Who's responsible for the digital divide? Public perceptions and policy implications

Dmitry Epstein*, Erik C. Nisbet, Tarleton Gillespie

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

93 Scopus citations


Addressing the reasons for-and the solutions to-the "digital divide" has been on the public agenda since the emergence of the Internet. However, the term has meant quite different things, depending on the audience and the context, and these competing interpretations may in fact orient toward different policy outcomes. The goals of this article are twofold. First, the authors unpack the term "digital divide" and examine how it has been deployed and interpreted across a range of academic and policy discourses. Second, through a framing experiment embedded within a nationally representative survey, the authors demonstrate howpresenting respondents with two different conceptual frames of the digital divide may lead to different perceptions of who is most accountable for addressing the issue. From this, they discuss the dynamic relationship between the construction and communication of policy discourse and the public understanding of the digital divide, as well as implications for effective communication about the digital divide and information and communication technology policy to the general public.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)92-104
Number of pages13
JournalInformation Society
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Digital divide
  • Experiment
  • Framing
  • ICT
  • Responsibility
  • Telecommunication policy


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