The Persisting Digital Exclusion: A Longitudinal Study of ICT Possession and Use in Israel, 2002-2013
46 Pages Posted: 31 Mar 2015 Last revised: 15 Aug 2015
Date Written: March 31, 2015
Most “digital divide” studies focus on a point in time in which the study was conducted and on a particular “divide” issue studied. Such studies often analyze demographics of the populations or the ICT-usage skills they have or lack. In order to contribute to a better understanding of the divide, and in particular of its dynamics, this study examines changes over time of both ICT possession and patterns of use in Israel. Based on data derived from annual surveys conducted by the Central Bureau of Statistics, we paint a picture of the trends in ICT possession and patterns of use, between 2002-2013 (the latest date for which data is available).
Our basic assumption is that the term “digital divide” is limited, as it focuses policymakers on the disparity in ownership, skills to use, or utilization to fully exploit ICTs. However, there is a social price paid by those on the lower end of the divide, which is currently absent from the policy-making discourse. We use therefore the term “digital exclusion” and refer by that to the exclusion from participation in the civic, political, cultural and economic spheres, which are the foundation of membership in the contemporary information and communication society. Such lowered participation levels are caused by disparity in access and usage.
In order to demonstrate the analytical force of “digital exclusion”, the analysis takes into account the unique contours and cleavages within Israeli society and describes differences in ICT possession and use along population groups (Jewish/Palestinian), income, Jewish ethnicity (Europe/America – Asia/Africa origin), immigrant-Israel born, level of religiosity (within the Jewish community), and gender. ICT usage was checked with regards to: use for work, use for economic activities (online purchases), use for civic activities (e-government services), and use for social networking.
Indeed, while the study focuses on Israel, some of these differences and gaps exist in many other nations, and both the data and the analysis can contribute to an international comparative conversation on digital exclusion patterns. The results of this longitudinal analysis demonstrate how digital exclusion is either maintained or even grows along certain aspects of participation.
In each analysis, one of the determinants is controlled for, in order to identify effect. Initial results indicate that similarly to other countries, income is a major contributor to digital exclusion. Certain digital exclusion differences such as gender disappear, when income parity is present. However, such an effect is not visible when it comes to the gap between Jews and Palestinians, immigrants and Israel-born, and Europe/America and Asia/Africa descent. Additional insight is provided by the fact that across income levels, ICT use among 3rd generation Israelis is higher than among immigrants, and eradicates the effect of geographical roots (Europe/America vs. Asia/Africa).
One unique element of the study is the differences based on level of self-proclaimed religiosity within the Jewish population. Indeed, the choice of ultra-orthodox Jews not to own or use ICTs raises a whole set of issues with regard to participation in the information society as a matter of choice.
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