From digital divides to digital entitlements in knowledge societies
This paper critically examines current constructions of the causes, consequences and appropriate actions to reduce the so-called 'digital divide'. Drawing upon discussions that have occurred in a number of intergovernmental forums, the analysis illustrates the limitations of policy debates that focus primarily on issues of access, affordability and capabilities and skills for employability in industry. An alternative framework for assessing the unfolding relation between the new media and society is developed drawing on Amartya Sen's concept of capabilities. This is applied to demonstrate the need for a shift in the emphasis of social science analysis away from digital divide issues and towards the potential for the new media to be configured in ways that could enable the majority of people to strengthen their abilities to make choices about how they wish to live their lives. As new media permeate global social networks more intensively, it is argued that a rights-based approach to new media policy is essential and that this must be based upon assessments of people's entitlements in emerging knowledge societies.