Digital Inequality

research on skills, uses, and outcomes of Internet technology



From digital skills to tangible outcomes
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21st-century Digital Skills

Social Context of Digital Inequality


Helsper, E.J. & Van Deursen, A.J.A.M. (2017). Do the Rich get Richer? Quantity and Quality of support online. Information, Communication & Society, 20(5), 700-714. doi:10.1080/1369118X.2016.1203454


This paper asks what predicts having access to and using social support networks that might help an individual in using the Internet. Following the course taken by the digital divide or digital inclusion research, this  aper uses socio-cultural, socio-economic, social, and digital indicators to predict access to and the type of potential and actual social support networks that might help an individual in using the Internet. In addition, the paper examines the quality of the support received which is neglected in most investigations that mainly focus on quantitative indicators of support. The study draws on a representative survey conducted in the Netherlands; 1149 responses were obtained. The results show that while there are no real inequalities in access to and use of support, the quality of the support that people access is unequally distributed replicating existing patterns of disadvantage. Thus, access to support is another level at which the digital divide manifests and strengthens itself. Those who experience most problems online also seem to have the most difficulty obtaining high-quality support even when it is available, creating an even larger ‘gap’ between those who do and do not need support.

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