Affiliated Organization

Proceedings of JAIS Theory Development Workshop


Universal access (UA) to the Internet and the associated information infrastructure has become an important economic and societal goal. Yet, a comprehensive and systematicunderstanding of the UA concept is still lacking. In this paper, we apply naturalistic techniques of inquiry to analyze the Philadelphia Wireless initiative, and develop a series of propositions that constitute a proposed new model of UA. The analysis reveals that UA is a multi-dimensional construct that is influenced by different stakeholders with varied and conflicting interests. UA, in the modern era, represents a human-technology alliance that exhibits great diversity across individuals, technologies, and associated social contexts. This departs from the traditional top-down notion of universal access that focused mainly on physical connectivity. The human and technological elements aredeeply embedded within institutional dependencies that are essential, yet also alternatively enable or constrain meaningful underlying use of the information infrastructure. The implications of this complexity for achieving universal access and policy making are discussed.