Digital divides across consumers of internet services in Spain using panel data 2007-2019. Narrowing or not?

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Digital gaps have the potential to exacerbate the inequalities that exist in society. The main objective of this paper is to study the gaps that occur in the use of internet services by households in Spain during the period 2007-2019 and to become useful in the design of policies addressed to narrow specific digital divides. The data is a panel obtained from the ICT-H Survey on Households of the National Statistics Institute. This paper defines the gaps as the differences in the use of internet services across individual consumers. A selected group of twelve digital services are considered: e-commerce, e-selling, e-tourism, e-learning, e-health, e-banking, e-government, VoIP, chat, email, cloud services, and social networks. The second level digital gaps are analyzed in each service according to six relevant socio-demographic characteristics: gender, age, education, digital skills, population size, and income. A set of graphs show the evolution of the gaps. Gaps are narrowing in most dimensions and specific characteristics, but not in others such as age, education, and digital skills. The gaps reveal the evolution of digitization and in some cases of digital exclusion for specific groups. Specific knowledge about digital gaps is useful for policymakers, since closing the digital divide is an explicit policy goal in this country, as well as in other parts of Europe. Then, a dynamic panel data model was proposed and estimated using Arellano and Bond techniques. A dynamic/network effect was found, as well as other socio-demographic determinants. Finally, the paper contains conclusions, policy recommendations and an agenda for future research. The policy recommendations consist of digital education programs targeted at the most exposed groups such as the elderly, the less well-educated and people with lower digital skills.
Acknowledgements: The collaboration of INE is gratefully acknowledged. Research funded by the Autonomous Community of Madrid, Spain (Project: H2019/HUM-5859, MIMA-CM, Mercados, Innovación y Medio Ambiente), and National R&D Plan, Project: PID2019- 107161GB-C32, 2020-2023.
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