Hey, hey, finally a clear voice that looks at  digital divide literature and  EU Information Society policies and talks about the missing parts !!!
Dijk, Jan van (in press) One Europe, Digitally Divided. In: A. Chadwick & Ph. Howard (Eds). Handbook of Internet Politics, London: Routledge.

Van Dijk is a well known and respected author in the field.  The Deepening divide, Inequality in the Information Society book generated very interesting discussions in my Digital Divide class this semester.  Reading it, even though  valid and pertinent,  I was surprised that it did not criticise the huge emphasis on the material access ( Broadband) of EU policies when addressing the digital divide. (On EC site the eInclusion policy about the “broadband gap” is also caled “digital divide”).

Van Dijk’s  framework for digital divides start with motivational access that will naturally be followed by  physical access. The EU policies however take for granted the motivational access because everybody wants to have a better job (and ICT skills are said to get you a better job). The fact that, for example, informational skills and culture differ greatly around EU or that a non-English speaker might have a hard time finding relevant and good quality information online was of no interest to policy makers in EU.

Things started to change lately with the Ministerial Riga Declaration on eInclusion and recommendation of digital literacy so at least  the conversations  about information literacy are more audible in Europe.  However  European Commission is very vague in its discourse and on national or local level in places where, as van Dijk said “possession of personal computers, the Internet and a broadband connection […] countries such as Romenia (RO) (!) and Bulgaria (BG) run very far behind with access figures of a Third World country” the message fails  (or takes forever) to reach the decision factors.

Van Dijk’s article is  more than welcomed especially since he is an advisor of the EC.  Hopefully EC will pay more attention from now on to bring everybody along with them in the EU information society they build. In the process maybe will also figure out that libraries, especially public ones, have a great potential in helping EU IS countries  by serving communities and providing support at local level for lifelong learning and engaging individuals in using ICT.

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