The digital divide: The cost in terms of time, money and complexity of being an unwired consumer


Geneviève Grenier; Maryse Guénette


Option consommateurs




Informed observers have concluded that there is a steadily widening gap between those who know how to surf the Internet and the rest. This gap has come to be known as the digital divide. How did it come about? Option consommateurs (OC) study has led us to the conclusion that socio‐economic factors play a much greater role than geographic factors in creating the digital divide that separates Canadians today. We need to go beyond mere considerations of infrastructure and the availability of bandwidth—advances in technology and developments within the industry ensure that such technical issues have either been solved or are or in the process of being so. Far better to ask the purely human question: Who is not yet connected, and why?

In OC’s view, the most alarming fact is that the people most affected by the digital divide are those who are already the most disadvantaged members of our knowledge and consumer society — the illiterate, the elderly, and those living in low‐income households. The only exception is those who are resistant to technology, and from what we can understand, these people have chosen not to be connected, and are willing to put up with the loss of time and energy that comes with that choice.

OC has also noticed that even government services such as Employment Insurance now only accept electronic applications, which obviously penalizes consumers with a low level of literacy or who have no experience in web browsing, even though computer terminals are made available in government agencies.

And these are only the latest additions to the ever‐growing list of disadvantages for non‐users. It was for reasons such as these that OC decided to undertake our search for possible solutions to Canada’s digital divides. One of OC’s findings was that, despite the vast territory covered by Canada, there exists at least one type of high‐speed Internet service that could be made available to any consumer who wants to connect—albeit at a higher cost in some areas. Nevertheless, tangible solutions that could help bridge the digital divide and real initiatives to promote their adoption are in short supply – even though the need is so obvious.

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OCA Funded Research
This research received funding support through the Office of Consumer Affairs' Contributions Program.

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Source: Consumer Policy Research Database

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