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PPGPortal > Home > Concept Dictionary > D, E > Digital Divide

Digital Divide 

The gap between those who have access to modern information technologies and those who do not.


(Matt Ratto, Toronto, FIS1210) 




This term is often used to describe the gulf that exists in terms of digital access between rich and poor countries. The importance of closing this “digital divide” as a means of bringing about economic growth in poor countries is increasingly being recognized by the international community. In an effort to develop ideas for how to bridge the digital divide between nations, representatives from the world’s governments participated in two United Nations sponsored summits entitled the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS).


Many are also concerned with the “digital divide” that exists within rich countries. Internet access is increasingly necessary in wealthy countries to fully participate in the economic, educational and political lives of the nation and local communities, which is causing some to view a lack of internet access as a

form of social exclusion.

There is a debate concerning whether or not closing the “digital divide” should be viewed as an appropriate objective of public policy. While some argue that digital access should be viewed as a “civil right” to which all people are entitled, others view it as a commodity, like any other, which some people will be able to afford and others won’t. This latter position was colourfully articulated by former FCC chairman Michael Powell, when he compared the “digital divide” to the “Mercedez Benz Divide” which has thus far prevented him obtaining a luxury car.


Matt Ratto, Toronto, FIS1210


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© University of Toronto 2008
School of Public Policy and Governance