The Emerging Digital Divide in News Consumption
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The majority of Australians have a smartphone and smartphone penetration continues to rise. They are becoming the main platform for accessing the internet. While convenience of mobility and a diverse range of apps enable internet users to effectively access information and content, there is a growing concern about the digital divide that is emerging in usage among those who exclusively rely on smartphones to access the internet and those who have broadband connection.
Research on the usage gap has yielded important insights into how this is creating a new type of digital divide that results in a different online experience. Compared to people who have internet access via desktop or laptop computers, mobile internet users face greater barriers due to the technological limitations of mobile devices and the smaller volume of content optimised for such technology. On the other hand, the type of internet content available online are becoming increasingly data-heavy, which increases the demand of internet users’ data allowance. According to Mobile Consumer Survey 2017 (Deloitte, 2017), almost half of smartphone users in Australia regularly exceed their data allowance of their already costly mobile subscription and are paying extra data. Research shows that minority group members, as well as younger, lower income, and less educated users, are more likely to be mobile-only users and access news/information content less than more privileged groups, such as higher income individuals. While mobile internet access may address the basic issue of getting access online, the differences between mobile and PC-based forms of internet access can reinforce inequalities in digital skill sets and online participation among socially and economically disadvantaged users. Short bio: Jee Young Lee is Digital News Report (DNR) Research Associate at the News & Media Research Centre. She has recently completed her PhD, exploring a user-centric inclusion framework for a digitalised society and the role of digital divide policy in addressing exclusion.