This paper presents a study that was designed to examine efforts undertaken by two citiesóAtlanta and LaGrange, Georgiaóto redress the digital divide. Atlantaís initiative has taken the form of community technology centers where citizens can come to get exposure to information technology and to learn something about computers and their applications. LaGrange has taken a very different approach, providing free Internet access to the home via a digital cable set-top box. This research is designed to examine the strengths and limitations of the two initiatives, with the goal of understanding why neither effort has had the impact that policy makers had hoped for with respect to solving the digital divide problem. Our findings indicate that the relationship between access and use of IT is not deterministic. Social processes that exist at both the institutional and individual levels of analysis complicate this relationship. From the institutional perspective, a persistent divide exists even when cities are giving away a theoretically ìfree goodî or service. Free goods often took the form of a training course that delivered little more than basic IT literacy and computer hardware of inferior quality and capabilities. From the individual perspective, we found that economic capital explains gaps in physical access to IT, but social capital and cultural capital explain gaps in the ability to use IT as well as disparities in the benefits that one derives from IT use. Therefore, as IT access continues to proliferate to nontraditional communities of users, sustainability of these digital divide initiatives should not continue to be measured in purely economic and technological terms. We must also consider the sustainability of the innovative elements: the participants.
Kvasny, Lynette and Keil, Mark, "The Challenges of Redressing the Digital Divide: A Tale of Two Cities" (2002). ICIS 2002 Proceedings. 84.