Understanding the digital divide: Empirical studies of Thailand
Doctoral thesis, 2012
The term digital divide was introduced in the 1990s to define the gap separating those who have access to new forms of information and communication technologies (ICTs) from those who do not. Later, scholars started looking more closely at the use of ICTs, instead of solely paying attention to access. The digital divide can exist at, for example, global (normally between developed and developing countries and between different regions), regional (between countries in the same region) and social level (within a particular country or society). The digital divide can thus be defined as the disparity between individuals, households, businesses and geographic areas at different socio-economic levels with regard to their opportunities to access information and communication technologies (ICTs) and their use of the Internet for a wide variety of activities.
This thesis aims to contribute to the understanding of the digital divide by existing literature and empirical studies. The main focus is on the digital divide in Thailand, considering telecommunications services and attempts to provide guidance to a national regulatory agency (NRA) and policymakers. A collection of papers has been put together by addressing the following main research question: What are the determinants explaining and the possible policies bridging the digital divide in Thailand? To answer this question, a quantitative research strategy of econometric and financial modelling is employed. The data come from primary and secondary sources.
The results of the thesis reveal that the digital divide in Thailand can be explained by several factors. The determinant factors for the regional divide are gross domestic product (GDP) per capita, urbanization, market competition, the existence of NRA, trade openness, the availability of infrastructure, market liberalization and privatization. The efforts to privatize state-owned enterprises and liberalize the market have not yet been successfully compared with those of other countries in the same region. In the context of the social divide, the findings suggest that not only market liberalization and privatization but also accessible infrastructure, social inequalities, media familiarity, availability of technology and service attributes, and the access price of mobile Internet are crucial factors in determining the digital divide in Thailand. These findings confirm that the issues of accessibility, availability and affordability of services and applications are all challenges facing the NRA and policy makers in bridging the digital divide. Alternative policies are discussed, and they reveal that combined policies integrated into the market mechanism and government intervention could be an option for bridging the digital divide in Thailand.
Vasa C,Vera Sandbergs Allé 8, Göteborg
Opponent: Professor Johannes M. Bauer, Department of Telecommunication, Information Studies, and Media, Michigan State University, USA