Universität Zürich

IKMZ - Department of Communication and Media Research

Media Change & Innovation Division

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It’s Still a Thing: Digital Inequalities and their Evolution in the Information Society

2021

Noemi Festic /

Moritz Büchi /

Michael Latzer

Studies in Communication and Media, 10(3), 326–361. https://doi.org/10.5771/2192-4007-2021-3-326

Internet diffusion has prompted research into differences in internet access, use and consequences. Exploiting the full potential of the ongoing digital transformation in all spheres of life—a proclaimed goal of governments and international organizations—requires ensuring equal opportunities and supporting disadvantaged individuals in their internet use. Using representative, population-level survey data from Switzerland spanning nearly a decade (2011–2019; Ntotal = 5,581), multiple multivariate regression analyses tested the effects of demographic and internet-use related variables on access (general and mobile), on internet skills and on different types of use (information, entertainment, commercial transactions and communication). Results indicated that despite high access rates (92% in 2019), considerable usage inequalities persist in the Swiss information society: in particular, we found an increasing marginalization of older individuals regarding the adoption of the internet and revealed the importance of internet skills, experience and mobile internet use for adopting differentiated types of use. The extreme differences between the highly connected majority and an increasingly marginalized minority raise concerns about the latter group’s opportunities for personal, social and economic benefits in an information society. This study provides unique results on current digital inequalities and their evolution which are crucial for assessing the success, suitability and legitimacy of digitization policies.