205.3 Social well-being and gender equality's contribution to the growth of the internet globally

Thursday, August 2, 2012: 9:20 AM
Faculty of Economics, TBA
Ronald ANDERSON , University of Minnesota
Theorists and researchers have debated the value of Internet and related technologies in the growth of developing nations. Its economic impact and social value depend upon a variety of socio-technical and cultural factors. Drior (2003) found Internet sophistication across about 100 countries in the late 1990s to be influenced by economic centrality and perhaps by level of democracy. This paper looks at the social as well as technical impediments to the growth of the Internet worldwide using data for 123 countries from the Gallup World Poll and the United Nations Development Project’s Human Development Report 2010. The most interesting findings pertain to the propelling role of gender equality and life satisfaction versus suffering. These social forces appear to account for a country’s proportion of Internet users even more so than economic development. The implication of these findings is that diffusion of the Internet is driven by its perceived role in improving social well-being, not just by its economic value. By analyzing the patterns continent by continent, the role of gender and gender equality becomes clearer as well. Women are more likely than men to be responsible and practical Internet users. Consequently, in nations with higher gender equality and higher social well-being, Internet usage will be higher and digital exclusion lower.