Are we really that different?

Credit: Self made with PitkoChart


‘Inequality’ springs racism, sexism and classism to mind. However, it’s time we accepted that digital inequality deserves a place alongside more traditional forms of inequality (Robinson et al., 2015). As whilst an ability to access the internet can provide advantages in various aspects of life, from academic performance to entrepreneurship (Robinson et al, 2015) its use is not always a free choice (Halford and Savage, 2010).

Often, factors determining internet usage are out of our control. For instance, a mere 41% of people over 65 use the internet (Pew, 2011). Additionally, young women are more likely to receive abuse online (Lutz and Hoffmann, 2016). Furthermore, location heavily impacts physical ability to access the web (Pew, 2011). One is unable to choose the era or location of their birth, or their gender – so why should they limit their digital potential?

These are but a few of the factors – so to see if I had been negatively impacted, I analysed myself:

Credit: Self Made with PiktoChart

I’m lucky – the factors of digital inequality have not negatively impacted my life – rather the macro (location, economic status, age) and individual (motivation, familial and societal role) factors have allowed me to prosper. I’ve never experienced online “trolling”, nor have I been hacked – which often can perturb internet users (Halford, Davies & Dixon, 2017).

However, I remain concerned by the impact which they are having on others.

Preventing these factors impeding usage is crucial if we are to complete a transition into a digital society. Otherwise, the gap between the “haves” and the “have-nots” will only widen. It’s important we ensure our society, as a whole, are able to walk before we allow the luckiest few to run – else it’s an unfair race.

Credit: Self made with Piktochart

Preparatory steps have already been taken, with talk of internet access becoming a human right (La Rue, 2011), but we must ensure more is done to prevent a new form of inequality becoming prevalent in our society – even if we aren’t personally affected.




Word Count (Excluding in-line citations): 297


Robinson, L., & Cotten, S., Ono, H., Quan-Haase, A., Mesch, G., Chen, W., Schulz, J., Hale, T. and Stern, M. (2015). Digital inequalities and why they matter. Information, Communication & Society, 18(5), pp.569-582.

Lutz, C., & Hoffmann, C. P. (2017). The dark side of online participation: exploring non-, passive and negative participation. Information, Communication & Society, 1-22.

Zickuhr, K., & Smith A. (2012). Digital Differences, Pew Internet

Halford, S. & Davies, H. & Dixon, J. (2012). Digital differences – inequalities and online practices, University of Southampton/ FutureLearn MOOC

La Rue, F. (2011). Report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, United Nations General Assembly A/HRC/17/27


  1. Hi Tom,
    I thoroughly enjoyed reading your blog post. Great use of Piktocharts too, especially the third one. Furthermore, the use of statistics really helped put things into perspective.
    You mentioned how preparatory steps have already been taken with talk of internet access being a human right, while the internet can be beneficial as it can aid researches and studies, having it as a human right and making it readily available could also have negative impacts. Currencies in emerging economies such as the BRICS nations have weaker purchasing power in comparison to developed countries. While a DVD may cost an hour’s wage for us, the same DVD could cost a day’s work. This with the combination of weaker copyright law has led to an increase in piracy (Doctorow, 2011). So, having internet access would lead to a further increase in cybercrimes. Do you think there is a way to tackle this problem?

    Doctorow, C. (2011) the Guardian: Why poor countries lead the world in piracy. Available from: [Accessed 28 February 2018].


    1. Hi Bivash,

      Thanks for your kind words!

      I agree with you that there will be negative effects following from making Internet Access a human right, and I actually think that La Rue was premature in making that statement.

      I think it is important in the future that we do bear in mind that the internet has proved hugely powerful tool, and that everyone should have equal access to it – but I suppose there are more pressing concerns.

      With regards to your fears about piracy/copyright infringement by third world countries – there is a simple solution which Doctrow
      suggests in her tagline – it”could be as simple as making products affordable”.
      However, the internet has disrupted traditional notions of borders – so it is hard to price an item lower in one economy than in another, without finding that all those from the more expensive economy are purchasing the lower priced item!

      We are struggling to control piracy in developed countries with advanced internet infrastructures – so imagine what the problems would be like in developing countries! It’s an interesting topic, and one I’ll keep a keen eye on.



  2. I loved your infographic illustrating the metaphoric race between the unaffected and those who represent the impeding factors to a digital society in equilibrium.

    However, where we part ways is where you fail to identify whether you agree with Robinson’s 2013 statement that implies digital inequality deserves a place alongside racism and other inequalities. Inequalities are not homogenous in nature i.e. homosexuality, racism, Latino’s in America vs digital differences are more concerning inequalities on the basis of severity and other measurements. The digital world was established at the turn of the 21st century, while racism and sexism have existed long before then. One might say some of the digital inequalities we see are a reflection of the inequalities we see offline.
    I must be careful to steer away from racism and focus on inequalities, despite being a black British male as this article suggests:
    Do you still believe Digital Differences deserve a place alongside sexism and other inequalities?

    (159 Words)


    1. Hi Jeremy,

      Thanks for your kind words on the infographic, I thought it was a good way to summarise it.

      I think you may be reading slightly too much into the way I referenced racism in the text – I wasn’t trying to say the effects are as deep-rooted, or even as brutal as racism – merely that I feel we must accept digital inequality exists!

      I agree with your point that digital inequalities often reflect the inequalities we see offline – and ultimately, I was trying to make this point. Possibly I didn’t make it well, but I was trying to show that when we think of inequality, we think of traditional forms in the offline world – but we need to accept that this, and more, are all present online.

      You highlight how the digital world is recently established, but do you not feel that targeting the differences at an early stage is crucial if we want the problems to not become long existing?



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