Technological information inequality as an incessantly moving target

The redistribution of information and communication capacities between 1986 and 2010

Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology


The article provides first-time empirical evidence that the digital age has first increased and then (only very recently) decreased global, international and national inequalities of information and communication capacities among and within societies. Previous studies on the digital divide were unable to capture the detected trends appropriately, since they worked with proxies, such as the number of subscriptions or related investments, without considering the vast heterogeneity in informational performance among technological devices. We created a comprehensive dataset (based on over 1,100 sources) that allows measuring the information capacity directly, in bits per second, bits, and instructions per second. The newly proposed indicators provide insights into inequalities in access to, usage of, and impact of digitized information flows. It shows that the digital divide has gone into a second stage, which is based on a relative universalization of technological devices and a continuously evolving divide in terms of communication capacity.