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Digital Divide Symposium Attendees
(August 28th, 2004)

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MISRC/CRITO Symposium on the Digital Divide
Carlson School of Management,
University of Minnesota
August 27-28, 2004

The Impact of the Digital Divide on Management and Policy
Determinants and Implications of Unequal Access to Information Technology

Overview

It is widely presumed that universal access to information technology (IT) would bring about a global community of interaction, commerce, and learning resulting in higher standards of living and improved social welfare. However, during the 1990s researchers and policy experts began debating the existence of a “digital divide” between those with access and those without access to IT. After a decade of debate by experts in public policy, communications, philosophy, business management and economics there still is no consensus on the definition, extent, or even the existence of the digital divide. While this issue has been addressed in many contexts, there has been little attention given to the impact of the digital divide on management strategies and policy formulation.

Purpose of the Symposia

For those in the management and policy communities, the existence of the digital divide should have a profound impact on how firms compete globally, the creation of the information age organization, and the diffusion of online commerce, strategies for offering online services, and policies for promoting access to IT and the Internet. Recent research within the academic community indicates that the digital divide can be identified at three levels:

•  National Level – while some countries have invested heavily in IT and adopted policies to promote corporate and individual adoption, other countries are being left behind technologically, and may never be able to catch up to their neighbors;

•  Organizational Level – some organizations use IT to gain advantage over their rivals and redefine the rules of engagement within their industry, while others lag behind as technological followers putting themselves at a strategic disadvantage; and

•  Household Level – those who are technologically, sociologically, or economically disadvantaged may lack or forgo access to IT creating a gap between themselves and those who choose to make IT an integral part of their daily life. Indeed, there is considerable variation in access to technology across geographical areas; e.g., access to broadband Internet access is still very sparse in rural areas.

The potential existence of the digital divide is of interest to those conducting research in business management, especially in the areas of information systems and marketing, and those working in related areas of economics and public policy. Specific phenomena of interest within the context of the digital divide are adoption and dissemination of information technology, the pricing and diffusion of online products and services, the creation of an IT-literate workforce, the way organizations make strategic use of IT, and the formulation of policies regarding the regulation and promotion of access to technology and the Internet.

The MISRC/CRITO Symposium on the Digital Divide will bring together researchers and scholars who are studying the contributing factors and the business implications of these issues to engage in a dialog that will promote further research in the area. The two-day event will allow researchers to present their research findings, receive feedback from symposium participants, and interact with an expert research panel to debate the key managerial and business issues related to the digital divide.


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