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Global Digital Divide: The Role of Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) in 21st Century Democracy

Chisheng Li – Cornell Policy Review, Fall 2012

Abstract Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) play a critical role in a citizenry’s access to information, opportunities, and ability to participate in democratic practices. Recent worldwide events such as the Arab Spring have underscored ICTs’ and social media’s importance in bringing about social change and engagement. Research shows that ICT infrastructure and access is more prevalent in developed countries, creating a “digital divide” between the global north and the global south. It is crucial that governments and human rights advocates address equity with regard to ICT access—in terms of ICTs’ potential to enhance democratization, as well as ICT limitations when information access is censored or prohibited.

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