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Citation Information

Type Book Section - Bridging the Digital Divide: Everyday Use of Mobile Phones Among Market Sellers in Papua New Guinea
Title Communicating, Networking, Interacting
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2016
Page numbers 39-52
Publisher Springer
URL https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-319-45471-9_5/fulltext.html
Papua New Guinea, like many Pacific Island nations and most of the developing world, is experiencing an ICT revolution as access to information and communication technology (ICT) infrastructure expands rapidly (Cave 2012). This ICT revolution has the potential to revolutionise areas like agricultural extension (E-Agriculture), Health (E-Health), Banking (E-Finance) and Education (E-Education) (Cave 2012; Maumbe 2013; PRIF 2015). Ownership of mobile phones is expanding rapidly and smart phones are putting internet technology into the hands of poor subsistence farmers following a way of life largely outside the market economy (Curry and Koczberski 2013). The rapid uptake of ICTs by the poor can be attributed to greater affordability, accessibility, and adaptability of ICTs (McNamara et al. 2011; GSMA 2015).
The recent wave and adoption of new technologies and digital applications across the globe has been likened to a “Great Transformation” (Fuchs 2013, p. 16) that is fostering rapid growth in accessing information and new ways of producing, creating, sharing and communicating knowledge. It is suggested this revolution is at least as transformative as the Green Revolution technologies once heralded as the panacea for world hunger as they were rolled out across the developing world in the 1960 and 1970s (Fuchs 2013). This remarkable transformation is at once liberating and socially and economically empowering, with the potential to transform gender relations and bridge the economic and social divides within and between countries.
However, whilst there has been an enormous increase in ownership of, and access to, ICTs worldwide, the growth across the globe has been uneven. The developing and least developed countries lag well behind developed industrial countries in engaging in the digital age. Although the majority of people accessing the internet live in poor countries, per capita use is much lower than in developed nations. About 21 percent of the population of the developing world have internet access compared with around 84 percent of the developed world’s population (ITU 2014). For example, while access to the internet has increased in PNG since the introduction in 2011 of a mobile broadband service and the expansion of high-speed ‘third generation’ (3G) and 4G mobile broadband networks, only 9 percent of the population have access to the internet (ITU 2014; see also Cave 2012; Logan 2012).
The digital divide is not only between countries, but within countries. Despite more rural people gaining access to ICTs in poorer countries, there remain large differences in the extent of network coverage between rural and urban areas. In a study of 17 Sub-Saharan countries in 2010, 69 percent of urban respondents owned a mobile phone compared with only 53 percent of rural respondents (Totora and Rhealt 2011). Similarly, a ‘gender digital divide’ is typical of many developing countries where women and girls have less access to ICT than men and boys (GSMA 2015). These divisions in the ownership of and access to ICTs further marginalise the rural poor and women from the benefits of social and economic change resulting from the expansion of ICT availability.

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