M. Laeeq Khana, Howard T. Welsera, Claudia Cisnerosa, Gaone Manatonga, Ika Karlina Idris
Access to information and resources via the Internet is an increasingly vital dimension of contemporary life. However, there can be several impediments to optimal Internet utilization in the form of access, skills, and motivation. Even when access is available, several digital inequalities arise as citizens often lack the skills and motivations to pursue those vital uses through the Internet to the best of their advantage. Digital inequalities in the hills of the Appalachian area of Ohio are often manifested in terms of social, cultural and geographic divides. Not only do the hills block wireless signals and make cables expensive to install, but regional poverty also drives away telecom investment. We conducted a survey of Appalachian Ohio to explore digital inequity issues and the determinants of online participation for things that matter. Through a number of analyses, we explore how Internet access and digital skills impact online contribution to the community in terms of services and resources considered to be basic social needs: health, employment, education, and social media. These social needs, what we have called Vital Internet Use (VIU) can determine citizens’ political and civic participation, societal contribution, and overall benefit to their communities. Centered on the concepts of digital access, Internet skills, and benefit outcomes, we extend knowledge in this domain and propose a comprehensive framework of VIU.
Internet, Digital divide, Digital literacy, Digital inequity, Rurality, Appalachia