The paper proposes three research questions:1) What is the essence of digital poverty? 2) What are the typical categories of digital poverty phenomena? 3) What are the structural factors and how do they determine the different sorts of digital poverty.
The author finished a large scale of and long time field studies on digital poverty in rural China,including four provinces,and two municipalities. 337 rural residents participated in our in-depth interviews,focus groups and action research. Moreover,questionnaire,ethnographic future interview,and participant observation were employed. Grounded theory and case study are the data analyzing methods to construct definitions of digital poverty and structural poverty,categories of digital poverty,and structural origins.
The paper defines digital poverty as a multi-dimensional phenomenon and status of individuals on eight digital elements,including digital tools,digital services,digital abilities,digital efforts,digital social norms,digital social support and digital social impacts. Based on the eight core digital elements,the author recognizes and describes the following typical categories of digital poverty:physically poor individuals,digitally illiterate individuals,psychologically vulnerable individuals,socially lonely individuals,digitally lazy individuals,resistant individuals,ineffectual individuals,and the digitally extreme poor. In essence,digital poverty is structural rather than the results of demographic factors,personal behaviors,and abilities. Furthermore,structural poverty is defined in comparison with individual and cultural poverty,and structural origins of digital poverty are distinguished and proved by field evidences. Four structural factors covering economic capital,cultural capital,social capital and political capital are impacting typical sorts of digital poverty separately and comprehensively. The author insists that digital poverty tends to attribute to structural factors instead of individual and cultural factors.
Larger samples of residents in other areas are needed to confirm whether or not the eight core elements of digital poverty could cover all elements.Moreover,there should be more observations on individuals to ascertain that the eight typical forms of digital poverty represent regular poor situation for different communities. The question of how much digital poverty depends on economic capital,social capital,cultural capital and political capital needs to be answered in more quantitative methods.Six points of strategic reflections on digital poverty alleviation are proposed. Firstly,digital poverty alleviation policy formulators should drop the traditional solutions which focus on equipping all poor communities with uniform digital devices,broadband connection services,and ICT training programs. Instead,they should consider all-round,individualized and refined designing methods to cover at least eight core elements and typical categories of digital poverty. Secondly,the voices from all the stakeholders in digital poverty alleviation should be heard by public policy makers and implementers in the information field. Official and grass-root think tanks,universities,research institutions,digital poor communities,not-for-profit organizations and other stakeholders should be balanced in the policy making and implementing process. Thirdly,it is necessary to measure the alleviating actions accurately on the benefits for those digital poor communities. Not each digitally poor resident should and could be digitalized. Elite capturing of digital resources in the local communities always happens in our field studies. Fourthly,traditional not-for-profit information service agents are generally ignored by policy formulators and makers. Several strategic actions by the central government such as the village libraries program and the digital public electronic reading room construction plan were designed and implemented without contributions from public library professionals. Fifthly,digital poverty is deepening the traditional poverty faced by rural residents and therefore the third sector will be challenged in digital poverty alleviation. Actors from the non-government organizations could be regarded as models in clear position self-definition,great public appeal,and reasonable charity resource distribution. They are good at transforming digital resources embedded in bridging social capital into bonding social capital. Finally,all stakeholders in the public policies of digital poverty alleviation should be balanced in the process of policy consulting,policy-making,implementation,and evaluation. Both top-down and bottom-up explorations in digital poverty alleviation should be encouraged.〖JP.
The definition,core elements,typical categories,and structural attribute of digital poverty,and furthermore the structural origins of digital poverty are all proposed and proved by the author's ground theory research based on field studies. 3 tabs. 29 refs.