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Multidimensionality: redefining the digital divide in the smartphone era

Eun-A Park (Department of Communication, Film and Media Studies, University of New Haven, West Haven, Connecticut, USA)
Sangwon Lee (Department of Journalism and Communication, Kyung Hee University, Seoul, Republic of Korea)


ISSN: 1463-6697

Article publication date: 9 March 2015




In a converged and smart media environment, it no longer makes sense to talk only of a digital divide based on access to a platform – instead, a new “smartphone divide” is created based on a user’s ability to access and use an array of different services. Although there is an extensive literature on the digital divide in broadband access and use, zero research efforts have addressed the digital divide in mobile phone usage. Therefore, this research study aims to fill the gap in the literature by looking into new dimensions of the smartphone divide.


Data were collected from a college student sample through an online survey and some hypotheses were framed and tested for intergroup (smartphone users vs non-users) and intragroup (active smartphone users vs inactive users) differences based on access, experience and persistence of usage.


Findings are: first, smartphone users were more active online as expected. Although no significant difference was detected in the amount of time spent on social networking sites (SNSs) between smartphone users and non-users, smartphone users had more friends online and more “online-only” friends than non-users. Second, smartphone users seem to participate more actively in social and political issues than non-users do. Third, active users were adopting digital technologies faster than less active users, and active users were inclined to spend longer time on SNSs than less active users. Also, active users used more free and paid applications on their smartphones compared to less active users.


This research study aims to fill the gap in the literature by looking into new dimensions of the smartphone divide and exploring the differential usage of smartphone users in terms of usage level, awareness and usability levels, usage scope and consequential uses controlling for demographics and socioeconomic status. The ensuing pilot study validates some of speculations suggested in the previous literature.



Park, E.-A. and Lee, S. (2015), "Multidimensionality: redefining the digital divide in the smartphone era", info, Vol. 17 No. 2, pp. 80-96.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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