality (Hargittai 2003; Di Maggio et al. 2001, 2004; Norris 2001; Ragnedda and Ruiu 2017; Warschauer 2002). Social inequality is both a defining characteristic of countries with plantation economies a contributing factor to poor growth and development, and a retardant in the development of the variables—human and social capital—needed for reducing digital division and inequalities. The plantation economy model helps us understand why fifty-seven years after political independence struggles with sluggish economic growth and pervasive social deterioration. Institutions, their culture and the policies they generate have not recalibrated for the new demands of modern age nor redefined development and “modernity” according to Jamaican needs and priorities. Consensus exists among the region’s political scientists that countries like Jamaica are unable to transform the landscape of inequality shaped under colonial rule and remain in crisis (Bogues 2002a; Henke 2004) and hegemonic dissolution (Meeks 1996) as post colonies (Bogues 2002b) because their institutions have high legitimacy deficits (Henry 2000). Institutions serve elite group interests at the expense of collective development and economic growth (Hintzen 1997, 2001; Gray 2004). Afro-Creole Nationalism and Inequality Guyanese sociologist, Percy Hintzen, outlines how the particular ideological construct of “nationalism” that informed the quest for self-­ government and then independence failed to dismantle the institutional

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and cultural underpinnings of colonialism and preserved deeply entrenched systems that restricted opportunities for the majority of citizens to improve their physical, human and social capital. The shapers of independent societies like Jamaica perceived British rule as the main problem; they would go on to attempt to build a new nation state without transforming the institutions that still located formal economic and social power in traditional sectors of the collective and maintained systems of dependence in trade and foreign relations. The role of local middle-class elites in mediating not only foreign control but social and economic inequality is important in any analysis of Jamaica (Hintzen 1997, 2001; Lewis 2001). The elected leaders of newly independent Jamaica were mainly mixed-race professionals and educated blacks from the middle stratum of Jamaica’s racially stratified society. For this reason, Hintzen proffers the concept of “Afro-Creole.” The privileged access colonial systems allowed them to education, colonial social norms and values—including and especially language—located them as mediators between a predominantly poor, non-English-speaking black peasant and working class and the wealthy non-black land and capital owning upper classes. Control of post-colonial state institutions provided that group with the opportunity to improve their own human, social and cultural capital through control of the state and the economy and negotiations with former colonial overlords and newly emerging North American and middle-eastern power economic brokers. At independence, 80% of black Jamaicans were illiterate (Beckles 2014). At independence, also, the disposable income for 7% of the population increased by £7.196 million, while disposable income for the other 93% decreased by £3 million, “by deduction 7% of the population was better off by 172% & 93% worse off by 72%” (Seaga 2009, p. 67). The post-­ independence relationship with the United States of America was particularly important in Afro-Creole Nationalism. Jamaican leaders consented to the terms of a North American global economic ideology (Dupuy 2001). North America replaced Britain as the locus for Jamaican aspirations. American consumerism would now represent development, introducing new lifestyles, values and consumption patterns that kept the country in a state of economic dependence (Dupuy 2001; St. Rose 2007). In the absence of appropriate policies to address the colonial legacy of asset inequality (Richards Elliott and Palmer 2008), these new developments deepened social and economic inequalities and widened class divides. Currency devaluation to facilitate foreign investment continues as the

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state’s primary economic strategy despite its demotivating and restrictive impact on the island’s predominantly low-wage earning labor force. State policies and institutional systems locate the majority as wage earners rather than wealth makers. Reliance on imports in pursuit of “development” based on acquisition of commodities, led to the emergence of a “large low-wage distributive sector (wholesale and retail) rather than a high-­ wage manufacturing sector” (Richards Elliott and Palmer 2008, p. 192). The primary source of inequality and poverty in Jamaica is the relatively low earnings of labor (Boyd 1988). State policies have yet to shift from the pattern of low value-added commodity exports produced by low-wage earners. This has characterized Jamaica’s economy for well over a generation (Hughes 2006, p. 4). Policies designed to stimulate the economy have limited effects at the macro-level but significantly reproduce inequality and poverty and give rise to new and virulent forms of poverty coupled with crime, violence and dysfunctional social interactions. To maintain power and control, middle-­ class elites must manage the electoral system as the institution central to its group interests. Although majoritarian representation is considered less representative than proportional representation and less efficient in dealing with the issues of the poor (Persson and Tabellini 2002), national leaders maintain the system that affords increasing centralization which is understood to negatively affect participation government (Stone 1994; Acosta and Alleyne 2006). In the face of pervasive poverty, and a labor force with limited autonomy based on limited income and opportunities, the deleterious effects of Jamaica’s majoritarian parliamentary system are a matter of record. The Report of the National Committee on Political Tribalism (1997) outlines how national leaders manipulate the socially dispossessed through housing to secure political advantage and exploit the most vulnerable especially in urban centers. The state in Jamaica has been described as predatory (Robotham 2007; Gray 2004) deploying formal and informal power—state enforcers or criminal gangs—against those who would challenge its facilitation of elite control. Dispossession in Jamaica is not limited to physical capital. Afro-Creole Nationalism’s marginalization of non-English speakers—citizens who speak mainly Jamaican Creole, a language form that had its origins among enslaved Africans on the sugar plantation—further compounds the anti-­ growth processes that fuel inequality. Despite having the “vote,” non-­ English–speaking Jamaicans are alienated from the processes of formal power (Devonish 2002; Lewis 2001) and this alienation is legitimized in

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dominant discourse. The naturalness of middle stratum language, manners and acculturation for the important affairs of state and for personal and professional development are endorsed and legitimized. Without formally recognized state support for the language of the majority, it is not difficult to appreciate how formal education serves elite interests and facilitates inequality, the development of social interaction and access to a variety of social resources. In Jamaica, education is contextualized as a benefit tied to ability. Based on government tests that determine ability, students are assigned to secondary schools. Based on regional tests that determine ability, students may or may not meet matriculation requirements for university. The children from the Anglophone middle stratum have a competitive advantage in vying for these positions and if they should be found to lack “ability” their parents’ social capital and networks—if not merely their financial resources—facilitate access to quality education. Without language rights and access to an equitable education system, the majority, the predominantly poor must depend on middle stratum advocates who claim to “speak” for them and who, typically, use this platform to negotiate their own cultural capital at home and abroad. Limited access to private property, education and restrictive suffrage typically serve as the main source of poverty, inequality and lack of growth (Sokoloff and Engerman 2000). Since Afro-Creole Nationalism depends on universal adult suffrage for its legitimacy, we understand from this analysis how inequality is maintained through elite control over resources that allow for human capital development. It is evident that Jamaicans have, historically, demonstrated creative resilience (Dunn 2019) and agency (Dunkley 2013) in the face of economic exploitation and social exclusion, but the need for “strategic individual ideas” to be “supported by national or regional internal resources” (Dunn 2019, p. 25) is still an imperative.

Conclusion Jamaica’s National Development Plan—Vision 2030—highlights “where we are” and lists the issues that confront the nation: poor economic growth, lack of consensus on critical issues, one of the highest murder rates in the word, low productivity in most sectors, weak infrastructure, poor educational performance and high youth unemployment. It presents in the list lack of transparency, poor governance in regard to accountability and a “high perception of corruption permeating public and private sectors” (Planning Institute of Jamaica 2009, 7–8). The role of trust in the

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building of society in general and social capital—social relations and the value these provide—is an important theme in discussions of digital divide and digital inequality (Coleman 1988; Hargittai 2003; Ragnedda and Ruiu 2017). Strategies to exploit the full benefits of digital technologies for economic and social growth and development must confront the island’s centuries old commitment to inequality and social exclusion. The academe in Jamaica must commit itself also to allow for non-traditional conceptual and theoretical frameworks for enquiry if research is to proceed beyond hardware access and internet connectivity, who has it and who does not. We must understand how “the plantation” and “elite domination” continue to undermine opportunities for growth and true development and critically interrogate assumptions about development and how it should present in a Jamaican context. Already, the national development plan indicates that the state will be looking for external mentorship in the development of a local ICT sector. While external assistance and experience are always valuable, in the historical context of a post-colonial Jamaica, we see the institutional habit of importing solutions before the nature of the problem locally has been critically assessed. Although the issues in this chapter have been articulated in the discourse and language of different disciplines, the issues presenting from research into digital division and inequality are not dissimilar to the issues that confront economic theorists, sociologists, political scientists and anthropologists. Dunn and Boafo (2010) call for a concerted effort with “harmonized” policy making among regions in the global South with a view to more meaningful negotiation where governments are constrained by global arrangements that limit the state’s ability to determine its own best interest. This harmonization must also take place among academics and scholars in the island, in the region and across the globe to evolve contextually appropriate methods and approaches for enquiry into individual social and cultural contexts.

References Acemoglu, D., Johnson, S., & Robinson, J. (2001). The Colonial Origins of Comparative Development: An Empirical Investigation. American Economic Review, 91, 136–140. Acosta, AM., & Alleyne, D. (2006). The Policymaking process in Jamaica. Inter American Development Bank, 1–67.

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Afterword: Knowledge—Whose Knowledge? Bruce Mutsvairo

For decades, empirical studies focusing on the Global South have been so scarce. Worse still, those providing comparative perspectives into existing digital inequalities in the region have been hard to come by. It’s for this reason that volume editors Massimo Ragnedda and Anna Gladkova along with series editors Marjan de Bruin and Claudia Padovani ought to be congratulated for putting together such a fiercely compelling and comprehensive volume. By any standard, this book should be a go-to-­ volume for anyone interested in contemporary enquiries into digital inequalities in the Global South. Here is why. First of all, as differences in access to and use of information and communications technologies (ICTs) continue to rapidly expand, studies into digital inequalities in less developed regions of the world have remained scant. In a confusing era of the so-called digital economy, top-notch research is needed not only to appraise what skills are needed but also to examine what challenges and opportunities are engulfing less advanced economies. Second, various societies and better still, governmental and non-governmental bodies based in the aforementioned region, desperately need credible research

B. Mutsvairo Auburn University, Auburn, AL, United States © The Author(s) 2020 M. Ragnedda, A. Gladkova (eds.), Digital Inequalities in the Global South, Global Transformations in Media and Communication Research - A Palgrave and IAMCR Series, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-32706-4

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data emerging from books such as this to be able to meticulously address existing social inequalities and ensure that not only the elite benefits from the emerging economic prosperity. As nations rush to introduce digitally empowered societies and knowledge-based economies, digital inequalities are also rising. To help curb such disparities, there is need, in similar vein, to access empirical and theoretical research as presented in this volume. Third, the Global South, which is home to diverse political and social cultures united by low-and-middle income economies and geographically stretching from Asia, the Middle East to Africa, then Latin America and the Caribbean, will emerge as a key benefactor to studies such as this because while some of the region’s nations share common elements such as exposure to colonialism, their present quagmires have been shaped by grossly divergent circumstances. While in 2017, China’s digital economy, for instance, contributed over 55 percent to its GDP growth, some nations in Africa and elsewhere in the region have yet to adopt and do not have a digital economy to write home about. In such circumstances, it’s highly important to gain insights into valuable research led by authoritative scholars like those contributing to this volume. Another important contribution of edited collections like this is the diverse and extensive coverage of the region. Plenty of research covering digital inequalities in the BRICS countries such as India, South Africa, Brazil, China, Indonesia and Russia has already been done. However, little or nothing is known about the impact of digital and social inequalities in Mozambique, Haiti or Yemen, considered along with Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Tajikistan, Ethiopia and Tanzania, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan to be the world’s poorest nations, according to a 2019 report by Focus Economics. Millennials based in Brazil could be seen to be embracing digital technologies but is that the case in Vietnam? What about other age groups? What factors are influencing their participation or non-participation in digital discussions? Are digital technologies advancing new knowledge in the “developing world” or they are instead helping further exacerbate the digital divide? Amid digital disruptions, what’s the impact of rise of data and analytics in the Global South? Indeed, the rapid rise of technologies is not something that should always be celebrated because technology, no matter how well intended, does not have the capacity to solve everybody’s problems. Ragnedda and Gladkova therefore deserve nothing but extraordinary praise for their extensive coverage of countries based in the Global South, which allows us to confront the

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deep-seated challenges facing digital ecosystems in the region. Such rare interventions are to be encouraged among digital empiricists. Future studies should certainly focus on the rising tirade among totalitarian regimes especially in Africa to restrict access to the Internet. While digital inequalities remain rampant, we should also be asking ourselves why some African governments have resorted to Internet shutdowns as a tool to extend their rule. If accessibility or digital inequalities were barring Africans from participating online, then perhaps restrictions to the Internet that we saw in several African countries in 2019 and 2018 would not have been sternly enforced. Africa, with an Internet population of just over 35 percent, still lags behind, but interventions and cooperation with the continent’s diasporic communities have seen the rules of the game shifting massively as millions of citizens or former citizens digitally engage in an attempt to force political changes back home. But the question remains, whose interests are Western governments serving when they dine with dictators only to abandon them as soon as they get what they want? Anti-government protests coordinated on social media are becoming the order of the day across Africa. Western influence in these is blatantly evident. The coup that removed Robert Mugabe from power in 2017, for example, was not criticized in the West because of Western governments’ hatred of the longtime leader. Another area of interest will remain the existing need to retool innovations that allow everyone or at least the majority, to be digitally literate. Not everyone boosts the basic digital skills that enable us to enjoy the benefits of digital connectivity, if any. While efforts are being made to ensure many can digitally connect, digital illiteracy remains a key challenge facing the “digital revolution” particularly in societies based in the Global South, where several barriers exist. For example, many can still not afford to buy themselves into the digital environments. Others cite lack of confidence as a key detriment to their online participation, while some nations do not have the prerequisite infrastructure to ensure connectivity becomes a reality. The presence or potential abundance of innovation and creativity will thus stimulate the younger generations to come to terms with the benefits of developing digital literacy skills since it’s assumed that the challenges they face could become opportunities or even prosperity if the right tools are in place. However, forcing innovation on communities that shun technologies will forever remain controversial. For instance, the government of Botswana has been at loggerheads with the San communities, who insist on living traditionally and therefore refuse to

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accommodate new technologies. The Botswana example shows that the transition to knowledge-based society is not for everyone. Even for those that consider themselves digitally literate and certainly beyond the Global South, issues surrounding privacy, safety or the security of being online remain problematic. How does an online participant become a digital citizen or digital native and if that’s not enough, how do we protect and manage our digital footprints? If these questions are being asked in the Western hemisphere, what more for regions of the world that have yet to fully comprehend and embrace digital ecosystems? Future studies should therefore critique these issues because they are relevant to understanding, entangling and demystifying the twenty-first-century digital discourses. Even though scholarship has long departed from the binary view of placing access to digital technologies at the heart of the longstanding exclusion, many still struggle to understand that even among those who are on the internet, several inequalities are omnipresent. For example, Mutsvairo and Ragnedda (2019) provide an account of digital disparities in Africa, arguing even for those with access to the Internet, varying problems ranging from lack of English language skills to erratic supplies of electricity as well as lack of broadband infrastructure severely hampers potential participation. Other issues such as the digital gender gap cannot be ignored. In the Arab world alone for instance, an estimated 25 percent more men than women use the internet (Dean 2017). This means that millions of women, especially those living in rural, poverty-stricken areas, are being deprived of potentially contributing to digital “knowledge.” I am however cynical about this knowledge because I wonder whose knowledge it is. Can local communities in Latin America for example be accorded a chance to learn about and design their own knowledge? Why should such expectant communities believe in Western or corporate-sponsored knowledge? With all the controversies that have dominated the global news arena, one wonders how Facebook’s exploits to “train” locals by introducing new digital literacy skills for those living in the Global South can be trusted. For whose gain in the long term is Facebook engaging in such initiatives? They may have plenty of noble ideas but unless they accept the reality that digital inequalities cannot be separated from other existing societal inequalities, be they economic, social, political or even cultural, they will find it difficult to achieve their goals, that is, if they honestly want to see off these inequalities. They may offer the latest smartphones and provide

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free courses focusing on the digital environments but their efforts will be in vein unless they are intent on ending all inequalities. Is it enough to teach someone how to use a phone without teaching them the necessary critical thinking skills? Once they know how to participate online, are they likely to behave responsibly during online interactions? What factors will drive their interests in digital participation? These are critical questions not only for those living in less developed parts of the world. The need for critical skills further reinforces the point I made earlier that to solve digital inequalities, a binary approach is not enough. Unfortunately, most of those that are behind “free” digital courses do not realize they actually need to invest more. People need to know how technology, presented to them as beneficial, could potentially harm them if they are not watchful. Unfortunately, in a neo-liberal environment many are sold the idea that technology will solve their problems and with little or no critical thinking skills, they easily buy into such claims. The seemingly propagandistic technological deterministic discourse must be challenged. It’s important to highlight its shortfalls especially in communities where less or no ICT education is available. Regulation is another issue that cannot be ignored. While in the West this topic has attracted a lot of debate, several countries have adopted regulatory frameworks forcing technology/social media giants to adhere to strict obligations or they face hefty penalties. Governments in the Global South also need to think about whether regulation will work in their favor or not. Plenty of challenges including the rise of “fake news” or the psychological impact of social media on citizens are issues that need to be openly discussed. The colonial mentality that has led many in the South to think everything that comes from the West is better needs to be questioned if not deconstructed. Long-term strategic thinking will be critical insofar as realizing the real potential and possible impact of the digital explosion. These should be context-based. On the other side of the coin, for poorer nations digital inaction will not be an option. That’s because such governments will be left out of potential opportunities that could benefit their citizens such as digitalized job creation for the youth. Ultimately, the biggest winners will be those who have the capacity to critique regulatory policies already enforced by Western governments to see how they benefit their local contexts. Simply embracing them could spell out a disaster especially for the post-colonial states that also need to move away from their over-reliance on former colonial masters. Innovation and technological changes do not always need to be Western-centric.

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Countries in the Global South should be encouraged to think creatively as they have done for generations with the aim of localizing the digitalization drive. Localizing their efforts also ensures that they can preserve and promote their own cultures and languages. Finally, to remain relevant, governments, educational institutions, non-governmental agencies and even citizens based in the Global South will need to learn the art of collaboration. Collaboration will however remain difficult to institute unless all parties fully comprehend opportunities and challenges facing those intent on benefiting from the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution.

References Dean, D. (2017). Accelerating the Digital Economy in the Middle East, North Africa and Turkey. Centre for Public Impact. Mutsvairo, B., & Ragnedda, M. (2019). Mapping the Digital Divide in Africa: A Mediated Analysis. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.

Index1

A Accessibility, 5, 61–63, 67, 73, 74, 84, 97, 106, 159, 262, 365 Accountability, 5, 50, 280, 308, 357 Affordability, 68, 69, 73, 74, 147, 148, 233, 281, 302, 308 Africa, 2, 3, 8, 10, 11, 24, 68, 106–108, 203, 225, 233, 249–250, 269, 273–274, 276, 279, 282, 291, 364–366 Arabic content, 260 Argentina, 3, 12, 13, 299, 301, 302, 304–308, 319–339 Audience, 21, 149, 166, 213, 217, 323 Australia, 227, 249, 304 Autonomy, 64, 161, 274, 275, 301, 356

B Blog, 167, 275 BRICS, 21–23, 364 Bridge, 12, 25, 126, 227, 230, 240–243, 250, 258, 263, 273, 274, 319–329 Broadband, 1, 19, 60, 65, 68, 74, 141, 169, 170, 210, 227, 231, 294, 300, 302, 304–306, 308, 333, 366 Broadcast, 13, 149, 338 C Capacity, 2, 19, 20, 37, 38, 41, 50, 73, 73n3, 80, 94, 98, 123, 124, 161, 191, 219, 238, 242, 270, 279, 280, 290, 295, 298, 298n3, 300, 302–305, 339, 364, 367

 Note: Page numbers followed by ‘n’ refer to notes.

1

© The Author(s) 2020 M. Ragnedda, A. Gladkova (eds.), Digital Inequalities in the Global South, Global Transformations in Media and Communication Research - A Palgrave and IAMCR Series, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-32706-4

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INDEX

Censorship, 64, 65, 69, 139, 166, 170, 171, 188 Chatting, 167 Citizen, 1, 2, 5, 12, 23–25, 33, 36, 46, 50, 51, 64, 71–73, 79, 81, 92, 115, 118, 121, 168, 172, 191, 232, 250, 270–272, 276–281, 290, 294, 297, 298, 302–305, 307, 311, 350, 355, 356, 365–368 Cohesion, 18 Commodification, 282 Culture, 10, 14, 18, 22, 69, 81, 95, 160, 189, 212, 217, 219, 240, 272, 279, 282, 290, 293, 295, 347, 348, 352–354, 364, 368 Cyber, 10, 40, 151, 269, 303 Cybercafés, 337 D Dataset, 66, 115 Decision-making, 36, 46, 50, 92, 300 Democracy, 2, 4, 5, 34, 39, 59–74, 93, 98 Developing country, 2, 15, 20, 23, 33, 39, 59, 69, 82, 191, 224, 226, 243, 303, 311, 350 Developing world, 192, 270, 307, 353, 364 Diffuse, 293 Digital access, 39, 51, 180, 256, 330 Digital acquisition, 278 Digital advertising, 300n5 Digital capabilities, 164 Digital capital, 80, 137, 290, 291, 300, 301, 303, 304, 306–311, 337, 338, 349 Digital communication, 10, 171, 252, 261, 349 Digital competence, 24, 163, 276

Digital consumers, 63 Digital content, 52, 170, 172, 216, 243 Digital culture, 95, 272 Digital divide, 1–5, 7–9, 11, 13, 18–25, 33–53, 59–74, 80–82, 94, 95, 97, 98, 104, 126, 139, 159–173, 177–181, 187–192, 200, 202–205, 207, 210, 218, 219, 224–227, 230, 233, 238, 240–243, 248–250, 257, 258, 260, 262, 263, 269, 270, 272–274, 277, 283, 289–311, 320, 323, 324, 328, 329, 347–358, 364 Digital economy, 52, 218, 219, 250, 363, 364 Digital empowerment, 5, 219 Digital engagement, 2, 179, 182 Digital equality, 95, 262, 263 Digital equity, 13 Digital exclusion, 6, 23, 103–127, 179, 187, 192, 296 Digital inclusion, 7, 105, 113, 121, 123, 126, 140, 180, 181, 186, 202, 210, 218, 219, 227, 228, 230, 271, 293–298, 310, 322, 326, 329 Digital inclusion policies, 322, 326 Digital inclusion process, 321 Digital inclusion programs, 25 Digital inequalities, 1–15, 17–25, 60–63, 65, 68, 70, 73, 79–98, 104, 105, 137, 139, 141, 147, 148, 152, 153, 159–173, 178, 180, 181, 190, 192, 203, 218, 229, 247–263, 319–329, 337–339, 348, 349, 351, 354, 358, 363–367 Digitalization, 368

 INDEX 

Digital literacy, 9, 13, 21, 22, 25, 180, 202, 203, 205, 207, 213, 215, 217, 218, 327, 334, 336, 338, 365, 366 Digital media, 80, 104, 173, 273, 274, 277, 280, 282, 351 Digital opportunities, 21, 226 Digital proliferation, 66 Digital rights, 327 Digital skills, 1, 8, 19, 24, 25, 139, 163, 177–179, 181, 182, 188, 190–192, 219, 248, 271, 276, 278, 283, 321, 330, 365 Digital society, 84, 94, 160, 172, 303 E E-commerce, 70, 74, 299 Economy, 9, 11, 22, 34, 41, 42, 52, 60, 72, 81, 116, 120, 161, 179, 250, 269, 270, 272, 290, 292, 294, 302, 309, 324, 337, 347, 348, 352–356, 363, 364 E-government, 4, 23, 33–53, 168, 173, 303–305 E-inclusion, 298n3 E-learning, 149 E-mail, 65 England, 304, 352, 355 Equality, 17, 23, 95, 96, 120, 125, 188, 250, 262, 263, 275, 294, 295, 323, 325, 327 E-services, 305 E-skills, see Digital skills Exploit, 2, 38, 82, 95, 96, 98, 117, 122, 356, 358, 366 F Facebook, 47, 88, 89, 91, 97, 186, 188, 209, 256, 257, 260, 261, 310, 366 Freedom house, 169, 171

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Freedom of expression, 5, 60, 137–139 Freedom of speech, 167, 170 G Google, 48, 85, 97, 209, 256, 257, 260, 261 H Habitus, 53, 190, 251, 276, 358 Healthcare, 165, 203, 207–210 I ICT4D, 110, 230, 232, 250 Immigrant, 37, 81 India, 3–5, 21, 33, 59, 60, 68, 79–98, 106, 107 Internet, 1, 2, 18, 34, 59, 60, 80, 104, 137, 138, 159, 160, 177–192, 200, 206, 224, 248, 249, 272, 273, 298, 321, 332, 348, 349, 358, 365 Internet activism, 180 Internet adoption, 149 Internet affordability, 69, 74 Internet culture, 69 Internet diffusion, 82 Internet governance, 153, 263 Internet penetration, 4, 11, 18, 21, 22, 83, 88, 104, 147, 159, 168, 249, 256, 262, 298, 304, 348–350 Iran, 21, 65 Israel, 6, 7, 21, 137–153 Israeli-Palestinians, 152 Italy, 302

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J Jordan, 141, 149 K Knowledge economy, 9, 59, 224, 226, 347, 348 Knowledge society, 280 L Latin America, 2, 12, 21, 23, 24, 106, 108, 290, 291, 297–302, 306, 307, 309–311, 319, 320, 325–327, 364, 366 M Mexico, 3, 12, 65, 68, 139, 299, 302–308, 337 Microsoft, 257 N Netizens, 271 Network society, 59, 106, 138, 149, 152, 273, 297 Nigeria, 224 O OECD, 37, 191, 295, 297, 298, 301 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, see OECD P Palestinian, 6, 7, 140–143, 145–153 Philippines, 305

R Russia, 21, 23, 161, 163, 164, 169, 171, 172, 364 S Saudi Arabia, 65 Second-level digital divide, 180, 190, 227, 249, 263 Self-censorship, 152, 188 Sierra Leone, 106, 208 Sub-Saharan, 3, 9, 21, 68, 200–202, 204, 218, 219, 233 Syria, 149 T Technical skills, 74 Techno-boosters, 294 Techno-evangelists, 3 Technological exclusion, 225, 366 Techno-optimistic, 6, 103 Third-level digital divide, 181, 190, 200, 248 Turkey, 3, 8, 177–192 U United Nations (UN), 33, 140, 229, 291 United States (US), 41, 80, 81, 86, 87, 106, 230, 273, 294, 297, 299, 300, 302, 304, 305, 310, 355 W WhatsApp, 65, 151, 261, 282, 310 Wi-Fi, 34, 67, 68, 350 World Bank, 36, 42, 104, 106, 121, 204, 348 World Economic Forum, 209n10