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The Effect of Content on Global Internet Adoption and the Global “Digital Divide”

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Abstract

A country’s human capital and economic productivity increasingly depend on the Internet due to its expanding role in providing information and communications. This has prompted a search for ways to increase Internet adoption and narrow its disparity across countries – the global “digital divide.” Previous work has focused on demographic, economic, and infrastructure determinants of Internet access difficult to change in the short run. Internet content increases adoption and can be changed more quickly; however, the magnitude of its impact and therefore its effectiveness as a policy and strategy tool is previously unknown. Quantifying content’s role is challenging because of feedback (network effects) between content and adoption: more content stimulates adoption which in turn increases the incentive to create content. We develop a methodology to overcome this endogeneity problem. We find a statistically and economically significant effect, implying that policies promoting content creation can substantially increase adoption. Because it is ubiquitous, Internet content is also useful to affect social change across countries. Content has a greater effect on adoption in countries with more disparate languages, making it a useful tool to overcome linguistic isolation. Our results offer guidance for policy makers on country characteristics that influence adoption’s responsiveness to content and for Internet firms on where to expand internationally and how to quantify content investments.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by NET Institute in its series Working Papers with number 10-24.

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Length: 41 pages
Date of creation: Nov 2010
Date of revision: Sep 2013
Publication status: Forthcoming, Management Science
Handle: RePEc:net:wpaper:1024

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Web page: http://www.NETinst.org/

Related research

Keywords: Internet; technology adoption; economic development; two-sided markets; network effects; technology diffusion; language; content;

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  1. Reto Hoffstetter & Harikesh Nair & Scott Shriver & Klaus Miller, 2009. "Social Ties and User Generated Content: Evidence from an Online Social Network," Working Papers 09-28, NET Institute, revised Nov 2009.
  2. Neil Gandal & Michael Kende & Rafael Rob, . ""The Dynamics of Technological Adoption in Hardware/Software Systems: The Case of Compact Disc Players''," CARESS Working Papres 97-10, University of Pennsylvania Center for Analytic Research and Economics in the Social Sciences.
  3. Todd Sinai & Joel Waldfogel, 2003. "Geography and the Internet: Is the Internet a Substitute or a Complement for Cities?," NBER Working Papers 10028, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. repec:reg:wpaper:314 is not listed on IDEAS
  5. Nair, Harikesh S. & Chintagunta, Pradeep & Dube, Jean-Pierre, 2003. "Empirical Analysis of Indirect Network Effects in the Market for Personal Digital Assistants," Research Papers 1948, Stanford University, Graduate School of Business.
  6. David Dranove & Neil Gandal, 2003. "The Dvd-vs.-Divx Standard War: Empirical Evidence of Network Effects and Preannouncement Effects," Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 12(3), pages 363-386, 09.
  7. Morton, Fiona Scott & Zettelmeyer, Florian & Silva-Risso, Jorge, 2001. "Internet Car Retailing," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 49(4), pages 501-19, December.
  8. Brown, Jeffrey, 2000. "Does the Internet Make Markets More Competitive? Evidence from the Life Insurance Industry," Working Paper Series rwp00-007, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
  9. Hargittai, Eszter, 1999. "Weaving the Western Web: explaining differences in Internet connectivity among OECD countries," Telecommunications Policy, Elsevier, vol. 23(10-11), pages 701-718, November.
  10. Hiroshi Ohashi, 2003. "The Role of Network Effects in the US VCR Market, 1978-1986," Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 12(4), pages 447-494, December.
  11. Corts, Kenneth S. & Lederman, Mara, 2009. "Software exclusivity and the scope of indirect network effects in the U.S. home video game market," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 27(2), pages 121-136, March.
  12. Fiona Scott Morton & Florian Zettelmeyer & Jorge Silva-Risso, 2001. "Internet Car Retailing," NBER Chapters, in: E-commerce, pages 501-519 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Gautam Gowrisankaran & Joanna Stavins, 2004. "Network Externalities and Technology Adoption: Lessons from Electronic Payments," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 35(2), pages 260-276, Summer.
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