We find ourselves at a time of unprecedented growth of information and communication technologies (ICTs). Not only are they considered useful tools, but ICTs also may prove extremely beneficial when applied to the improvement of the developing world and eradication of the digital divide. The Internet itself has become a central focus of global socioeconomic development and change across the South. Yet, the introduction and availability of Internet opportunities vary widely.
The purpose of this paper is to analyze the state of Internet penetration across the developing world. Specifically, we examine a variety of socioeconomic, human capital and media and technology-related measures as they relate to Internet adoption. In other words, we are seeking to determine the usage of the Internet and various predictors of Internet inequality. The assumption here is that matters of the digital divide offer a platform for understanding the relationship between economic and social matters, political freedom, media use and Internet penetration.
Data comes mostly from 114 and 134 developing countries. Explained variance ranges as high as 65 percent (β = .809) per variable. Our model thus appears highly relevant.
Our results demonstrate that the Internet is not only dependent on economic variables such as national wealth, income, costs and availability. It is also driven by socioeconomic factors such as education, literacy and share of urban population; media and telecommunication variables such as telephone fixed lines and costs, television ownership, computer and mobile phone ownership, number of telecommunication secured lines and bits generated per second; trade matters such as communication services exports; and political environment issues such as political and democratic freedom/liberty and freedom of the press.
Findings are pertinent for firms doing business in developing countries. This study also may prove important for government officials, development and foreign relations experts and researchers.