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Information Resources Management Association
Advancing the Concepts & Practices of Information Resources Management in Modern Organizations

From Digital Divides to Digital Inequalities

From Digital Divides to Digital Inequalities
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Author(s): Francesco Amoretti (University of Salerno, Italy) and Clementina Casula (University of Cagliari, Italy)
Copyright: 2009
Pages: 6
Source title: Encyclopedia of Information Science and Technology, Second Edition
Source Author(s)/Editor(s): Mehdi Khosrow-Pour, D.B.A. (Information Resources Management Association, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-026-4.ch177


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Concerns about inequalities deriving from the penetration of new information and communication technologies (ICTs) have only recently become a widely debated issue in industrial societies. Until the 1980s the diffusion of ICT was mainly considered a matter of technological innovation regarding selected fields and limited territorial areas (such as the military and academic centers in the U.S.). Gradually, scholars started to point to the rise of an information society based on the production of information as the crucial resource to manage coordination and control of increasingly interconnected organizational systems (Masuda, 1981; Beniger, 1986; Toffler, 1990). The expression offered an alternative to the otherwise negative definitions used by scholars since the 1970s to identify changes occurring in Western democratic societies (‘post-capitalism’, ‘post-industrialism’, ‘post-materialism’, etc.) (Touraine, 1969; Bell, 1973). The debate over the information society, enthusiastically greeted by some authors (Negroponte, 1995) and critically observed by others (Castells, 1996, 2001; May, 2002; Mattelart, 2003), witnessed since the mid-1990s widespread success in public and political debates (Thomas, 1996). In front of the fast and capillary diffusion of ICTs virtually to all sectors of private and public life, most Western countries’ governments and international organizations have inserted within their policy agendas a reference to the unavoidability, if not desirability, of a radical shift to the new information age. The rhetoric accompanying those discourses often presents the expansion of the ICT sector?and especially the Internet?as offering citizens returns at both the individual and collective level, in the form of greater access to goods and services, increased levels of social and civic participation, and wider economic and working opportunities for all. Presented as a crucial means to participate in the new global information society, ICTs become recognized as a resource that should be fairly distributed among citizens, albeit on the basis of different arguments (ranging from social equity to economic efficiency or global development concerns), often leading to opposite conclusions on the scope for redistributive interventions (Strover, 2003; Selwyn, 2007).

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