A modern form of inequality: Digital Differences

Many assume that internet users a single homogeneous group but there are digital differenceswhich refers to the stratification between different groups in society and how they may be disadvantaged in their use of the Internet based on their social characteristics. It may also be referred to as the ‘Digital Divide’ (Morrisett).

Figure 1. A video I created illustrating a few of the digital differences in society.

Limited access to the web means individuals are less likely to use it for social interactions, and academic purposes. According to the Office for National Statistics, 5.9 million UK adults have never used the internet and so they may be left with poor digital skills, or none at all, greatly disadvantaging them in the workplace and socially.

My “Digital Differences” and Web interaction:

Figure 2. An evaluation of my Digital Differences in 8 social categories with comparison to other individuals.

Previously  I concluded that I was, according to Prensky, a digital native and assumed that young people like me were the same. However, I didn’t consider the digital differences between myself and others.

Although I am not at any digital disadvantage I can contrast my digital differences with that of someone in a developing country, with a lower economic status, and a different culture who isn’t able to access the resources that I can and are thus put at a disadvantage, for example, academically.

According to International Telecommunications Union (ITU), 4 billion people from the developing world remain offline and it is these people who may be left without digital skills, access to online resources, and communication with others.


Digital differences are fundamentally present when comparing country of residence – between the developing and developed world. But it’s also important to consider how these differences overlap and can lead to a ‘triad of disadvantage’, for example, a black, working class woman could face more disadvantage digitally than a white, middle class woman. It can be argued that these differences may result in a reduced quality of life and may continue as technology rapidly advances and so should be treated like any other form of inequality.

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Itu.int. (2018). ICT Facts & Figures. [online] Available at: https://www.itu.int/en/ITU-D/Statistics/Documents/facts/ICTFactsFigures2015.pdf [Accessed 23 Feb. 2018].

Data.worldbank.org. (2018). Individuals using the Internet (% of population) | Data. [online] Available at: https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/IT.NET.USER.ZS [Accessed 23 Feb. 2018].

Statistical Bulletin. (2018). Internet Users, 2015. [online] Available at: http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20160106075751/http:/www.ons.gov.uk/ons/dcp171778_404497.pdf [Accessed 22 Feb. 2018].

Stonewall.org.uk. (2018). LGBT IN BRITAIN – HATE CRIME AND DISCRIMINATION. [online] Available at: http://www.stonewall.org.uk/sites/default/files/lgbt_in_britain_hate_crime.pdf [Accessed 25 Feb. 2018].

Markle.org. (2018). The Growing Digital Divide: Implications for an Open Research Agenda. [online] Available at: https://www.markle.org/sites/default/files/digitaldivide_openresearch.pdf [Accessed 24 Feb. 2018].




7 thoughts on “A modern form of inequality: Digital Differences

  1. Hi Carl,

    Great post and great video you made there. Great use of facts to prove the disparity between users. I agree that being digital literate is an important skill in today’s society and unfortunately, as you mentioned everyone is not as lucky as us to have access to the internet. I also outline this in figure 1 in my blog showing the internet users in each country.

    You have said the people in the developing world are at a disadvantage, thus this will create a global gap between the developed world and developing world. Do you think there is a solution to this gap? Or at least a solution to stop the gap getting bigger?

    Looking forward to hearing your reply.


    1. Hi Will,

      Thanks for taking the time to read my blog.

      In response to your question, I believe that one reason for the gap between developed and developing countries is that 55.5% of the internet is in English, whereas only 20% of the global population speak English and so this is one barrier that will ensure the gap remains. So one solution stemming from this point would be to devise more alternatives to English web pages to cater for other languages.

      In terms of affordability I think that service and access costs of the internet should be reduced and more affordable devices to access the internet should be made available in developing countries until everyone reaches at least some basic form of access.

      In schools in developing countries digital skills and ICT should be made part of the school curriculum in order to make them aware of its use.

      Hope this answers your question.



  2. Hi!

    I enjoyed reading your post and loved the video you made! I wonder whether educational services are creating inequality unintentionally by putting work online. I have always had access to internet and a personal laptop and computer for as long as I can remember. I feel as though I would definitely not get as much of my coursework done in a timely manner if I had to venture out to the library every time I wanted to produce a document or research online. Do you think this is a problem and can create more diversity or would you argue that in a developed country like the UK it is not so much of an issue?

    Interested to hear your thoughts!


    1. Hi Stephanie,

      Thanks for taking the time to read my blog and comment!

      In response to your question, I definitely feel that people can be seen now as being divided in terms of how they socialise and make use of digital technology.

      It is definitely important to keep in mind that, although the UK is well developed, that there are still some people here who do not have the skills, or money, or even motivation to make use of the internet and so are isolated in that sense.


      Carl 🙂


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