“Internet, Politics, Policy 2010: An Impact Assessment” Conference Oxford Internet Institute September 2010
Digital Politics Divide
does the Digital Divide still matter?
European University Institute firstname.lastname@example.org Abstract1 To this day, the Digital Divide has been considered key to understanding the relation between Internet and politics. Today, the Internet is used far more broadly worldwide. When comparing the use of the Internet to practice politics from a transnational analytical perspective, we observe that the Internet also matters for politics in countries with a high level of Digital Divide. With this study I empirically resize the relation of causality between the Digital Divide and the influence of the Internet on politics. I explore how also other contextual factors are determinant in this regard. My focus is on the online presence of political parties worldwide. By combining multiple sources, I have built a dataset in order to map the unequal online presence of political parties in 190 countries, as well as country-contextual factors, including level of Digital Divide, and economic and democratic. This leads me to show how the Digital Divide has a limited significance in explaining the unequal presence of political parties on the WWW. Instead, I highlight that democratic status, among various other country-contextual specificities, is the strongest contextual factor in determining the unequal use of the Internet in politics. Keywords: Internet and Politics, Political Parties, Digital Divide.
I thank Professor Philippe Howard and the World Internet Access Project for the data on political
parties on the World Wide Web here explored.
Digital Politics Divide: does the Digital Divide still matter?
This paper explores the unequal presence of political parties on the Internet. Since the advent of the Internet, great attention has been paid on how political parties would benefit from being present on the Internet. Gibson and Ward (2009) identify three main lines of research in the field: first, the intra-party arena, referring to the use of the Internet by political parties to facilitate communication amongst its members; second, the inter-party arena, referring to how political parties use the Internet to compete with each other in campaigning; and third, the systemic-arena, referring to how political parties reorganise themselves so as to seize the new opportunities offered by the Internet. Here, I address the empirical part of this study by directing my investigation onto two main dimensions: first, I map the worldwide distribution of political parties on the World Wide Web. Second, I explore whether their unequal distribution may be explained by the Digital Divide and by other local conditions, such as the democratic and economic status of each country.
2) Virtual Political Parties
Scholars have paid attention on how the Internet might facilitate better communication between politicians and citizens. In contrast with this expectation however, research has noted that Internet remains mainly used as a one-way flow of information: from politicians to the public (Johson 2003; Levin 2003; Ward et al. 2003). In this way, the Internet has been employed just like a traditional media (Castells & Sey 2004). Coleman (2005) has also questioned the quality of the information, arguing that in some cases while it may be good quality it is not easily accessible. Scholars also argued that the Internet would have a positive impact on mobilizing voters, though we are yet to have empirical...