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The shrinking digital divide

Pew's latest study is about users of Information and Communications Technologies in the US.  They're analyzing usage of Web 2.0, and the diverse group of technologies it spans.  It's a great read, like all of the Pew studies, and anybody seeking to understand the demographics of the web generation should read it.

TechCrunch's Duncan Riley wrote the Pew study up with the headline America: the Growing Digital Divide.  He writes:

John B. Horrigan’s analysis of America’s use of Web 2.0 and information and communications technology in the broader sense shows that whilst a reasonable number of Americans are embracing new technology and Web 2.0, a disturbing number are either not getting the message, or are choosing not to participate.

Riley is reacting to the fact that Pew has categorized 49% of Americans as light technology users, and 15% (within that 49%) are off the net altogether.  

The so-called digital divide, however, isn't actually growing.  It's shrinking.  A decade ago, when Bob Foulon and myself did a similar study for Microsoft in conjunction with Roper Starch, the off-net category was 35% of the overall market.  Today that category has shrunk to 15%.  Part of the reason for that shrinkage is that within the off-net category there were those who aspired to be connected, but were unable to afford it.  Connected cell phones, and low cost PC's have addressed that. 

That there are just 15% off-net should be a cause for celebration, not consternation. 

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