The digital divide: The role of political institutions in technology diffusion

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Abstract

What factors have promoted and retarded the spread of the Internet globally? The Internet is one example of the diffusion of technology. Much as other technologies, the Internet has diffused unevenly across countries, raising concerns over a "digital divide." My main proposition is that its spread has been driven by neither technological nor economic factors alone. Rather, political factors exert a powerful influence. Groups that believe they will lose from the Internet use political institutions to enact policies that block the spread of the Internet. Some political institutions make this easier than others. Data from roughly 190 countries from 1991 to 2001 showthat a country's regime type matters greatly, even when controlling for other economic, technological, political, and sociological factors. Democratic governments facilitate the spread of the Internet relative to autocratic ones. Thus, the spread of democracy may help reduce the digital divide.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)176-199
Number of pages24
JournalComparative Political Studies
Volume39
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2006

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science

Keywords

  • Democracy
  • Digital divide
  • Internet
  • Technology diffusion

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