Digital Differences on the Web

People around me use the web all the time, but I’m aware of differences other people have getting access to the web and the types of activities the web is used for. Although it seems sensible to assume there’s a divide between the 50% of people who do have access to the web  (, 2017) and the other half that do, it’s more complex than that, to the point that digital inequality should be seen as a “traditional form of inequality” (Robinson et al. 2015). Recently, there’s been a shift in the divide from access to digital use (van Dijk, 2012).

Digital Differences Landscape

It’s clear that for people to have web skills, they need an internet connection, but other factors such as education and other macro factors as Fig.1 shows.

Fig 1. A diagram I created showing the different facts that affect getting access to the web and how people use the web. Adapted from content from Halford, S., Davies, H. and Dixon, J. (2017). Digital differences – inequalities and online practices, FutureLearn.

There are differences in how we use the web. A detailed presentation about web use in the USA from the Pew Research Centre, presents a positive correlation between broadband connections at home and income. Interestingly, even the >£75k income group doesn’t have 100% connection rate, possibly indicating that internet connections are not seen as a necessity to all or other factors such as age, etc. affect people’s decisions. Indeed, there’s correlation with age, ethnicity and education level – a view shared by Halford, Davies and Dixon (2017).


Fig 2. Digital skills used on the Web. Table 1 from van Dijk (2012).

Digital Differences & Me

Fig.3 I created a diagram to show the factors affecting my Digital Differences

I have used networked learning tools such as the Amazon Developer Forums and Stackoverflow to learn new digital skills and develop digital products to make money, but that’s only possible because I know how to search for the correct answer on these platforms – preferential attachment of digital skills. My Digital Learning Plan shows I make use of my Shibboleth login to access academia that I wouldn’t have access to otherwise. It’s only financial cost of education that would hinder my digital access. I also use the web for most tasks – communicating, watching TV or work and is and plays a huge role in my life.

(Words: 320)


5 thoughts on “Digital Differences on the Web

  1. Hi Adam,

    Enjoyed reading your take on the digital differences that impact the population. In figure 1, it was nice to see how you clearly differentiated the factors that affect web access, as well as showing the difference between just going online by choice and actually being able to initially gain that access.
    When considering broadband connections at home, although it is to do with income, I would say that location is also quite a big factor and it is not particularly something that they can change.
    You mention that the financial cost of education would hinder your digital access, but, as previously discussed, there are many other factors that could affect this, so why would you say that is your only hindrance?

    Great post overall, look forward to reading more!


    1. Hi Shreya and thanks for the comment,
      I had a look at the website and there’s this tool which people have submitted their internet speeds to. For Southampton:!lat=50.91614573891769&lng=-1.3975318601569553&zoom=13&type=terrain&exchanges&speed-cluster there’s huge differences in speeds recorded, from 1.8Mb/s to 458Mb/s (on Highfield campus) so you’re right – location seems to play a huge part in the quality of service you get, and potentially is affected even by the cabling going to your house as these results are so different for homes in the same neighbourhood. I just assumed that because we are in the UK, ahead of 158 countries for internet speeds, then we would all have reliable internet.

      In my opinion and from ‘My Digital Differences’ diagram, free educational resources such as Stackoverflow have helped me develop my digital skills that I’m motivated to do and engage with because I find them fun but work for uni courseworks aren’t that fun to me and purchasing subscriptions to paid journals, if I wasn’t at university, wouldn’t be something I would do. Further, I don’t watch Netflix or have online subscriptions to newspapers etc. because I can’t afford/nor would I use these services much. So, I suppose there’s not only the cost of education to improve digital skills, but the cost of premium/leisure online content and computer equipment too.

Leave a Reply