Reflection: How do we tackle digital differences?

Before this topic, I had not considered digital differences. I had accepted inequality and discrimination offline but never stopped to consider the effects it may have online. However, I am now able to appreciate that there are a multiplicity of factors which ultimately make our digital experience’s different.

Despite concluding I was not negatively impacted by any of the factors, I felt that there was a huge need to actually do something. At the end of my initial post, I flirted with the concept of making internet access a human right. However, as Bivash pointed out, a Human Rights based approach is not a simple solution as access to the internet in third world countries can often lead to an increase in piracy – something which I simply hadn’t considered. Furthermore, the reality of actually implementing internet access as a right was highlighted by Iarina’s evocative reply to me on her blog. Iarina highlighted how in Romania, they had implemented fibre optics in a village with no electricity – and suddenly the internet wasn’t so important!

Exampled: Right to Internet without access to other amenities Credit:

Coming from a legal background, I am sometimes guilty of thinking about a theoretical change as it may appear on paper – but not fully considering the realities of it. Therefore, as I discussed with Megan (only with specific reference to gender), I’ve concluded a broad “human right” is not the solution to digital inequality, and we are better off having specific measures for each factor, as there are a variety which have to be tackled, so there is unlikely to be a “one size fits all” approach. According to Pew , between 2001 and 2016, internet usage has increased throughout most groups (Pew, 2012) – so we are moving in the right direction and must keep going.




My comment on Iarina’s blog here.
My comment on Megan’s blog here.



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



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