Reading list on the digital divide/digital inclusion

I am resposting  this list from the Social Media Collective blog (Where I am currently a Research Assistant) of a digital divide/inclusion literature brought together by the SMC extended family.



Allen, Steven G. 2001. “Technology and the Wage Structure.” Journal of Labor Economics 19:440-483.

Anderson, B. 2005. “The value of mixed-method longitudinal panel studies in ICT research.” Information, Communication & Society 8:343-367.

Anderson, Ben. 2008. “The Social Impact of Broadband Household Internet Access.” Information, Communication & Society 11:5-24.

Andrés, Luis, David Cuberes, Mame A. Diouf, and Tomas Serebrisky. 2007. “Diffusion of the Internet: A Cross-Country Analysis.” in World Bank Policy Research Working Paper Series: World Bank.

Attewell, Paul. 2001. “The First and Second Digital Divides.”Sociology of Education.74:252-259.

Attewell, Paul, and Juan Battle. 1999. “Home Computers and School Performance.” Information Society 15:1-10.

Autor, David H. 2001. “Wiring the Labor Market.” The Journal of Economic Perspectives 15:25-40.

Autor, David H., Lawrence F. Katz, and Alan B. Krueger. 1998. “Computing Inequality: Have Computers Changed the Labor Market?” The Quarterly Journal of Economics 113:1169-1213.

Avgerou, C. (2002) Information Systems and Global Diversity, Oxford, Oxford University Press

Barlow, John Perry. 1996. “A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace.” Humanist 56(3):18-19.

Barron, B. 2006. “Interest and Self-Sustained Learning as Catalysts of Development: A Learning Ecology Perspective.” Human Development 49:193-224.

Barzilai-Nahon, Karine. 2006. “Gaps and Bits: Conceptualizing Measurements for Digital Divide/s.” Information Society 22:269-278.

Bennett, Sue, Karl Maton, and Lisa Kervin. 2008. “The ‘Digital Natives’ Debate: A Critical Review of the Evidence.” British Journal of Educational Technology 39:775-786.

Billon, Margarita, Rocio Marco, and Fernando Lera-Lopez. 2009. “Disparities in ICT adoption: A multidimensional approach to study the cross-country digital divide.” Telecommunications Policy 33:596-610.

Bimber, Bruce. 2000. “Measuring the gender gap on the Internet.” Social Science Quarterly 81:868-876.

Boase, Jeffrey, John Horrigan, Barry Wellman, and Lee Rainie. 2006. “The Strength of Internet Ties.” Washington, DC.: Pew Internet and American Life Project.

Boeder, P. (2005) Habermas’ heritage: the future of the public sphere in the network society, First Monday 10(9)

Boneva, Bonka S., Robert Kraut, and David Frohlich. 2001. “Using E-Mail for Personal Relationships: The Difference Gender Makes.” American Behavioral Scientist 45:530-49.

Bonfadelli, Heinz. 2002. “The Internet and Knowldege Gaps: A Theoretical and Empirical Investigation.” European Journal of Communication 17:65-84.

boyd, d. 2011. “White Flight in Networked Publics: How Race and Class Shaped American Teen Engagement with MySpace and Facebook.” in Race After the Internet, edited by L. Nakamura and P. Chow-White. New York: Routledge.

Brandtzæg, Petter Bae, Jan Heim, and Amela Karahasanović. 2011. “Understanding the new digital divide—A typology of Internet users in Europe.” International Journal of Human-Computer Studies 69:123-138.

Brynin, M., B. Anderson, and Y. Raban. 2007. “Introduction.” in Information and Communication Technologies in Society: E-living in a Digital Europe, edited by B. Anderson, M. Brynin, J. Gershung, and Y. Raban. London: Routledge.

Buckingham, David. 2007. “Digital Media Literacies: rethinking media education in the age of the Internet.” Research in Comparative and International Education 2:43-55.

Buente, Wayne, and Alice Robbin. 2008. “Trends in Internet information behavior, 2000–2004.” Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology 59:1743-1760.

Burrell, Jenna. 2009. “What Constitutes Good ICTD Research?” Information Technologies & International Development 5 (3): 82–94.

Buskens, I. & Webb, A. (Eds.) (2009) African women and ICTs – Investigating Technology, Gender and Empowerment, Pretoria, Unisa, IDRC, Zed Books

Callon, M. (1991). Techno-economic networks and irreversibility. In J. Law, A sociology of monsters: Essays on power, technology and domination. London: Routledge.

Castells, M. (2000) The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture: The Rise of the Network Society, Oxford, Blackwell.

Chapman, R., Slaymaker, T., & Young, J. (2003), Livelihoods Approaches to Information Communication in Support of Rural Poverty Elimination and Food Security, Overseas Development Institute. Available at

Charness, Neil, and Patricia Holley. 2004. “The New Media and Older Adults: Usable and Useful?” American Behavioral Scientist 48:416-433.

Chen, Wenhong, and Barry Wellman. 2005. Minding the Cyber-gap: the Internet and Social Inequality. Boston, MA: Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

Chou, Wen-ying Sylvia, Yvonne M.  Hunt, Ellen Burke Beckjord, Richard P. Moser, and Bradford W. Hesse. 2009. “Social Media Use in the United States: Implications for Health Communication.” Journal of Medical Internet Research 11:e48.

Compaine, B.M. 2001a. “Information Gaps.” Pp. 105-118 in The Digital Divide: Facing a Crisis or Creating a Myth?, edited by B Compaine. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

Compaine, Benjamin M. (Ed.). 2001b. The Digital Divide: Facing a Crisis or Creating a Myth? Campbridge, MA.: MIT Press.

Cook, Thomas D., Hilary Appleton, Ross F. Conner, Ann Shaffer, Gary Tamkin, and Stephen J. Weber. 1975. “Sesame Street” Revisited. New York: Russel Sage Foundation.

Correa, Teresa. 2010. “The Participation Divide Among “Online Experts”: Experience, Skills and Psychological Factors as Predictors of College Students’ Web Content Creation.” Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 16(1):71-92.

Crenshaw, Edward M., and Kristopher K. Robison. 2006. “Globalization and the Digital Divide: The Roles of Structural Conduciveness and Global Connection in Internet Diffusion.” Social Science Quarterly (Blackwell Publishing Limited) 87:190-207.

Czaja, Sara J., Neil Charness, Arthur D. Fisk, Christopher Hertzog, Sankaran N. Nair, Wendy A. Rogers, and Joseph Sharit. 2006. “Factors predicting the use of technology: Findings from the center for research and education on aging and technology enhancement (create).” Psychology and Aging 21:333-352.

DFID (1999) Sustainable Livelihoods Guidance Sheets. London, Department for International Development, available at:

Dholakia, Ruby Roy. 2006. “Gender and IT in the Household: Evolving Patterns of Internet Use in the United States.” Information Society 22:231-240.

DiMaggio, Paul , and Eszter  Hargittai. 2001. “From the ‘Digital Divide’ to `Digital Inequality’: Studying Internet Use As Penetration Increases.” Princeton, NJ: Center for Arts and Cultural Policy Studies at Princeton University.

DiMaggio, Paul, and Bart Bonikowski. 2008. “Make Money Surfing the Web? The Impact of Internet Use on the Earnings of US Workers.” American Sociological Review 73:227-250.

DiMaggio, Paul, Eszter Hargittai, Coral Celeste, and Steve Shafer. 2004. “Digital Inequality: From Unequal Access to Differentiated Use.” Pp. 355-400 in Social Inequality, edited by Kathryn Neckerman. New York: Russell Sage.

DiMaggio, Paul, Eszter Hargittai, W. Russell. Neuman, and John P. Robinson. 2001. “Social implications of the Internet.” Annual Review of Sociology 27:307-336.

DiNardo, John E., and Jorn-Steffen Pischke. 1997. “The Returns to Computer Use Revisited: Have Pencils Changed the Wage Structure Too?” The Quarterly Journal of Economics 112:291-303.

Donner, Jonathan. 2008. “Research Approaches to Mobile Use in the Developing World: A Review of the Literature.” The Information Society 24 (3): 140–159.

Donner, Jonathan. 2008. The rules of beeping: Exchanging messages via intentional “missed calls” on mobile phones. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 13, (1): 1-22.

Drori, Gili S., and Yong Suk Jang. 2003. “The Global Digital Divide: A Sociological Assessment of Trends and Causes.” Social Science Computer Review 21:144-161.

Drori, Gili. S. 2010. “Globalization and Technology Divides: Bifurcation of Policy between the “Digital Divide” and the “Innovation Divide”*.” Sociological Inquiry 80:63-91.

Duncombe R.(2006). Using the livelihoods framework to analyze ICT applications for poverty reduction through microenterprise. Information Technologies and International Development 3(3), 81–100

Dutton, William H., Ellen J. Helsper, and Monica M. Gerber. 2009. “The Internet in Britain 2009.” Oxford: Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford.

Dutton, William H., Everett M. Rogers, and Suk-Ho Jun. 1987. “Diffusion and Social Impacts of Personal Computers.” Communication Research 14:219-250.

Dutton, William H., Patrick L. Sweet, and Everett M. Rogers. 1989. “Socioeconomic Status and the Early Diffusion of Personal Computing in the United States.” Social Science Computer Review 7:259-271.

Ellison, Nicole B., Charles Steinfeld, and Cliff Lampe. 2007. “The Benefits of Facebook “Friends:” Social Capital and College Students’ Use of Online Social Network Sites.” Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 12: article 1.

Entorf, Horst, Michel Gollac, and Francis Kramarz. 1999. “New Technologies, Wages, and Worker Selection.” Journal of Labor Economics 17:464-491.

Eshet-Alkalai, Yoram. 2004. “Digital Literacy: a Conceptual Framework for Survival Skills in the Digital Era.” Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia 13:93-106.

Ettema, James S., and F. Gerald Kline. 1977. “Deficits, Differences, and Ceilings: Contingent Conditions for Understanding the Knowledge Gap.” Communication Research 4:179-202.

Eurostat. 2008. “Nearly 30% of individuals use internet banking.” Eurostat.

Eurostat. 2009. “One person in two in the EU27 uses the internet daily.” Eurostat.

Eynon, Rebecca. 2009. “Mapping the digital divide in Britain: implications for learning and education.” Learning, Media and Technology 34(4):277-290.

Eynon, Rebecca, and Ellen Helsper. 2011. “Adults Learning Online: Digital Choice and/or Digital Exclusion?” New Media & Society. 13(4):534-51.

Fairlie, Robert W., Daniel O. Beltran, and Kuntal K. Das. 2010. “Home Computers and Educational Outcomes: Evidence from the NLSY97 and CPS.” Economic Inquiry 48:771-792.

Floridi, L. (2009) The Information Society and Its Philosophy: Introduction to the Special Issue on “The Philosophy of Information, Its Nature, and Future Developments”, The Information Society, 25, 153-158.

Forestier, Emmanuel, Jeremy Grace, and Charles Kenny. 2002. “Can Information and Communication Technologies Be Pro-poor?” Telecommunications Policy 26 (11) (December): 623–646.

Forman, Chris. 2005. “The Corporate Digital Divide: Determinants of Internet Adoption.” Management Science 51:641-654.

Forman, Chris, Avi Goldfarb, and Shane Greenstein. 2005. “The Geographic Dispersion of Commercial Internet Use.” Pp. 113-145 in Rethinking Rights and Regulations Institutional Responses to New Communications Technologies, edited by Lorrie Faith Cranor and Steven S. Wildman. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Forman, Chris, Avi Goldfarb, and Shane M. Greenstein. 2009. “The Internet and Local Wages: Convergence or Divergence?” in NBER Working Paper Series. Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economic Research.

Fountain, Christine. 2005. “Finding a Job in the Internet Age.” Social Forces 83:1235-1262.

Freedom House (2009) Freedom on the Net: a Global Assessment of Internet and Digital Media. Washington, D.C.: Freedom House

Freese, Jeremy, Salvador Rivas, and Eszter Hargittai. 2006. “Cognitive Ability and Internet Use among Older Adults.” Poetics 34:236-249.

Fuchs, Thomas, and Ludger Woessmann. 2004. “Computers and Student Learning: Bivariate and Multivariate Evidence on the Availability and Use of Computers at Home and at School.” in CESifo Working Paper Series No. 1321. Munich: CESifo Group.

Gaziano, Cecilie. 1983. “The Knowledge Gap: An Analytical Review of Media Effects.” Communication Research 10:447-486.

Goodman, Sy. E., Larry I. Press, S. R. Ruth, and A. M. Rutkowski. 1994. “The Global Diffusion of the Internet: Patterns and Problems.” Communications of the ACM 37:27-31.

Graham, M., S. De Sabbata, and M. A. Zook. (2015) “Towards a Study of Information Geographies: (im)mutable Augmentations and a Mapping of the Geographies of Information.” Geo: Geography and Environment, doi:10.1002/geo2.8. (HTML version here)

Graham, M., De Sabbata, S., Zook, M. 2015. Towards a study of information geographies:(im)mutable augmentations and a mapping of the geographies of information Geo: Geography and Environment. doi:10.1002/geo2.8

Graham, M. 2015. Contradictory Connectivity: Spatial Imaginaries and Techno-Mediated Positionalities in Kenya’s Outsourcing Sector. Environment and Planning A (in press).

Graham, M and De Sabbata, S. 2015 Mapping Information Wealth and Poverty: The Geography of Gazetteers. Environment and Planning A (in press).

Graham, M., Hogan, B., Straumann, R. K., and Medhat, A. 2014. Uneven Geographies of User-Generated Information: Patterns of Increasing Informational Poverty. Annals of the Association of American Geographers. 104(4). 746-764. (pre-publication version here)

Graham, M. 2014 Inequitable Distributions in Internet Geographies: The Global South is Gaining Access But Lags in Local Contentinnovations 9(3-4). 17-34.

Graham, M. 2014. A Critical Perspective on the Potential of the Internet at the Margins of the Global Economy. In Society and the Internet: How Networks of Information and Communication are Changing our Lives. eds. Graham, M., and Dutton, W. H. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 301-318.

Graham, M. and H. Haarstad. 2013. Open Development through Open Consumption: The Internet of Things, User-Generated Content and Economic Transparency. In Open Development: Networked Innovations in International Development. eds. Smith, M. L., and Reilly, K. M. A., Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. 79-111.

Graham, M and M. Zook. 2013. Augmented Realities and Uneven Geographies: Exploring the Geo-linguistic Contours of the Web. Environment and Planning A 45(1) 77-99.

Graham, M. and L. Mann. 2013. Imagining a Silicon Savannah? Technological and Conceptual Connectivity in Kenya’s BPO and Software Development Sectors. Electronic Journal of Information Systems in Developing Countries. 56(2). 1-19.

Graham, M., S. Hale, and M. Stephens. 2012. Digital Divide: The Geography of Internet Access.Environment and Planning A, 44(5)1009-1010.

Graham, M. and H. Haarstad. 2011. Transparency and Development: Ethical Consumption through Web 2.0 and the Internet of ThingsInformation Technologies and International Development. 7(1). 1-18.

Graham, M. 2011. Time Machines and Virtual Portals: The Spatialities of the Digital DivideProgress in Development Studies. 11 (3). 211-227.

Graham, M. 2011. Cultural Brokers, the Internet, and Value Chains. In The Cultural Wealth of Nations. eds. Wherry, F. and N. Bandelj. Standford: Stanford University Press. 222-239.

Graham, M. 2011. Disintermediation, Altered Chains and Altered Geographies: The Internet in the Thai Silk IndustryElectronic Journal of Information Systems in Developing Countries. 45(5), 1-25

Graham, M. 2010. Justifying Virtual Presence in the Thai Silk Industry: Links Between Data and DiscourseInformation Technologies and International Development. 6(4), 57-70.

Graham, M. 2008. Warped Geographies of Development: The Internet and Theories of Economic Development. Geography Compass, 2(3), 771-789.

Greenberg, B., and B. Dervin. 1970. “Mass Communication among the Urban Poor.” Public Opinion Quarterly 34(2):224-235.

Grimshaw, D and Shalini, K. (eds)(2011) Strengthening Rural Livelihoods: The impact of information and communication technologies in Asia, Practical Action Publishing: Rugby

Grusky, David (Ed.). 2008. Social Stratification: Class, Race, and Gender in Sociological Perspective. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.

Grusky, David B., and Manwai Ku. 2008. “Gloom, Doom, and Inequality.” in Social Stratification: Class, Race, and Gender in Sociological Perspective, edited by David B. Grusky. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.

Gui, Marco, and Gianluca Argentin. 2011. “Digital skills of internet natives: Different forms of digital literacy in a random sample of northern Italian high school students.” New Media & Society.

Guillén, Mauro F., and Sandra L. Suárez. 2005. “Explaining the Global Digital Divide: Economic, Political and Sociological Drivers of Cross-National Internet Use.” Social Forces 84:681-708.

Hafkin, N. & Huyer, S. (2007) Women and Gender in Ict Statistics and Indicators for Development. Information Technologies and International Development, 4, 25-41.

Hale, T.M., S.R. Cotten, P. Dremtea, and M. Goldner. 2010. “Rural-Urban Differences in General and Health-Related Internet Use.” American Behavioral Scientist 53:1304-1325.

Halford, Susan, and Mike Savage. 2010. “Reconceptualizing Digital Social Inequality.” Information, Communication & Society 13:937 – 955.

Hampton, Keith N., Lauren F. Sessions, Eun Ja Her, and Lee Rainie. 2009. “Social Isolation and New Technology: How the Internet and Mobile Phones Impact Americans’ Social Networks.” Washington D.C.: Pew Internet and American Life Project.

Hampton, Keith N., and Barry Wellman. 2003. “Neighboring in Netville: How the Internet Supports Community and Social Capital in a Wired Suburb.” City and Community 2:277-311.

Hargittai, Eszter. 2002. “Second-Level Digital Divide: Differences in People’s Online Skills.” in First Monday.7(4)

Hargittai, Eszter. 2011. “Open Doors, Closed Spaces? Differentiated Adoption of Social Network Sites by User Background.” in Race after the Internet, edited by P. Chow-White and L. Nakamura: Routledge.

Hargittai, Eszter. 1999. “Weaving the Western Web: explaining differences in Internet connectivity among OECD countries.” Telecommunications Policy 23:701-718.

Hargittai, Eszter. 2003. “How Wide a Web? Inequalities in Accessing Information Online.” in Sociology Department. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University.

Hargittai, Eszter. 2008. “The Digital Reproduction of Inequality.” Pp. 936-944 in Social Stratification: Class, Race, and Gender in Sociological Perspective, edited by David B. Grusky, Manwai Ku, C., and Szonja Szelényi. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.

Hargittai, Eszter. 2010. “Digital Na(t)ives? Variation in Internet Skills and Uses among Members of the “Net Generation”.” Sociological Inquiry 80:92-113.

Hargittai, Eszter, Lindsay Fullerton, Ericka Menchen-Trevino, and Kristin Yates Thomas. 2010. “Trust Online: Young Adults’ Evaluation of Web Content.” International Journal of Communication 4:468-494.

Hargittai, Eszter, and Amanda Hinnant. 2008. “Digital Inequality: Differences in Young Adults’ Use of the Internet.” Communication Research 35:602-621.

Hargittai, Eszter, and Yu-li Patrick Hsieh. 2010. “Predictors and Consequences of Differentiated Practices on Social Network Sites.” Information, Communication & Society 13(4):515-536.

Hargittai, E. & Hsieh, Y.P. (In Press). Digital Inequality. In Oxford Handbook of Internet Studies. Edited by William H. Dutton. Oxford University Press.

Hargittai, Eszter, and Steven Shafer. 2006. “Differences in Actual and Perceived Online Skills: The Role of Gender.” Social Science Quarterly 87:432-448.

Hargittai, Eszter, and Gina Walejko. 2008. “The Participation Divide: Content Creation and Sharing in the Digital Age.” Information, Communication & Society 11:239-256.

Hassani, Sara Nephew. 2006. “Locating Digital Divides at Home, Work, and Everywhere Else.” Poetics 34:250-272.

Haythornthwaite, Caroline, and Ronald E. Rice. 2006. “Perspectives on Internet Use: Access, Involvement and Interaction.” Pp. 92-113 in The Handbook of New Media: Social Shaping and Social Consequences of ICTs, edited by Leah A. Lievrouw and Sonia Livingstone. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publication.

Heeks, Richard. 2008. “ICT4D 2.0: The Next Phase of Applying ICT for International Development.” Computer 41 (6): 26–33.

Heeks, Richard. 2002. “Information Systems and Developing Countries: Failure, Success, and Local Improvisations.” The Information Society 18 (2): 101–112.

Helsper, Ellen Johanna. 2010. “Gendered Internet Use across Generations and Life Stages.” Communication Research 37:352-374.

Herring, S. 1996. “Bringing familiar baggage to the new frontier: Gender differences in computer-mediated communication.” Pp. 144-154 in CyberReader, edited by V. Vitanza Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Hoffman, Donna L., and Thomas P. Novak. 1998. “Bridging the Racial Divide on the Internet.” Science 280:390-391.

Horrigan, John B. 2009. “Home Broadband Adoption 2009.” Washington, DC: Pew Internet and American Life Project.

Horst, Heather A. 2006. The Cell Phone: An Anthropology of Communication. Oxford: Berg.

Howard, Philip E. N., L. E. E. Rainie, and Steve Jones. 2001. “Days and Nights on the Internet: The Impact of a Diffusing Technology.” American Behavioral Scientist 45:383-404.

Hsieh, Yuli Patrick, and Eszter Hargittai. 2010. “Social Capital and Communication Multiplexity in Social Relationship Maintenance: An Alternative Theoretical Approach.” in The 105th annual meeting of the American Sociological Association. Atlanta GA.

ITU. 2010. “Measuring the Information Society 2010.” Geneva: International Telecommunication Union.

Jenkins, Henry, Katie Clinton, Ravi Purushotma, Alice J. Robinson, and Margaret Weigel. 2006. Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century. Chicago, IL: The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Jensen, Robert. 2009. “The Digital Provide.” Quarterly Journal of Economics 124 (4) (November): 879–924.

Junco, R., and S.R. Cotten. 2011. “Perceived academic effects of instant messaging use.” Computers and Education 56:370-378.

Kadushin, Charles. 2004. “Too Much Investment in Social Capital?” Social Networks 26:75-90.

Katz, James E., and Ronald E. Rice. 2002. “Syntopia: Access, Civic Involvement and Social Interaction on the Internet.” Pp. 114-38 in The Internet in Everyday Life, edited by B. Wellman and C. Haythornthwaite. Oxford, UK: Blackwell.

Kennedy, T., Wellman, B., & Klement, K. (2003). Gendering the Digital Divide. IT&Society, 1, 72–96. Retrieved from,+Tracy;Wellman,+Barry;Klement,+Kristine\n

Kirschenbaum, Josh, and Radhika Kunamneni. 2001. “Bridging the Organizational Divide: Toward a Comprehensive Approach to the Digital Divide. A PolicyLink Report.” Pp. 34. Oakland, CA: PolicyLink.

Kleine, D. (2010) “‘The men never say that they do not know’ – Telecentres as Gendered Spaces”. In: Steyn, J., van Belle, J.P, and Villanueva, E. (ed.): ICTs for Global Development and Sustainability: Practice and Applications, IGI Global, 189-210

Kleine, D. (2010): ICT4What? Using the Choice Framework to Operationalise the Capability Approach to Development, Journal of International Development, 22(5), 674-692

Kleine, D. and T. Unwin (2009): Technological Revolutions, Evolutions, and New Dependencies: What’s new about ICT4D?, Third World Quarterly, 30(5), 1045-1067

Kraut, Robert, Sara Kiesler, Bonka Boneva, Jonathon Cummings, Vicki Helgeson, and Anne Crawford. 2002. “Internet Paradox Revisited.” Journal of Social Issues 58:49-74.

Kraut, Robert, Michael Patterson, Vicki Lundmark, Sara Kiesler, Mukopadhyay Tridas, and William Scherlis. 1998. “Internet paradox: A Social Technology that Reduces Social Involvement and Psychological Well-being?” American Psychologist 53:1017-1031.

Krueger, Alan B. 1993. “How Computers Have Changed the Wage Structure: Evidence from Microdata, 1984-1989.” The Quarterly Journal of Economics 108:33-60.

Kubey, R.W, M.J. Lavin, and J.R. Barrows. 2001. “Internet use and collegiate academic performance decrements: early findings.” Journal of Communication 51(2):366-382

LaRose, Robert, Jennifer L. Gregg, Sharon Strover, Joseph Straubhaar, and Serena Carpenter. 2007. “Closing the Rural Broadband Gap: Promoting Adoption of the Internet in Rural America.” Telecommunications Policy 31:359-373.

Latour, B. (2005). Reassembling the social: an introduction to actor-network theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press

Law, J. (1991) A sociology of monsters: essays on power, technology and domination. London: Routledge

Livingstone, Sonia, and Ellen Helsper. 2007. “Gradations in Digital Inclusion: Children, Young People and the Digital Divide.” New Media & Society 9:671-696.

Livingstone, Sonia, and Ellen Helsper. 2010. “Balancing opportunities and risks in teenagers’ use of the internet: the role of online skills and internet self-efficacy.” New Media & Society 12:309-329.

Loges, William E., and Joo-Young Jung. 2001. “Exploring the Digital Divide: Internet Connectedness and age.” Communication Research 28:536-562.

Min, S.-J. (2010). From the Digital Divide to the Democratic Divide: Internet Skills, Political Interest, and the Second-Level Digital Divide in Political Internet Use. Journal of Information Technology & Politics. doi:10.1080/19331680903109402

Mansell, R. & Wehn, U. (1998) Knowledge Societies: Information Technology for Sustainable Development. Oxford, United Nations Commission on Science and Technology for Development

McPherson, Miller, Lynn Smith-Lovin, and Matthew E. Brashears. 2006. “Social Isolation in America: Changes in Core Discussion Networks over Two Decades.” American Sociological Review 71:353-375.

Menchen-Trevino, Ericka, and Eszter Hargittai. 2011. “Young Adults’ Credibility Assessment of Wikipedia.” Information, Communication & Society.14(1):24-51

Metzger, M. J. 2007. “Making sense of credibility on the Web: Models for evaluating online information and recommendations for future research.” Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology 58:2078-2091.

Mossberger, Karen, Caroline J. Tolbert, and Mary Stansbury. 2003. Virtual Inequality: Beyond the Digital Divide. Washington D.C.: Georgetown University Press.

National Telecommunications and Information Administration. 1995. “Falling through the Net: A Survey of the “Have Nots” in rural and urban America.” Washington DC: US Department of Commerce.

Nemer, D. (2015). Online Favela: The Use of Social Media by the Marginalized in Brazil. Information Technology for Development.

Nemer, D. (2015). From Digital Divide to Digital Inclusion and Beyond. The Journal of Community Informatics, 11(1).

Nemer, D. & Zhang, G. (2015). Empowering the Marginalized: Rethinking Selfies in the Slums of Brazil. International Journal of Communication. 9(2015). 1832–1847.

NTIA. 1998. “Falling Through the Net II: New Data on the Digital Divide.” Washington DC: US Department of Commerce.

NTIA. 1999. “Falling Through the Net: Defining the Digital Divide.” Washington DC: US Department of Commerce.

NTIA. 2000. “Falling Through the Net: Toward Digital Inclusion.” Washington DC: US Department of Commerce.

NTIA. 2002. “A Nation Online: Internet Use in America.” Washington DC: US Department of Commerce.

NTIA. 2004. “A Nation Online: Entering the Broadband Age.” Washington DC: US Department of Commerce.

NTIA. 2010. “Digital Nation: 21st Century America’s Progress Towards Universal Broadband Internet Access.” Washington DC: US Department of Commerce.

Nie, Norman, Sunshine Hillygus, and Lutz Erbring. 2002. “Internet Use, Interpersonal Relations and Sociability: A Time Diary Study.” Pp. 244-262 in The Internet in Everyday Life, edited by Barry Wellman and Caroline Haythornthwaite. Oxford: Blackwell.

Norris, Pippa. 2001. Digital Divide? Civic Engagement, Information Poverty & the Internet Worldwide. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Norris, Pippa. 2004. “The Bridging and Bonding Role of Online Communities.” Pp. 31-42 in Society Online: The Interaction in Context, edited by Philip N. Howard and Steve G. Jones. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publication.

Nussbaum, M. (2000) Women and Human Development: The Capabilities Approach, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press

Oakley, P. (Ed.) (2001) Evaluating Empowerment. Reviewing the Concept and the Practice, Oxford, INTRAC

Ono, Hiroshi, and Madeline Zavodny. 2003. “Gender and the Internet.” Social Science Quarterly 84:111-121.

Ono, Hiroshi, and Madeline Zavodny. 2007. “Digital inequality: A five country comparison using microdata.” Social Science Research 36:1135-1155.

Page, Kelly, and Mark Uncles. 2004. “Consumer Knowledge of the World Wide Web: Conceptualization and Measurement.” Psychology & Marketing 21:573-591.

Parkinson, S. and R. Ramirez (2006) Using a Sustainable Livelihoods Approach to Assessing the Impact of ICTs in Development, Journal of Community Informatics, 2(3), available at:

Pasek, Josh, eiam more, and Eszter Hargittai. 2009. “Facebook and Academic Performance: Reconciling a Media Sensation with Data.” First Monday 14.

Pasek, Josh, eian more, and Daniel Romer. 2009. “Realizing the Social Internet? Online Social Networking Meets Offline Civic Engagement.” Journal of Information Technology & Politics 6(3-4):197-215.

Peter, J., & Valkenburg, P. M. (2006). Adolescents’ internet use: Testing the “disappearing digital divide” versus the “emerging digital differentiation” approach. Poetics, 34(4-5), 293–305. doi:10.1016/j.poetic.2006.05.005

Prensky, Mark. 2001. “Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants.” On the Horizon 9:1-6.

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Putnam, Robert D. 2001. Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community. New York: Simon and Schuster.

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How NextDrop is Mixing Water, Data and ICT in India

Originally published in ISIF Asia

In many homes with piped in the developing world, piped water is only available a few hours at a time, and in some cases, they can go up to ten days without it. If they miss the water supply window, then the opportunity to collect and store the water has passed for the next 2-10 days. To ensure receiving water for their families, many low-income families must have someone waiting at home at all times. So a lack of water also becomes a lack of freedom for many women and children.

As a solution, social business NextDrop was founded , and it began by sending messages to about 15,000 households in the southern Indian twin cities of Hubli-Dharwad. The service informs subscribers via SMS about 60 minutes in advance of when the water service will be switched on, switched off, and whether it is contaminated or affected by low pressure. The information is gathered the same way: Through the use of mobile phones, the service workers who manually open and close valves provide them with real time information on the water delivery.

NextDrop’s young staff do not know whether to call themselves a social enterprise, or a tech start up, since they have received funding for both types of ventures. The startup built upon a novel team project that won University of California Berkeley’s Big Ideas competition. They work in conjunction with the local government, while at the same time gathering data that shows the structural problems with water delivery. It is an exercise in openness on behalf of a public delivery service. NextDrop has now expanded to Bangalore, where they have partnered with the Water Supply and Sewerage Board to supply city-wide services.

To sign up, customers have to give NextDrop a missed call on a dedicated phone number. The system allows them to track the customer’s location via GPS, narrowing it down to three valve areas. They will register the user to the first one, send them their first delivery message, and ask for feedback to whether they received the water or not. That way they have them correctly allocated within three text messages. A simpler solution may have seemed to ask new customers for their address, but in many suburbs and settlements in India post codes are rarely used, so, NextDrop says, GPS is the best option.

Is it a solution or just a plug in the leak?

There are two types of payments that the poor must make to obtain their water supply. First there is the actual cash payment in exchange for an ideally reliable water supply. The second ones are called “coping costs”, which are “payments that are outside the system and that ought not to be required,” but that the poor must pay in order to gain access to water.

The first coping costs is what are known as “informal payments,” which can vary from burdensome hospitality to outright bribes. The second coping cost is the time lost waiting for water since it has “the same impact of reducing poor peoples’ incomes, since time spent collecting water, or lying ill in bed cannot be spent earning money elsewhere” (UNDP, World Bank). NextDrop eliminates many of the coping costs that come with having to stay at home to wait for the water; the time and energy that could be spent in a wage-earning job.

Yet the third type of coping cost is the one created by coping mechanisms such as NextDrop itself. The service creates a newer, albeit much smaller, cost. As the UNDP study suggests, theses emerging new costs are “cash payments that are not contemplated in the original design of the water scheme, but which pay for real services that are made necessary by the scheme’s inadequacies” NextDrop would not be needed if there were a 100% reliability of water delivery to the different areas of the city.

Improving services through direct feedback

NextDrop allows citizens to report whether the information the government provided is correct. So, after the initial SMS saying that water will arrive in an hour, they send you a follow-up message to see if that was indeed the case. If a lot of people in the same area report not receiving water, then the government knows there is a problem.

Anu Sridharan, co-founder and CEO told Forbes that they are “seeing feedback work firsthand within the water utility company… People lower in the organization finally have the data to back up the fact that their job is hard, and that they are being put in an impossible situation. And now they are coming together at meetings, and they are able to tell their superiors, hey, there are all these issues, let’s work on fixing them… the utility companies themselves are asking us for citizen feedback, so they can keep track of their direct reports.”

When Hubli-Dharwad’s water utility used NextDrop’s monitoring tools across a three-month period, over 17,500 families got water when they otherwise would not. These families were at the end of their area’s supply cycle and wouldn’t receive sufficient water if the system lacked proper pressure. By engaging valvemen to report water pressure when they turned water on, and relaying this to utility engineers responsible for decision-making about those areas, NextDrop enables real-time adjustments to ensure equitable supply.

A water data bank

NextDrop wishes to collect as much data as possible in order to develop a predictive system, which could potentially have a big impact on quality of service. A lot of this data is gained from field visits by the team, who map new areas to inform these models. Much of the data is already within the knowledge of the utility companies, but is not yet aggregated. As this system is fed with more information by customer and engineer feedback, and by previous lessons and historical trends, it will become increasingly effective and will enable the network to surpass its current efficiency levels of 60-80 per cent.

4 questions of as Internet for the poor

This post was originally published in ICTWorks

Approximately 80% of the world’s population lives in areas already covered by 2G or 3G networks. The coverage is mostly urban, with the basic infrastructure already constructed by mobile service providers. So in these locations, the main obstacle to Internet access is not being able to afford it.

As a solution, Facebook launched its initiative in 2013, with the goal of providing “free Internet access” for the two thirds of the world who do not have it. By partnering with local telecommunications providers and hardware makers in the developing world, people who cannot afford a data plan will have access to a certain number of applications (depending on the country).

This practice is called “Zero Rating” or “sponsored data”, where carriers and services subsidize access to some products. The project has been launched in Tanzania, Kenya, Colombia, Ghana, India, Philippines, Guatemala and Indonesia. But recently in India, several telecommunication firms withdrew from the deal because of complaints that the project threatens the principle of network neutrality.

Can Facebook claim to be giving free Internet access, but only to a few applications?


In its defense, Mark Zuckerberg claimed there is no conflict between increasing connectivity and network neutrality. But India’s Save The Internet Coalition wrote in the Hindustan Times that is “Zuckerberg’s ambitious project to confuse hundreds of millions of emerging market users into thinking that Facebook and the Internet are one and the same.”

Not all connections were created equal

On one end, Zuckerberg argues that “something is better than nothing” and says that this limited access will incentivize users to purchase a full data plan. One of ICT4D’s main goals is indeed access; leveling the information playing field. Nonetheless, by selling as “universal access” to the Internet, many will jump at the chance of not paying for a data plan, and we can assume most of them will be the world’s poorest.

According to Mark Graham from the Oxford Internet Institute, bridging the digital gap is not only about connectivity, but about what the Internet is being used for. Yet by providing free access to the two thirds of the population who don’t have Internet yet, Facebook positions itself as their main access gate to the web, certainly conflicting with the principle of network neutrality.

Even the sharing of external content is limited, since users cannot click on links to external web sites. He is therefore creating a parallel internet: the internet of the poor vs the actual one.

Even before the project, Facebook is already gaining ground as the Internet’s front door. In 2012, think tank LIRNEasiafound that 11% of Indonesians who said they used Facebook also said they did not use the internet. In Nigeria, 9% of Facebook users said they do not use the Internet. Even Sheryl Sandberg admits that there are Facebook users who don’t know they are on the Internet, and that in some people walk into phone stores and say “I want Facebook”.

Facebook claims that it itself is a catalyst for economic development. A Deloitte report commissioned by the company claims that the social network was responsible for $227 billion in global economic impact, and 4.5 million jobs in 2014. But according to the Wall Street Journal, independent economists said the study used questionable assumptions. “The results are meaningless,” Stanford economist Roger Noll said in an email. “Facebook is an effect, not a cause, of the growth of Internet access and use.”

Bringing connectivity to everyone


Nonetheless, the zero rating partnerships are only part of’s strategy. For 20% of the world’s population the basic network infrastructure has yet to be built.’s Connectivity Lab is trying to create alternative means of connection, including high-altitude drones, which have already been successfully tested. Google’s Project Loon is their competition for the disconnected world population. The project aims to reach rural and remote areas via balloons.

4 Questions for ICT practitioners

  1. Is it a monopoly? To incentivize local economy, local start ups to be accessible. Closed-internet projects such as these tilt the balance against small local initiatives. Any venture that is currently creating apps of web-based services will be cut off from their target audiences. In an interview with Colombian paper “El Tiempo,”’s vice-president Chris Daniels said the selection for the included aps comes from a discussion between Facebook, the mobile provider and the local government. “We determine which ones are more useful and are more likely to improve lives.” They say they are open to include more, but the process one would have to follow to get there remains ambiguous.
  2. Is it philanthropy? Zuckerberg visited Colombia in January where the project launched in South America. For now, the service is available to customers of Tigo (the biggest mobile service provider) even if they do not have a data plan. Tigo is aggressively using it in its advertising to lure customers away from other mobile service providers.
  3. Is it equitable? As ICT practitioners, it is important to ensure that the voice of civil society in developing nations is heard, especially since regulation has not caught up with the technologies that are already well within borders. India raised its voice, but the initiative has been going on since 2013. It continued to go through Indonesia even after India. Either people do not understand what it means, or they could easily be confused by the project’s name and promises.
  4. Is it the best option? It is important to see what other alternatives could be found to improve connectivity. Letting American internet giants in charge of connectivity is not only risky, but almost imperialistic. There is always that to content with when talking about aid in development. Does the end justify the means?

Update: Facebook has introduced the Platform, an open program for developers to easily create services that integrate with They are also giving people more choice over the free basic services they can use.


Internet pobre para los pobres

Originalmente publicado en

La competencia de los gigantes de Internet por llegar a los que aún no están conectados.

En enero de este año Colombia recibió la visita de CEO y fundador de Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, para inaugurar su proyecto en América Latina. El servicio, que por ahora está limitado a los usuarios de Tigo, permitirá acceso gratuito a Facebook y otras cuantas aplicaciones (depende del país) escogidas por ellos. Tuvo algunas críticas, pero por ahora en nuestro país, el proyecto sigue en pie.

Por otro lado, esta semana en la India se armó un escándalo en contra de la iniciativa. Los argumentos son varias pero se enfocan en 1. Facebook no equivale al Internet y 2. Se viola el principio de neutralidad de la red (explicación más adelante). A raíz de esto varios de los proveedores de telecomunicación asociados al proyecto se echaron para atrás.

En un editorial en el Hindustan Times de la India, la Coalición para Salvar el Internet lo denominó como “el ambicioso proyecto de Zuckerberg para confundir a millones de usuarios de mercados emergentes, al hacerles creer que Facebook y el Internet son la misma cosa”.

El Centro de Investigación LIRNEasia encontró en el 2012 que muchos usuarios de teléfonos móviles en la ‘base de la pirámide’ en Indonesia dijeron que no usaban el Internet. Pero al preguntarles por Facebook, decían usarlo seguido. Lo mismo se encontró en África, donde más gente responde que usa Facebook que el Internet, lo cual es físicamente imposible. Es decir que en la percepción, Facebook es el Internet.

Los argumentos a favor y en contra de la iniciativa también aplican en Colombia, y creo que es importante mirar a otros países emergentes que se puedan relacionar con el nuestro en términos de conectividad, desarrollo y política pública.

No todas las conexiones son iguales

La primera crítica al proyecto es que Zuckerberg está creando un Internet chiquito, limitado y con el fin expandir la base de usuarios de Facebook para tener cómo monetizarlos. Él no contradice esto, pero argumenta que “algo de conexión es mejor que nada” y que al ver lo importante de la red, estos usuarios eventualmente pasarán a pagar por datos.

Pero según Mark Graham del Instituto de Internet de la Universidad de Oxford, para cerrar la brecha digital no es sólo importante la penetración y el acceso, sino el uso que le de la gente. Al proveer la opción de Internet gratis se puede asumir que la gente la tomará y que la mayoría de estos usuarios serán de escasos recursos. Esto creará un Internet paralelo: el de los que tienen plata y el de los que no.

Hasta ahora pensamos en el Internet como un beneficio absoluto que trae consigo la equidad y el acceso a la información. La mayor parte de la investigación social hecha sobre el tema contradice la teoría. Al paso que vamos el grueso de la información en Wikipedia sobre los países en desarrollo ha sido escrita por norteamericanos y europeos. Por ende, a pesar de tener el acceso no estamos colaborando al mismo nivel y, por el contrario, muy pocas compañías internacionales se llevan la mayoría del tráfico derivado de la creación y circulación de la información que consumimos.

¿Qué es la neutralidad en la red?

La idea comenzó con la Comisión Federal de Comunicaciones de Estados Unidos (FCC, por sus siglas en inglés), la cual considera el Internet como un servicio público básico. Bajo este principio, la ‘neutralidad en la red’ es un conjunto de reglas creadas por la FCC en 2010 para prevenir que los proveedores de los servicios de Internet realicen cambios en la velocidad para favorecer a algunos sitios o bloqueen el acceso a algunas páginas legales. (Ver: ‘6 claves para entender la neutralidad de la red‘).

En el mundo se discute este principio, que tiene como objetivo el asegurar la libre competencia en el mercado en línea. La premisa es que los dueños de los cables que transmiten el Internet, generalmente las grandes empresas de telecomunicación, no puedan discriminar a un servicio en línea por encima del otro.

Al decidir la alianza con Facebook, Tigo está, en teoría, violando este principio. Al presentarle a sus usuarios una alternativa gratis, lo más seguro es que la tomen. Pero eso haría que la entrada de la gente que utiliza sea manejada, curada y decidida por Facebook. Si uno opta por esta opción, no puede navegar por afuera de las aplicaciones, incluyendo Google, por ejemplo, o algún link a un medio de comunicación que haya puesto un amigo.

Según una entrevista de El Tiempo a Chris Daniels, Vicepresidente encargado de, las aplicaciones que forman parte del conjunto surgen de una discusión entre Facebook, el operador y el gobierno. “Se determina cuáles son más útiles y cuáles van a mejorar más su vida. Estamos abiertos y siempre estamos discutiendo qué nuevas aplicaciones pueden formar parte de”. Pero por ahora no se ve por ningún lado qué proceso hay que seguir si se quiere ser incluido en el portafolio de aplicaciones.

A conectar a los que faltan

En realidad el mayor problema de Zuckerberg ha sido el nombre de su proyecto. Si hubiera dicho que iba a proporcionar algunos servicios gratis para los usuarios más pobres, que se llamara, no hubiera levantado tanta crítica.

Ya hay varias iniciativas que están tomando otras entidades del sector privado para intentar traer el Internet hasta las áreas más remotas del mundo. Project Loon de Google piensa conectar a la gente por medio de globos. El mismo Facebook también compró una fábrica de drones con el mismo propósito. Sea lo que sea, la única forma de expandirse para estos gigantes es competir por la población que aún no se conecta.

Eres la suma de todos tus datos

(Esta columna fue publicada originalmente en

La geolocalización, el uso de Uber, el historial del buscador, todos los ‘me gusta’ y clics… En el Instituto de Internet de la Universidad de Oxford aprendí que la red es el paraíso del sociólogo por la misma razón que lo es para el publicista: los extensos datos de todo tipo de gente que se encuentran disponibles, gratis y a profundidad.

La economía de la información (de la cual el Internet es gran parte) utiliza nuestros datos personales como moneda: es el precio por utilizar los sitios web que nos prestan sus servicios gratuitamente”‘. Amazon ya conoce nuestros gustos y el algoritmo de Google los aprende con cada búsqueda que hacemos. Facebook vende nuestra edad y género al mayor comprador. ¿Esa chaqueta que buscaste alguna vez pero no compraste y ahora te persigue por cada sitio al que entras? Sí, intercambiaste tu información por ese servicio. Es parte del acuerdo.

Es tan difícil mantenerse por fuera de este esquema al navegar por Internet que una profesora de Stanford intentó esconder su embarazo de las compañías de mercadeo al no generar ningún tipo de récord electrónico durante nueve meses. Utilizó varios servicios de anonimato y tal fue su comportamiento que terminó en una lista negra por su ‘actividad clandestina’.

“¿Qué pasa cuando los algoritmos comienzan a predecir nuestras acciones futuras?”

Ethan Zuckerman, tecnólogo, fundador del blog Global Voices y profesor de MIT, se culpa a él mismo y a los demás pioneros de la red por este problema arquitectónico del Internet. Al enfocarse en liberar al individuo de los ‘gigantes’ corporativos y gubernamentales, estos académicos rebeldes crearon el Internet con un diseño tan descentralizado que ha resultado casi imposible de regular. ¿El problema? Gracias a esto mismo la prevalente forma de monetizarlo, o una de las únicas, es por medio de la publicidad o vendiendo la información de los usuarios. Eso termina costándole más al individuo y enriqueciendo a las empresas: todo lo contrario al propósito con el que fue concebido.

¿Por qué nos debería importar?

Los académicos y líderes de grandes empresas siguen hablando del abstracto ‘Big Data’ y del efecto que va a tener sobre todas las industrias. Pero lo que implica, es decir el proceso de recolección y las repercusiones de su uso, son difíciles de concretar.

Por el lado bueno, la habilidad de recolectar datos tan precisos crea una experiencia comercial mucho más personalizada para cada uno. Netflix ya sabe cuáles películas me gustan y con eso me dará sugerencias. En un futuro no muy lejano, el Internet de las Cosas permitirá este tipo de personalización en todo: desde almacenes que solo ofrezcan ropa afín con la talla y gusto de cada cliente, hasta la adaptación del termostato de la casa a la temperatura corporal de quien entre.

La preocupación entonces es ¿qué pasa cuando los algoritmos comienzan a predecir nuestras acciones futuras?

La primera realidad para tener en cuenta es que, aunque los algoritmos han progresado bastante, todavía sufren de una inhabilidad para llegar a conclusiones lógicas y contextualizar comportamientos o descifrar sutilezas del lenguaje. Por ejemplo, para mi tesis de maestría busqué y entrevisté a muchos blogueros del oriente medio. Durante los siguientes meses Facebook decidió que estaba interesada en sitios de matrimonios musulmanes y hijabs. Como esta hay muchas historias.

Ya existen varios centros de investigación estudiando los problemas éticos con el uso de los datos personales tales como el Data & Society Institute en Nueva York. Si ya se minan bases de datos para crear perfiles o generalizaciones, ¿qué otro tipo de deducciones están ocurriendo, y en qué industrias? Uno de los ejemplos controversiales en los Estados Unidos es la utilización de datos demográficos (como qué tipo de gente vive en un barrio) para elegir qué crédito bancario ofrecerle al cliente.

¿Qué hacer como emprendedores o consumidores de tecnología?

Por ende, nuestro valor en línea son nuestros datos pero seguimos regalándolos. El futurista y filósofo Jaron Lanier, en su libro “¿Quién es dueño de nuestro futuro?”, propone que si las máquinas aprenden, se pueden ir automatizando. Como vamos, muy poca gente, más que todo en Sillicon Valley, se está enriqueciendo, mientras el resto de nosotros perdemos nuestros trabajos. Ahora, no sé si estoy en total acuerdo con él y su teoría alarmista, pero sí sé el valor comercial que tienen nuestros datos. El perfecto ejemplo es el traductor de Google que se alimenta del contenido de los usuarios, del cual se prevé que eventualmente podrá reemplazar a los traductores humanos de la forma en la que ya estamos reemplazando a las disqueras, productores de música y las casas editoriales.

En este contexto es importante crear una cultura digital ‘humanística’, o centrada en los humanos. No es solo pensar en innovación, sino en innovación que nos beneficie a largo plazo. El emprendimiento nacional es necesario para eso, al igual que legislar para proteger a los consumidores, pero más que todo es tener conciencia sobre qué servicios utilizamos, qué configuraciones de privacidad y concientizarnos sobre el valor de nuestra información personal.

Tenemos que tener en cuenta las consecuencias del uso tecnológico y ser participantes activos de las decisiones que se toman a niveles de las compañías que utilizamos. ¿Tiene sentido que desde Estados Unidos se decida qué hacer con nuestros datos?, ¿deberíamos estar pidiendo más de nuestros legisladores en cuanto al ingreso de compañías extranjeras?

A nivel personal hay varias medidas que se pueden tomar, pero son reaccionarias, incómodas y un poco alarmistas, como las de la profesora de Stanford. Existen varias organizaciones como o el Electronic Frontier Foundation, y aquí en Colombia RedPaTodos, que han recopilado información sobre el tema.



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Un cruel e involuntario algoritmo

Me tocó por fin ponerme a ver el SlideShow de mi año.

“Este año ha sido fabuloso. Gracias por haber formado parte de él”. ¡Mi año! ¡Resumido! Lo vi pero no lo quise compartir. Y eso es por qué no quise mirar el de nadie más… Esto es sólo otra forma de comparase con los demás, pero todo resumido. De todas las aplicaciones obsoletas que he visto en Facebook en los diez años que lo he tenido, esta va en la lista de las peores.

El final del año trae una época instrospectiva.  Queremos evaluar cuantas de nuestras metas cumplimos, qué queremos mejorar el próximo año y demás. Pero ya que las redes en general son selectivas en cosas buenas y malas que nosotros mismos hemos resaltado. Tiene poco de introspectivo. SI acaso, es el año que le dijimos a los demás que tuvimos.

Facebook tuvo que pedir perdón al gurú de internet Eric Meyer, cuya hija murió el 12 de junio por causa de cáncer. El algoritmo agarró la foto y la volvió la protagonista de la celebración digital. Aquí una traducción por El Pais del blog que escribió Meyer. 

“¡Eric, así ha sido tu año!”. Una foto de mi hija, que ha muerto. Que murió este año. Sí, mi año tenía ese aspecto. Muy cierto. My año se parece a la ausente cara de mi hijita. (…) Y ya sé, por supuesto, que no es algo deliberado. Este algoritmo involuntario y cruel es el resultado de un código que funciona en la inmensa mayoría de los casos, recordando a la gente lo más maravilloso de sus años, mostrando selfies en una fiesta o una ballena desde un bote de pesca o del puerto en su casa de vacaciones. Pero para los que hemos vivido la muerte de nuestros seres queridos, o hemos pasado mucho tiempo en el hospital, o hemos vivido un divorcio o perdido el trabajo o vivido cualquier crisis, puede ser que no queramos mirar de nuevo este año”.

En mi caso, los primeros cuatro meses del año estuve un poco en crisis existencial antes de encontrar trabajo e intentando re-adaptarme a la ciudad de mi infancia. Todo el proceso fue abrumador: he vivido en muchos sitios pero no hay como el sentirse tan fuera de lugar en la ciudad que se supone que debería sentirse propia. Pero según Facebook, esos meses fueron no existentes.La presentación saltó directamente de Navidad a el mundial de fútbol. Nadie quiere publicar cosas como “ando perdido” o “me hace falta mis amigos” o “¡wooow que desocupe!” Al final de cuentas, por lo menos para mi, Facebook no está muy lejos de LinkedIn. Tengo a la gente que trabajó conmigo, que hizo la maestría conmigo… No me hace sonar bien, y por ende no ayudaba al proceso de búsqueda.

Entonces nuestras vidas digitales se ven resumidas no sólo a lo que se ve, si no lo que no se ve. Siempre noto cómo la gente borra todas las fotos de ellos con sus exes cuando terminan… Borrando toda huella de la existencia de la relación. También me pregunto si Facebook incluye en eso cosas borradas. Lo más seguro es que no.

Lógicamente estas cosas van a pasar siempre que se utilice un algoritmo para todos los casos; aunque nuestro amigo Jason Larnier prediga unos algoritmos que hayan aprendido tanto de los humanos que puedan reemplazarnos completamente, esta ocurrencia demuestra lo lejos que nos encontramos todavía. La empatía y la discreción son cosas tan contextuales que todavía no sabemos cómo podrán los algoritmos entenderlas por completo. Existe el “sentiment analysis,” y si Facebook se hubiera puesto en la tarea de utilizar algo por el estilo podrían identificar el sentimiento de pérdida que venía asociada a la foto de la hija de Meyer.

Facebook va a empezar a cobrar, y ya era hora

Lo que sabíamos que iba a pasar, bueno, ya llegó por fin. Los que trabajamos en esto ya nos habíamos dado cuenta: El alcance orgánico en Facebook ya ha disminuido en la mayoría de las marcas. Pero en enero, Facebook planea hacer un cambio aún más sustancial a su algoritmo (es decir dejara de usar EdgeRank), disminuyendo significativamente el alcance orgánico para cualquier contenido de Facebook que se considere promoción. Si parece un anuncio, será necesario pagar para que el contenido aparezca en el “news feed” de sus seguidores. 

Facebook informa que un promedio de 1.500 historias se generan cada vez que alguien abre su cuenta. De ellos, sólo aparece un promedio de 300 a la vez. Su algoritmo es el factor decisivo en cuanto a qué historias ves. Los filtros se basan en factores relativos a lo que cada usuario le gusta, sus clics, artículos en los que han comentado, etc.

Recientemente, a través de una encuesta,  Facebook encontró que los usuarios querían ver más historias de amigos y las páginas que les interesan, y menos contenido promocional. Esto, sin embargo, no hablaba solamente de anuncios. Esto significaba mensajes que intentaban venderles cosas de las páginas que ya seguían.  Así que en respuesta a esto, Facebook ha alterado su algoritmo para filtrar las “publicaciones excesivamente promocionales.”

La pregunta que nos estamos haciendo todos es como van a hacer para decidir que es promocional, y que no. Los que trabajamos como proveedores de contenido, sea una publicación, un blog o televisión, tenemos valor agregado que ofrecerle a nuestros seguidores. Pero… una aerolínea? De qué podría hablar EasyJet si no es de sus promociones?  Esto es excelente desde el punto de vista de UX (experiencia del usuario) pero para los negocios, varias cosas van a cambiar.

1. Se acabó la dicha: Negocios ya tendrán que ver la importancia de las redes y dejar de verlo como algo extra, y gratis. Hay que tener presupuesto para redes, punto.

2. Hay que dar valor agregado: Esto la verdad aplica tanto a la publicidad tradicional como en social, pero es importante recordar que hay dar una razon para que el contenido no sea etiquetado como publicitario por Facebook. Mas nos vale que en vez de un “compre” haya un video interesante, un dato curioso o un infográfico.

3. La creatividad paga: Logra un buen post orgánico, o paga por uno publicitario. Ambos cuestan, pero uno seguramente funcionara mejor que el otro. Facebook lógicamente quiere ganar mas dinero, pero también la idea es mejorar la experiencia de sus usuarios. El buen contenido cuesta, pero se esta volviendo la unica opción.

4. Conoce a tu público: Contenido y publicidad han tenido una tensión eterna, desde la época principiante de la prensa escrita. Pero ahora mas que nunca es importante mirar los números y darse cuenta a que le va mejor. Hay que pensar en las redes como una forma de mantener a tu red, o “network” en vez de clientes potenciales. Si son “fans” de tu marca, tienes que mantenerlos, no bombardearlos con mas publicidad. Para eso esta la publicidad paga, y eso parece que seguirá igual.

5. Optimiza: Es hora de pararle muchas mas bolas a lo que escribes en Facebook. No mas pendejadas ni ruido… Es hora de mirar muy bien las metricas y planear todo mucho mas. La competencia aumento, a darse garra.

Colombian man condemned to 18 months of jail time for an online comment

In an unprecedented ruling, Gonzalo Lopez was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment and a fine of 9.5 million pesos (approximately $5000 USD) for making a comment in the online edition of the local newspaper El Pais Cali. The comment went something like this:

“With such a rat like Escalante, even Club Colombia and Comfenalco fired her for misconduct… What can you expect? A thief catching thieves? Bah!”

He was referring to Gloria Lucia Escalante, former Administrative and Human Resources manager of the local utility company. Escalante then sued the anonymous commenter for libel, but the municipal court did not concede her point since there was no way to identify the anonymous commenter. Yet Escalante later provided electronic tracking evidence that pointed to Gonzalo Lopez, plus some other testimonies. Cali’s High Court ruled against the defendant.

The law states that:

Article 220. Libel. The other person that makes dishonorable accusations shall be liable to imprisonment of one (1) to three (3) years and a fine of ten (10) to one thousand (1,000) minimum monthly wages.

Other cases due to online comments

The online publication Pulzo (in Spanish) does a good recap of recent cases around the world in which people were arrested for online comments with different levels of severity. Many have been for direct threats, but more than one has been for “distasteful” opinions. The most recent example of this happened in the UK when a teacher was stabbed to death by a student. Twenty-one-year-old Jake Newsome posted on his Facebook page:

“Personally I’m glad that teacher got stabbed up, feel sorry for the kid… he shoulda pissed on her too”. He got six weeks of prison time.

This is going even further than the Lopez case, given that there was no libel and no physical threat whatsoever; the police arrested and charged Newsome under the 2003 Communications Act with having sent “by means of a public electronic communications network a message or other matter that is grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing nature”. Various human rights and free speech organizations, including Index on Censorship, have voiced their concerns over these types of arrests based on outdated laws. Yet at what point does offensive become “grossly offensive” is entirely subjective. Maybe it had to do with the fact that it got shared 2000 times.

The Streissand Effect

The “Streisand effect” is the phenomenon whereby an attempt to hide, remove, or censor a piece of juicy information has the unintended consequence of publicizing it more. The term was coined after what happened when Barbara Streisand sued a tabloid for libel. We can only wonder how much of a Streisand effect the Lopez comment had once he had been sued for it. Escalante is now known at a national level for sending a man to jail for calling her a thief on a news site comments section.

Colombia’s Supreme Court rejected Lopez’s appeal; they sought to set precedent with the case, stating that even though it was a comment, it had extensive reach in social media at “very high levels”, injuring the image and reputation of the plaintiff. Yet of course, it reached those levels because of the suit itself. Lopez originally argued that the comment had only been read and acknowledged by Escalante, but after a prolonged legal battle, the comment became well known throughout the web and traditional media.

Is it right to jail someone for commenting on a news site or a social media site?

There are various issues to consider. First is whether a comment can be considered an accusation, or by default, an opinion. If this ruling had happened earlier in the year, quite a few politicians could have been put in jail for the amount of libellous tweets made during the June presidential election.

Another point is the legitimacy and enforceability of libel law in informal, commenting online spaces. It seems unrealistic to apply the same level of severity from traditional media to the individual comment. What is particularly interesting though, is that in Colombia, libel is considered a criminal and not a civil offense. Giving a year and a half of jail time for such a thing is likely to bring strong repercussions from civil society and freedom of speech activists. If he had said: “my opinion is that she mismanaged money” instead of calling her a thief, would the suit have been dismissed?

We can also not disregard the “tracking” that was done by a private lawyer and not law enforcement to find out his identity. That is an entirely separate Pandora’s box.

In conclusion, if Lopez had said this comment in a bar and someone called the police, they would have disregarded it and told them to go away. There must be some debate in regards to what makes a comment worthy of prosecution. Should libel, harassment, threats, false alarms and disrespectful comments be placed in the same echelon? It is also unrealistic to expect the general public to be as versed on the subject as the lawyers hired by newspapers.

Some could make a case that arrests of people who pirated music did not dissuade the great majority of people from continuing to do so, therefore this could have no effect whatsoever on free speech in Colombia. It does nonetheless bring into discussion the magnitude of the penalty for those who end up prosecuted. Online participation in forums and comments on traditional media sites are already unusually low in the country, and particularly filled with offensiveness and personal attacks. But now, instead of going through the hassle of trying to technically make their comment an “opinion”, Colombians may abstain from commenting at all.

Los robots que remplazan periodistas

Ken Schwencke se despertó el 17 de Marzo a las 6:25 al sentir un temblor. Schwencke, a quien conozco desde nuestros días de estudiantes de periodismo en la Universidad de la Florida, trabaja para el periódico “Los Angeles Times”. Al prender el computador se encontró con el artículo ya escrito: sólo tuvo que hacer click y publicarlo.

Quakebot, creado en el LA Times, es un programa de software que contiene un algoritmo conectado al U.S. Geological Survey. Se activa con temblores de más de cierto impacto. Quakebot está programado para extraer la información necesaria del reporte del USGS e introducirla en un artículo pre-escrito.

El perpetuo miedo de las máquinas apoderándose de trabajos tradicionalmente humanos ha permeado la ciencia ficción casi tanto como los aliens. Sólo hay que pensar en Minority Report, o en The Matrix. En el libro de Jaron Lanier, “Who owns the future?”(A quién pertenece el futuro?) el futurólogo nos explica como al igual que la revolución industrial acabó con muchos trabajos de fabricación y agricultura, la revolución digital acabará no solo con trabajos tradicionales, sino que los automatizará. Larnier dice que solo hay algunas “sirenas” que serán los pocos con todo el poder (ejemplo Google y Facebook) mientras el resto de las personas se quedan sin empleo, obsoletos. Distopía de ciencia ficción absoluta.

Lo estamos empezando a ver ya con los trabajos creativos. La primera industria afectada fue la de la música y el entretenimiento; las casas disqueras como tal, los agentes, etc. se ven rápidamente remplazados por Napster, los DJs amenazados por los algoritmos de Pandora y Spotify, los editores remplazados por Google news, las casas editoriales por Amazon. Pero a decir verdad, hasta ese punto se seguía recolectando datos de usuarios para hacer recomendaciones.  Ya leí que los abogados también están cerca de poder ser reemplazados.

En el caso de los periodistas, el papel de ser los primeros en proveer información,  la “chiva”, ha mutado drásticamente en los pasados veinte años. Ya nadie se entera de algo por medio de un periódico. El rol del periodista pasa de ser reportero a analista, de anunciante a interpretador. En esta entrevista, el profesor Noam Lemelshtrich Latar, del Sammy Ofer School of Communications en Herzliya, Israel, discute como los robots se van a ir apoderando de la parte mas “fácil” de las noticias, y esto logrará que existan “muchos menos periodistas, pero también serán mejores.” Los robots y algoritmos tienen la habilidad de procesar información a altas velocidades, encontrar correlaciones, y encontrar patrones e información a un nivel mucho más alto que los periodistas tradicionales. Esto, según el, mejorará  drásticamente el nivel de periodismo. Pero, el mismo admite, es mucho más barato tener un robot que pagarle a un buen reportero.

Vean la entrevista con del profesor con Wharton: