Bridging Urban Digital Divides? Urban Polarisation and Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs)

Graham, Stephen
Urban Studies

The societal diffusion of information and communications technologies (ICTs) remains starkly uneven at all scales. It is in the contemporary city that this unevenness becomes most visible. In cities, clusters and enclaves of 'superconnected' people, firms and institutions often rest cheek-by-jowel with large numbers of people with non-existent or rudimentary access to communications technologies. In such a context, this paper has two objectives, reflected in its two parts. The first part of the paper seeks to demonstrate that dominant trends in ICT development are currently helping to support new extremes of social and geographical unevenness within and between human settlements and cities, in both the North and the South. The paper's second part aims to explore the prospect that such stark 'urban digital divides' might be ameliorated through progressive and innovative policy initiatives which treat cities and electronic technologies in parallel. It does this using a range of illustrative exemplars from a variety of contexts.