Advanced Search
MyIDEAS: Login to save this article or follow this journal

Policy Reform, Economic Growth and the Digital Divide


Author Info

  • Susmita Dasgupta
  • Somik Lall
  • David Wheeler


Rapid growth of internet use in high-income economies has raised the spectre of a “digital divide” that will marginalize developing countries because they can neither afford internet access nor use it effectively when it is available. Using a new cross-country data set, this paper investigates two proximate determinants of the digital divide: internet intensity (internet subscriptions per telephone mainline); and access to telecom services. Surprisingly, no gap in internet intensity was found. When differences in urbanization and competition policy are controlled for, low-income countries have intensities as high as those of industrial countries. While income does not seem to matter in this context, competition policy matters a great deal. Low-income countries with high World Bank ratings for competition policy have significantly higher internet intensities. The paper's finding on internet intensity implies that the digital divide is not really new, but reflects a persistent gap in the availability of mainline telephone services. After identifying mobile telephones as a promising new platform for internet access, the paper uses panel data to study the determinants of mobile telephone diffusion during the past decade. The results show that income explains part of the diffusion lag for the poor countries, but they also highlight the critical role of policy. Developing countries whose policies promote economic growth and private sector competition have experienced much more rapid diffusion of mobile phone service. Simulations based on the econometric results suggest that feasible reforms could sharply narrow the digital divide during the next decade for many countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Download Info

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.
File URL:
Download Restriction: Access to full text is restricted to subscribers.

As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version under "Related research" (further below) or search for a different version of it.

Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Taylor & Francis Journals in its journal Oxford Development Studies.

Volume (Year): 33 (2005)
Issue (Month): 2 ()
Pages: 229-243

as in new window
Handle: RePEc:taf:oxdevs:v:33:y:2005:i:2:p:229-243

Contact details of provider:
Web page:

Order Information:

Related research



No references listed on IDEAS
You can help add them by filling out this form.


Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
as in new window

Cited by:
  1. Clarke, George R.G., 2008. "Has the internet increased exports for firms from low and middle-income countries," Information Economics and Policy, Elsevier, vol. 20(1), pages 16-37, March.
  2. Ewa, Lechman, 2010. "Digital divide – inequalities in level of implementation of new information and telecommunication technologies. Cross country study," MPRA Paper 37483, University Library of Munich, Germany.


This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.


Access and download statistics


When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:taf:oxdevs:v:33:y:2005:i:2:p:229-243. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Michael McNulty).

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.